Finding the right home
The process of finding the right home on the right community can be a short and easy one, or it can take many weeks or months, depending on how you approach it. It isn't unusual for a prospective buyer to come to me and to say that they havestayed previously on a particular community, and that they are committed to buying on that community. Some buyers don't even come to Florida to preview their preferred home, they rely on my comments and photos when I view on their behalf. Other buyers may spend several long days touring a dozen or more homes a day, hopefully making their final choice before exhaustion overwhelms them. Always ask questions, make sure you are fully informed about every aspect of the home and the community before you make your decision.
The trick to keeping the search within bounds is to have as many options as possible resolved before starting to look at specific homes. For example, here are a few basic questions that should start the process:
- Are you buying the home just as a second home for your own vacations and for use by family and friends? Or are you looking to maximize rental income to hopefully cover most or all of your ongoing costs of ownership? Or somewhere in between?
- What is your budget? This has to be addressed early on, because there is no use looking at new communities where the starting price point for a modest four bedroom home is around $400,000 plus the cost of furnishing when your budget is more like half that.
- If you are buying solely or even partly for your own use, what sort of community and home would you be happy with? Do you want a full resort-style community, gated and guarded, or would you prefer something quieter and with a more residential feel? Is it important to you to be within a few minutes of the theme parks, or would you be content to be, perhaps, a half hour away in a more peaceful neighborhood.
- If you are buying solely or mainly for potential rental income, some options are pre-determined. A gated community is a must, together with some resort features (clubhouse, community pool, etc). Renters these days want a community that offers something closer to a hotel experience. If the community is sparkling new, and with extensive resort features such as the water parks offered by some of the new vacation communities, so much the better, but then price comes into play. One of the better older gated resort communities can work equally well if this fits better with your budget.
- Specific features of the home can help ensure good rental performance, such as a pool deck that doesn't face north, a private deck with a covered lanai, and perhaps with a conservation or water view, two master suites, a heated pool/spa combo, etc. No one of these features is essential, but a selection of them is worth aiming for.
- What type of home do you want. either for your own use or to fit in under your price target? Options include condos (on a limited number of communities), townhomes (available in most communites these days), or single family homes. A single family home will always have a private pool, many townhomes also have courtyard splash pools, condos will have access to a community pool and other amenities.
So which specific communities should you be considering? If new construction is within your price range, then one of the seven communities I feature on this site would be a good choice. These communities have already demonstrated strong rental performance, and have high customer recognition. Other new communities may have some limitations, such as overall quality, location or management issues.
If your aim is to look for an older, more established gated resort-style community, then Windsor Hills is by some way the best, but also the most expensive. Windsor Palms is a more economic option, but still does well for rental income in relation to its much lower purchase cost. Others worth considering are Emerald Island and Terra Verde. You may also be able to compromise by buying into a community that is still under construction, but which has some lower priced resales available. Veranda Palms and Bellavida fall into this category. Worried about high HOA dues? This may prove to be a non-issue.
I can provide an estimate of the ongoing costs of ownership of any type of home on any community, and also a realistic indication of potential rental income to set against these costs.