How it all began
My wife and I first visited Florida in 1991, lured by the attractions of Disney and all that. We have three boys and enjoyed five family holidays in Florida. Each time we had rented a house in Kissimmee, close to all the Disney World amenities. On our fifth visit, when the boys were becoming a bit more independent, we occasionally ventured out on our own to explore further afield.
We were curious about a new development close to where we were staying at the time. Compared to what you could buy in the UK in 2002, these new properties represented exceptional value. We discussed it with our boys which was a smart move, as they made us realise, amongst other things, that buying a home in an area with a high tourist population was not necessarily a good idea.
Location, location, location
Our middle son suggested we ought to perhaps look further south, on the Gulf Coast. We would still be able to visit the Orlando attractions if we wanted to. There was no intention of renting our home. This was to be our second home, not a holiday cottage. It would be for our family.
We chose Sarasota for many reasons and having lived there for 16 years we can confirm it is one of the best Florida locations on the Gulf coast.
It is important to state we wanted our home to be in a hot climate, when it is cold in England. We did consider Spain and the South of France, but the climate during ‘winter’ months (October to March) in these regions does not compare to that of Florida.
Sarasota, Florida weather
Marbella, Spain weather
It was imperative that we live in a secure environment – populated for the most part by full-time residents. We visited a number of communities pre-ordained by a couple of local realtors (estate agents). When we had exhausted their list of potential properties, we passed by chance a new development of 250 new homes in a gated community.
As we entered the front door of the show home it was love at first sight. Exactly what we had visualised; – our perfect home. After talking to the on-site realtor, he made us aware that this particular property, which was professionally interior-designed and sold fully furnished, was about to go on the market. It was an opportunity too good to miss. Forty-eight hours later we made the commitment to purchase.
Had we taken the time to fully appreciate the potential pitfalls we might well have taken a lot more time before making a decision. That said, with the benefit of hindsight we now realise we might have dodged some bullets. So, with the experience of nearly 20 years in Sarasota, here are some of the key points, in no particular order, that you might need to consider before buying your home in Florida.
15 key points to consider before you buy
Deed restrictions will apply to your home and the neighbourhood. The deeds will dictate such matters as renting your home and parking on the driveway at night. If you live in a residential community largely populated by US citizens, it is very likely you will not be allowed to offer your home for short term holiday rentals. (this is not the case in Orlando).
Property taxes are charged annually by the State, based on the assessed value of your property. In the State of Florida, you might expect to pay around 1% of the property value, so if you own a house worth $500,000 you will pay $5,000 each year. Each state in the US has its own levy, the lowest being Hawaii at 0.27% and the highest New Jersey at 2.44%. US residents of Florida don’t pay state income tax, because Florida earns revenues from the millions of annual tourists and property owners.
Association fees (HOA)
Homeowner association fees are for the upkeep of common areas. We currently pay $1500 per annum. If you purchase an apartment, the cost could be five times this amount. Condominium HOA fees tend to be much higher than individual homes on a development.
Maintenance of your home each week. Pool and garden maintenance will set you back approximately $200 per month for a reasonable sized plot.
Utilities – whether you are in residence or not, water and electricity monthly costs will be on-going. The air conditioning will be on.
The continued building of new homes in Florida has had the effect of stabilising the re-sale cost of older homes, so do not count on this being a profitable investment. We would expect to get the same amount as we paid 16 years ago if we elected to sell in the next 12 months.
Our UK home is in Greater London. According to the Nationwide calculator, between 2002 and 2019 house prices have risen on average by 165%.
It is not uncommon for the roof to need to be replaced after 1 to 20 years. On a 3,000 square foot house, this will cost somewhere in the region of $40,000.
Home visit team
The cost of a regular home visit service will vary, but a weekly inspection and a mini maintenance programme might be around $50 per week.
Pest control normally requires a quarterly visit costing $400. Ants, termites, snakes, raccoons and opossums may also like your home from home.
Airfares and long term car rental costs can be considerable. You may want to avoid Economy seating for nine hours each way.
Consider the journey time from the airport to your home. This is perhaps going to be more important to you in the future. Don’t underestimate the distances you may need to travel. Orlando International Airport to Sarasota is a tad over two hours, all being well.
Buying a home close to the beach will be three to five times the cost of a home 20 minutes’ drive from the beach. We fall into the latter category and are so pleased we chose to live ‘inland’. The crowds are different as well.
Golf course living
If you decide to live on a golf course, whether you play or not, there is a strong possibility you might pay an annual fee towards maintenance. Added to this, if the golf club decides to replace the greens, this could lead to a one-off charge amounting to $10,000+.
Security system monitoring is a must and if you elect to use a wi-fi linked camera system, you will need to pay a monthly internet charge to the provider.
You can’t avoid the £ and $ exchange rate, it’s swings and roundabouts. In January 2002 the rate was 1.44. In June 2019 it is 1.26. Who knows what it will be this time next year? Some years you will get lucky, but it will average out over time.
There is a lot to consider.
We have never regretted our decision. It has been a wonderful experience. Both of us love our home in Florida, and we love our home in England as well.
Notes: This is a guest blog from a Capital client who was happy to share their real experiences of owning a home in Florida. The views are their own. This is not an endorsement to consider renting or buying a property abroad.