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Suggestions on Southern US winter home please
Old 09-08-2007, 02:06 AM   #1
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Suggestions on Southern US winter home please

I live way up here in Alberta Canada. I haven't been to the Southern states before, but I have spent some time looking through real estate listings and weather data. Compared to here, the home prices look like a bargain. I plan to wait until I think that the whole U.S. mortgage mess has settled itself out before buying, and in the mean time take a trip by rental car across the states. Researching online is very confusing. There seem to be so many micro-climates and societal differences down there that I really don't know where to start. Everyone here goes to Arizona and Florida for winter. I'd appreciate hearing about areas within those states, but are there others in between that I should check into/visit as well?

My wish list in order of importance to me follow....

-NO snow or at least very rare.
-sane levels of humidity (very dry where I live)
-more sunny than cloudy days
-comfortable outside in winter months with sweater
-some wind is OK, but not all of the time
-greenery and rolling terrain
-near a clean lake that allows jet skis (if I wear a full wetsuit is the water warm enough there in winter some days?)
-within 25 min. of city of at least 70K
-mainly english speaking
-reasonable residential tax levels
-within an hour of decent college/university
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:32 AM   #2
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I plan to wait until I think that the whole U.S. mortgage mess has settled itself out before buying
Why wait? The rates are good, home prices are low... all in all, it's a great time to buy.
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Old 09-08-2007, 06:03 AM   #3
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I believe coastal property is likely to increase in price (especially in desirable locations).

If you are planning to do it in the next couple of years... consider doing so now.

Personally, I intend to lease. I believe it will be less hassle and less cost.
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Old 09-08-2007, 06:11 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Grizz View Post
-NO snow or at least very rare.
-sane levels of humidity (very dry where I live)
-more sunny than cloudy days
-comfortable outside in winter months with sweater
-some wind is OK, but not all of the time
-greenery and rolling terrain
-near a clean lake that allows jet skis (if I wear a full wetsuit is the water warm enough there in winter some days?)
-within 25 min. of city of at least 70K
-mainly english speaking
-reasonable residential tax levels
-within an hour of decent college/university
May I suggest the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Right now the housing prices aren't too bad and they seem to be holding their own. If you go to the east there is Mobile about 40 minutes from the center of the Gulf coast. If you go west you have New Orleans about an hour from the center of the Coast. You don't need a lake, you have the Gulf. Although after living in the south for about 20 years I wouldn't go into any fresh water lake I couldn't see to the bottom. There are many sunny days in the winter, but it can get cold. The greenery is a problem we do have winters, but they are a lot more mild than Canada. The green stuff does turn brown for a couple months. Most people speak a form of English and it is understandable once your ear is attuned to the accent, similar to spaeking to someone from Britian. The residential taxes depend on the area you live but since the house prices aren't too bad the taxes normally aren't to bad. There are colleges all over the place down here. Whether their good or not is up for debate.
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Old 09-08-2007, 06:23 AM   #5
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May I suggest the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Right now the housing prices aren't too bad and they seem to be holding their own. If you go to the east there is Mobile about 40 minutes from the center of the Gulf coast. If you go west you have New Orleans about an hour from the center of the Coast. You don't need a lake, you have the Gulf. Although after living in the south for about 20 years I wouldn't go into any fresh water lake I couldn't see to the bottom. There are many sunny days in the winter, but it can get cold. The greenery is a problem we do have winters, but they are a lot more mild than Canada. The green stuff does turn brown for a couple months. Most people speak a form of English and it is understandable once your ear is attuned to the accent, similar to spaeking to someone from Britian. The residential taxes depend on the area you live but since the house prices aren't too bad the taxes normally aren't to bad. There are colleges all over the place down here. Whether their good or not is up for debate.
If you do... get flood insurance.
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Old 09-08-2007, 07:21 AM   #6
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Have you checked out the tax and inheritance consequences of buying in the US? Buying may be a PITA compared to renting.

Also see this (very sticky) thread on the Financial Webring Forum:

Financial Webring Forum :: View topic - Real Estate, continues down in U.S.

and Real Estate Talks

http://www.realestatetalks.com/viewt...highlight=&f=8
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Old 09-08-2007, 09:25 AM   #7
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Lakes down south are filled with alligators not exacty were I'd like to water ski .Also the tax situation in Florida right now is a mess. The real estate market right now has some real bargains but so does the rental market .You'd need to stick to Northern Florida think Ocala or Gainesville for rolling hills.
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Old 09-08-2007, 09:47 AM   #8
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May I suggest the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Right now the housing prices aren't too bad and they seem to be holding their own. If you go to the east there is Mobile about 40 minutes from the center of the Gulf coast. If you go west you have New Orleans about an hour from the center of the Coast. You don't need a lake, you have the Gulf.
New Orleans (where I live), is very humid and we have 60"/year of rain. We do not normally have any ice or snow at all. You should be able to get a very good deal on a home here.

