LIFESTYLE LIVING: A sunshine state-of-mind
If you’re looking for reasons to move to the Sunshine State, here are some that might seal the deal on your dreams. While the polar vortex grips northern locations, Florida’s moderate year-round climate provides ample opportunities to enjoy and explore the state’s natural treasures, ranging from natural springs to vast conservation areas that include the Everglades, where you can spend days hiking, cycling, paddling, swimming or birdwatching. Central Florida, the country’s top amusement park destination, is perfect for young and old alike. With 10 professional sports teams plus dozens of minor league and collegiate teams, Florida is a sports fanatic’s playground. In fact, many of baseball’s top teams call the state home during their spring training season. And with more than 663 miles of beaches along its Atlantic and Gulf coast shores, you’re never more than 60 miles from the ocean. If you have a permit to work in the US, the state of Florida has no state income tax— a definite plus—and the cost of living is less expensive when compared to other major US states. It all adds up to a better quality of life.
Those who are ready to buy into the Florida state-of-mind have many choices, thanks to an abundance of new homes and condos available across the state to fit any budget or desired lifestyle.
LOCATION OR LIFESTYLE
When searching for a Florida home, there are two basic approaches to consider: location and lifestyle. You may already know where in Florida you want to live. If so, you should familiarize yourself with the neighborhoods, look at typical houses, townhomes or condos, get a sense of prices, and contact a real estate professional who understands the local market and can help you make the right choice.
Another strategy is to focus on your desired lifestyle. Do you picture yourself in a private golf community, a high-rise on the beach or in a scenic, rural location? Then, you’ll want to compare homes, prices and amenities in different locations around the state. Those over age 55, for
example, might want to compare the offerings at On Top of the World in Ocala with The Villages northeast of Orlando. Again, a real estate professional can help you make a well-informed decision.
If you’re considering a move to Florida, be aware there are some differences in home design and construction compared with houses in cooler climates. For instance, few Florida homes have a basement because of the underlying hard limestone rock and high ground-water level. Newer homes may be more spacious and feature modern kitchens, baths, flooring and fixtures.
A number of leading homebuilders in Florida develop residential communities throughout the state. For example, Minto Communities USA, based in Florida since 1978, has represented integrity and value for nearly 40 years. Minto builds exceptional new homes and communities to meet every lifestyle, with more than 25,000 new homes built in 46 communities. Minto is dedicated to continuous improvement in design, quality and customer experience. Applauded and recognized as an expert in building active-adult communities, Minto was awarded “Best Floor Plans for 50+” by Ideal-Living magazine. These are just some of the elements that set Minto apart as a home builder and community developer, and have earned the company national recognition that includes consistently high rankings from Eliant Customer Service Surveys. Minto has also earned multiple national awards for community and home design, including 2016 Best Mixed-Use Community and 2017 Best Clubhouse from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) for The Isles of Collier Preserve community in Naples, Florida; and 2016 Best Clubhouse from NAHB for the Harbour Isle Beach Club in Sarasota-Bradenton, Florida. In February 2017, Margaritaville Holdings and Minto Communities announced their partnership to develop LATITUDE MARGARITAVILLE active adult communities in some of the nation’s most popular destinations. Designed for those 55-and-better seeking a uniquely fun and relaxed lifestyle experi- ence, LATITUDE MARGARITAVILLE Daytona Beach is the first location now open.
Condos and apartment buildings vary widely in design and construction and often develop distinct “personalities.” A high-rise condo with 600 units is akin to a miniature city with many services and amenities, which command a higher monthly maintenance fee. However, if the purchase price and monthly fees are a big consideration, you may prefer a smaller building with a pool, spa or entertainment area—or no amenities at all.
Condos have been a major part of the Florida market since the 1970s, so the age and condition of a building can affect its desirability and price. A recently constructed residence may have a more appealing design, new appliances, marble baths and other modern features compared to an older unit that has never been updated. However, the older unit may still appeal to buyers on a tight budget.
