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Old 12-25-2012, 05:56 PM   #21
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In my thinking, what you plan to do during your time in the warmer climes, should be the driving force for selecting a place to live... rent or buy. If you are looking to the future, and have a predeliction for camping hiking and biking, and are not looking toward later years, you might consider campgrounds... fifth wheel, Class A Camper etc. Many of the campgrounds are quite elegant, with large clubhouses, busy activity schedules etc... Some offer rentals of Park Model trailers (up to 800sf of space plus storage and a 400sf deck).

The multiple animal ownerhip may well be a limiting factor... Our park allows dogs, (about half the park owns one), and cats, but at that, new owner/renters are limited to medium size dogs.

Mid Florida has some excellent bike trails. Hiking may be somewhat limited... mostly flat, swamps wetlands. Canoeing and Kayaking are not major sports, though there are numerous rivers and 30,000 lakes. Diving only on the west coast and the keys.

I assume that you are looking at retirement type communities. As I mentioned... the social life should be a main consideration... Many parks are basically unfriendly, with people doing their own thing, and with facilities that are limited. If you like to swim, some parks that have "heated" pools, keep the water temperature in the mid 70's to the low 80's... which generally means that the pools are not used very much in the Jan, Feb, Mar months. In contrast, our park water temperature is kept at 86 degrees, and the pool is a busy social hub almost all day... even during the winter months.

We have found that many newer retirees, come south thinking in terms of where they lived "up north"... where families on the same street may not know or associate with each other. In a friendly park, one is almost instantly absorbed into a different lifestyle, where you very shortly know many, many people, develop new friendships, and become involved in your choice of dozens of activities. It's not for everyone, but as in our case, we found so much to do that the days weren't long enough.

Current prices in the stick-built parks are very low now, and the market is glutted in some areas. Personal guess is that owning a$100K to $300K house will not be an "investment" for some time. Our attitude was and is to not to expect to break even when we sell, but that even a total loss would not be a problem.

In mobile/manufactured home parks, there is a choice between owning and renting the land. Benefits and downsides both ways. In Florida, all communities are required to offer a prospectus, which details the rules, regulations, and the contract by which the maintenance and facilities of the common grounds and buildings are required to keep. This is extremely important, and before buying in... it's a must to talk with residents and possibly a lawyer to avoid pitfalls.

Without recommendations from a friend or trusted party, finding the best parks is a daunting task. There are thousands of retirement communities, and just driving down for a week of hunting will be frustrating.

As a suggestion for starters, go to The Villages (Lady Lake) website and request their free CD and Information Books. They do offer a three day reduced rental in some of their motel-like facilities, and only ask that you spend a few hours talking to a representative. We've done that, just for fun, and there is absolutely no pressure. You can then use the rental for a base to look at other communities. You will be amazed at The Villages... a little rich for my blood but 150,000 residents can't all be wrong.

As a top of the head guess, after owning a mobile/manufactured home, you could expect the total annual cost to own and live for 4 to 6 months... at from $7,000 to $12,000/year... above your up north home. Our cost is somewhere in between... Utilities, lawn care, dues, maintenance and replacement included. Communities with golf courses maybe $1 to 2K more.

Re security... our park is gated, but open during the day..In the 22 years we've lived there. A total of 3 very minor thefts... by workmen during the day. It never crosses our mind. (one year, we left the door unlocked for the 6 months we were gone) our thinking, the house is not as important as the lifestyle.

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Old 12-25-2012, 09:29 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by RockyMtn View Post
Rented in Az for a couple of years till we decided on the right place then bought. Prices were attractive, we don't have to move stuff back and forth anymore and it seems more like our home instead of someone else's.

Just my two cents for what it's worth.
I would buy in AZ long before I would ever buy in FL given our propensity for hurricanes. You need to consider the security of your home but it may be against wind, rain and mold, not burglars.

Think about how you would feel watching a hurricane heading directly for your home. What are you going to do before, during and after? You may not live close enough to water to be inundated like some were by Hurricane Sandy but 16 hours of falling raind (think Hurricane Jeanne in 2004) on a damaged roof or a broken window can be very destructive.

Much nicer to be thinking, "Darn, guess we won't be renting there next year!" as the hurricane trashes where you have been renting.
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Old 12-26-2012, 04:01 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Buckeye View Post

I would buy in AZ long before I would ever buy in FL given our propensity for hurricanes. You need to consider the security of your home but it may be against wind, rain and mold, not burglars.

Think about how you would feel watching a hurricane heading directly for your home. What are you going to do before, during and after? You may not live close enough to water to be inundated like some were by Hurricane Sandy but 16 hours of falling raind (think Hurricane Jeanne in 2004) on a damaged roof or a broken window can be very destructive.

Much nicer to be thinking, "Darn, guess we won't be renting there next year!" as the hurricane trashes where you have been renting.
We owned a condo in southwest Florida for 7 years. The first year we went through 3 major hurricanes. No damage to our well constructed unit in a community prepared to deal with the aftermath of a CAT 4 or 5 storm. We were without power for several days which was annoying but not a huge burden.

We enjoyed living full time in Florida (job related) and wouldn't let the hurricane risk keep us from owning if we wanted to live there. From my perspective the financial risk is a bigger issue for retirees. Not only does Florida go through severe real estate boom and bust cycles, property taxes are high, insurance costs are outrageous, and community association fees are high. Many communities are under reserved and financially unstable. As the properties age, the infrastructure maintenance costs skyrocket. The financial administration of community associations is only as good as the quality of the board membership which will change over time. During the 7 years we owned a condo, the board shifted from free spenders to tight fisted and back again. A huge issue with the association in my community was the decision of the owners not to accumulate reserves in order to keep monthly fees down. As the properties aged, major maintenance costs (roof replacement, elevator overhaul, repaying, stucco repair) became an annual issue resulting in thousands of dollars in special assessments.