I wouldn't worry about the cost of flood insurance, so much as the very real risk of flooding, and the fact that insurance companies do not have a stellar reputation for making good on insured damage around here. Yearly payments for property taxes, homeowners insurance, and flood insurance on my home (when added together) have only totaled between 1.2% and 1.5% of its fair market value during the past five years since I bought my house.
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Old 09-08-2007, 11:38 AM   #9
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Grizz, I am likewise from Alberta, Canada.

Over the course of a few years while working in Texas, spouse and I drove the entire Gulf Coast from Jacksonville, FL to San Padre, TX to check out winter possibilities. Generally speaking, Gulf Coast Florida as far west as the Destin area is probably the most attractive, but also the most expensive. There may be some jewels between Destin and Pensacola, decreasing in attractiveness as you reach Pensacola.

The Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coasts have some very attractive areas and I would suggest you give them serious consideration. I also like the Texas coast between the Rockport and Corpus Christi. But nothing between Rockport, TX and Gulfport, MS. The biggest downside of the Gulf Coast is hurricane risk and I would probably not buy RE there for that reason. I would lease instead.

I would also give North and South Carolina serious consideration, but I have not been to enough places in either state to make suggstions. Neither New Mexico nor Arizona appeal to me because of lack of sufficient water based activities and lack of sufficient greenery in the most temperate areas.

One of our favourite places where we lived for almost 4 years is in the Conroe, TX area, about 40 miles north of downtown Houston. There are a couple of man made lakes in the area (Lake Conroe and Lake Livingston), rolling hills and lots of trees. It may be a bit too urban for you and potentially a bit expensive, but may be worth a look. It only got down to freezing mark a few times per winter and only had one snow storm and one mild ice storm during that time. Another possible area in Texas is the Hill Country west of Austin. Winters are a bit colder there than the Houston area, but lake activities are possible much of the winter. Again the area is getting expensive.

Another area worth investigating is NW Arkansas and SW Missouri. Both areas have interesting terrain, are reasonably south to miss the brunt of winter and are within reasonable access of medium sized cities. I have toured both areas to some extent, but have not spent enough time to comment on specific locations.

As a previous poster mentioned, if you do intend to buy RE, become very familiar with property tax issues in the locations you desire. Property taxes can be 2-3 times what they are in Alberta for equivalent property. Finally, I would recommend you try leasing in different areas for the first 3-4 years to find a region and culture you like. I believe the housing market is going to be soft for the next 2-3 years and you have the time to explore first.
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Old 09-08-2007, 11:54 AM   #10
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One of our favourite places where we lived for almost 4 years is in the Conroe, TX area, about 40 miles north of downtown Houston. There are a couple of man made lakes in the area (Lake Conroe and Lake Livingston), rolling hills and lots of trees. It may be a bit too urban for you and potentially a bit expensive, but may be worth a look. It only got down to freezing mark a few times per winter and only had one snow storm and one mild ice storm during that time. Another possible area in Texas is the Hill Country west of Austin. Winters are a bit colder there than the Houston area, but lake activities are possible much of the winter. Again the area is getting expensive.
Grizz, in the spirit of full disclosure, here are a few things you'll find in Texas that your Canadian compadre failed to mention:

Scorpions, rattlesnakes, fire ants, cockroaches on steroids, killer bees*, mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers, tarantulas, brown recluse spiders, copperheads, cottonmouths, rabid skunks, wild hogs, alligators, oppressive heat & humidity, bleak desolate scenery, dirty beaches, polluted air, drought, wildfires, water shortages, recurring floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, rednecks, huge piles of flaming mulch, spontaneously combusting playgrounds, the stench of natural and unnatural gasses, amoebic meningitis lurking in area lakes, ebola virus outbreaks, flesh eating bacteria, and unbelievably high property taxes.

Other than that, it's a pretty nice place.