If you love the Florida lifestyle, but aren’t ready to buy, consider a seasonal rental. You can enjoy the beach, boating, golf, shopping and all the attractions for several weeks or months without making a permanent financial commitment. It’s also an excellent way to “sample” different locations and lifestyles to see where you feel most comfortable if you do decide to purchase in the future.
Almost any type of home, condo or apartment around the state can be used as a seasonal rental. For example, Royal Shell, voted “the Best Vacation Rental Company on Sanibel Island” for 10 consecutive years, offers hundreds of quality vacation rentals on Sanibel and Captiva, Fort Myers, Bonita Springs, Naples and other locations in Southwest Florida, as well as in the Ocala area in Central Florida.
Buying a vacation club membership or a time-share unit is another “in-between” option. With a timeshare—sometimes called
“interval ownership”—you can purchase one or two weeks in a professionally managed community located in your favorite destination. Many buyers like the familiarity and peace of mind that comes from returning to the same Florida community year after year. Most vacation clubs and interval-ownership programs allow you to “swap” your vacation weeks and spend that time in other locations. Or you may be able to put your unit into a rental pool if you will not be using the time yourself.
Today, more than 12 percent of all Florida real estate transactions involve a foreign buyer. Two key reasons for their interest are the state’s warm-weather location and homes that offer a good value—a winning combination for any buyer. Due to its global appeal, Florida has large second-home communities populated by Canadian, European, Russian and Latin American occupants, as well as those from elsewhere in the USA.
While US and international visitors purchase homes and condos throughout the state, four regions tend to attract the largest share of second-home purchases: Southeast, Southwest, Central and the Panhandle.
Southeast Florida has traditionally attracted buyers from the Northeast US, Canada, Europe and Latin America. Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton and West Palm Beach have many waterfront condos and apartments that appeal to those accustomed to a faster-paced lifestyle, which includes cultural, shopping, dining and sports activities.
Southwest Florida historically appeals to buyers from the Midwest, Canada and Europe. Golf, boating and white, sandy beaches are among the major attractions. This is a preferred destination for empty nesters and retirees who want a relaxing lifestyle.
Central Florida is prime family vacation territory, attracting buyers from throughout the US and around the world. The primary appeal: owning or renting a home near Orlando’s theme parks and just a short drive from the beach.
The Panhandle primarily attracts buyers from throughout the southeastern US. With its miles of beaches and small-town communities, the state’s northwestern region appeals to families and friends also seeking a weekend getaway within a few hours’ drive from home.
CONSULT THE EXPERTS
For the past few years, prices for vacation homes and condos have been rising gradually in many Florida markets. Be sure to take a close look at the local community, since pricing and inventory of residences for sale can vary dramatically from neighborhood to neighborhood or from building to building. For vacation-oriented buyers, it’s best to avoid buying a foreclosure or a distressed property and to look for a home or condo that’s in “move-in” condition.
Since financing a second home is an important consideration, take time to talk with several lenders about mortgage terms. One source is the Florida Association of Mortgage Professionals, which offers an online directory.
It’s also a good idea to talk with an attorney before buying a home. Obtaining legal advice in advance can help you protect your investment and minimize potential tax liabilities. The Florida Bar offers an online “find a lawyer” service.
While it may take a little time to navigate the legal and financial issues, purchasing a Florida home can turn a great short-term visit into an appealing long-term lifestyle.
TOP: Black Island bungalows in Gulf County. ABOVE: Pastel cottage at the Tradewinds Resort on Anna Maria Island in the Gulf of Mexico. OPPOSITE CENTER: The pool at Avoca, a private beach house for rent on Captiva Island. OPPOSITE BOTTOM:
The Plumeria model home by Minto at The Isles of Collier Preserve in Naples, Florida.
LEFT: Artist rendering of the Paradise resort pool coming soon to Latitude Margaritaville Daytona Beach, Florida.
BELOW: Barefoot cottages