This year we sold the condo for 50% of what we paid. It was a cash flow decision. We wanted to retire this year and travel in our RV. Carrying two fixed location homes, and RV travel, did not fit the budget. We will travel to Florida in January in the RV. Our rolling condo lets us enjoy the warm weather and change of scenery at a much lower cost than owning a second home. Someday, we may go back to owning our primary home in Florida. For now we like having home base near family and long time friends.
Retired at 57. Now a happy camper!
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Old 12-26-2012, 07:01 AM   #24
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We hope to winter in a gated, year-round community. Our real fear would be returning to our "real" home and finding it burglarized, vandalized, or worse.


Originally Posted by bondi688 View Post
Alex in Virginia
I have friends who have summer cottages in decent communities in Cape Cod. The houses were winterized and boarded up for the winters, and I know at least a couple of friends returned in the summers to find the places burglarized. Leaving a home sits empty for months does pose a security problem.
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'There is only one success to be able to spend your life in your own way. Christopher Morley.
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Old 12-26-2012, 10:31 AM   #25
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It depends if you are sure you like an area, but "areas" change over time too. I'm in the rent camp.

We're probably 8+ years away from the ability to snowbird as we have young kids in school. I'm playing with the idea of timesharing. We currently own a point system that allows several weeks of use per year. It was purchased resale so we avoided the rip off purchase price. We do pay $$ for ongoing annual maintenance, but it gives us alot of flexibility with locations, size of unit, washer/dryer in most units, utilities included. We'll just bring clothes and a few pictures and we're good.

Timesharing is not for everyone, but we enjoy them for the time being.
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Old 12-28-2012, 06:52 AM   #26
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Thanks again, everyone, for all your comments. I've arrived at a point of closure with this thread, so here it is.

I invited my wife to go through all of your replies. She did up to a point, but she nevertheless is flat-out against renting a snowbird place. She offered that, since she won't be retiring herself for at least 2 years (and maybe more), I should go ahead and try the renting on my own. So that's what I will be doing, starting next year.

We can do this separate thing given that due to job logistics we already live in 2 separate houses 5 days a week, and from time to time choose or need to go on solo trips. I'm not sure how that will extrapolate to a 3-month separation, but we will see how that works too.

To my mind, it's already too late this year, but I'll start researching for next year, and start a new thread on this blog site regarding it. I'll start it fairly soon. Look for a title thread like "My search for a Central FL snowbird rental".

Right now, I need to sign off and go shovel snow. I am snowbound. My truck is snowbound. Ugh!
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Old 12-29-2012, 04:47 PM   #27
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Late to the thread, but is your wife's issue a moving issue or an "investment" issue?

If it is a moving issue, my Dad and Aunt both live in different snowbird communities where you can rent a park model for 6 months prime season and you get the other 6 months for ~ 2 extra months rent. So for 8 months rental you can have a year round place and they only charge utilities if you occupy. That way you don't have to move each time and you can come down in the summer if the grandkids want to do Disneyworld or something.

Not sure how it cost compares to owning, but could give you a better mid ground with your wife.

I get up at 7 yeah, and I go to work at 9. Got no time for livin yes I'm workin all the time. Seems to me I could live my life a lot better than I think I am. I guess thats why they call me the Working Man.
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Old 02-17-2013, 11:18 PM   #28
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I was looking at townhouse/condo in Florida, and came upon a listing of a very cheap TH in fairly upscale gated Community. I thought it was a foreclosure or short sale, but it was not. The catch was in the small print:
"Many of the units within this complex have tested postive for Chinese Drywall. Realtor has no knowledge whether this unit has Chinese Drywall or not."
Talk about a disingenuous non-disclosure.
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Old 02-18-2013, 10:19 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by imoldernu View Post
We've been snowbirding Illinois to Florida, for 23 years. Our florida home is in Leesburg, and is a 350 unit manufactured home park, for seniors. Very high energy activities of all kinds, busy social life, lake and Marina.

The decision to rent or buy, has a lot to do with what you're looking for. If it's senior housing, one thing, if mixed neighborhood, another... Depends on the price range. A vast difference... In our park, average price is probably around $40,000. In Lady Lake, The Villages... (between Leesburg and Ocala,) is a senior community of about 150,000, with over 60,000 homes, all built since 2000. three Walmarts to give you an idea of the size. 34 golf courses. Price range about $135K to 600K+.

Many of the communities that were selling houses in the $150K to $250K range, during the heydays... 1985 to 2003... are now selling for about $100K
to #200K.

For snowbird housing, in our park, the break point for buying or renting is about 4 months... As mentioned in an above post... it takes a special type of person to be able to bring enough belongings to stay in a rental place for 3-4 months. We wouldn't think of it.

I'd recommend that you take a look at (Google) these communities in the Leesburg area... Highland Lakes... Royal Highlands... for stick built housing... and Lake Griffin Harbor. There are more than 100 communities in a 50 mile radius.

BIL lives in Tanglewood in Sebring... nice active commuity... 100 miles further south.

Much more important than buying or renting, is what you're looking for. First time new retirees looking abound Florida most commonly look for the housing, and make big time mistakes... Lifestyle first... absolutely! Don't look at the house... look at the community, and the people. Find your own level of financial comfort, and the activities that suit your interests. I'd like to have a dollar for every resident of our park, who spent two or three unhappy years in Florida in a park that didn't suit them, before finding ours. The house is secondary.

If you post your interests, I'd be happy to share what I know about the better parks.
I have been thinking about doing this. Think about it every February. Just gathering info so far.

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