* San Antonio Man Killed by Bees
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Old 09-08-2007, 12:30 PM   #11
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Exactly what I was hoping to get for replies, thank you all, lots more ideas to research. Keep 'em comin'

I watch CNBC quite a bit, and if I had a drink of beer everytime they mentioned the subprime mortgages being defaulted on and that unsold home inventory is way way up and still climbing, I'd be drunk 24/7. Although analyst opinions differ, I got the impression that in most places, U.S. home prices are almost in free fall with no bottom in sight. Again, I'm up here in Canada so all that I see is what the media wants me to see. I certainly don't sense panic over falling real estate in the replies so far.

I had thought about New Orleans a bit, but again with another CNBC special that I listened to regarding New Orleans, they portrayed it as a place where certain areas have recovered nicely, but mostly it is a place where people and businesses are leaving in droves, and gov't agencies aren't really stepping up to help rebuild like they should. Is this one overblown too?

I'm only 38 and through good fortune and timing during this recent oil boom, I managed to become FI. I've sold my business and am still planning to work for 3-5 yrs while planning for RE. My idea is to purchase at what I hope is the bottom, and rent it out for a few yrs until my youngest graduates high school, at which point, my wife and I could use it as a winter home. In my scenario, leasing and renting won't work for me, so I plan to just make a few trips during holidays and narrow my choices down during each one.

Also, alligators in the lakes? You're kidding me right? If you're not, then please add "no alligators in lake" to my wish list.
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Old 09-08-2007, 12:41 PM   #12
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Also, alligators in the lakes? You're kidding me right?
Nope. Distribution of Alligators in Texas
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Old 09-08-2007, 01:01 PM   #13
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Florida Alligator Habitat

Not Kidding about the alligators .They are in every lake in Florida .I had a pond in my backyard and there was an alligator that used to sun himself in my yard .
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:20 PM   #14
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Also, alligators in the lakes? You're kidding me right? If you're not, then please add "no alligators in lake" to my wish list.
In that case You'd probably want to look farther north. Farther north would also save you a bit from the hurricanes, however you still have the tornados and remenants of hurricanes dumping water on you. Probably Northern Gerogia, Tennessee, Arkansas areas would be low gator areas. I lived in Macon Ga for a while and they had gators there. The Charelston area of South Carolina was nice. Their winters are a bit longer and colder than the Gulf area though and of course they have gators.

The humidity is high during the summer, but in the winter it is lower.
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:37 PM   #15
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I had thought about New Orleans a bit, but again with another CNBC special that I listened to regarding New Orleans, they portrayed it as a place where certain areas have recovered nicely, but mostly it is a place where people and businesses are leaving in droves, and gov't agencies aren't really stepping up to help rebuild like they should. Is this one overblown too?
I saw the same CNBC special and sadly enough, it was the most realistic and accurate special on the present situation in New Orleans that I have seen to date. Things will improve here, but is taking a long time. Health care, spiraling crime, and uncertainties about the levee/floodwall/drainage systems are all problems here right now. Frank and I plan to move away as soon as we qualify for retirement. This is not a good place for older people, in my opinion.

However, people are moving here (although more are moving away). Some want to get a real estate bargain, some want to work on renovations or other manual jobs and get paid under the table, some have a driving need to be part of a catastrophe, and some have various other reasons.

As far as alligators in the lakes.... an old joke is that after moving here, you know you have become a diehard New Orleanian when you no longer wonder or think about what lives in our canals!
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:51 PM   #16
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I spent a winter in Tucson. It was full of Alberta wheat farmers. Wonderful place, but I think no lake. Also no gators. However, not too far to the north end of the Sea of Cortez, which has the additional virtue of being free of gators. No Piranhas either. Nice warm but dry weather; Tucson is slightly cool for outdoor swimming in midwinter.

A bit cooler, but still nice and dry and with a great 'gator-free lake is Las Vegas. Better yet, Henderson, NV with Lake Mead for your boating pleasure. You can bet football and basketball when you are too tired to go boating.

Another great western desert location, this time plenty warm year around is Lake Havasu City. This is the new-world home of London Bridge so you colonials should feel comfortable.

Lake Havasu City Convention&Visitors Bureau•Arizona

These western desert towns are not so far from Alberta either, should you wish to drive down.

Ha
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Old 09-08-2007, 02:58 PM   #17
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Rent - then explore. Dast I get cussed by Texans:

Rent in Shreveport La or even some place in Texas and check out Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend Resevoirs and the Sabine River Tourist traps.

Then there's Huntsville Al and over the mountain to Guntersville Res. Weiss Lake(the Crappie capital) is too shallow - I go visit a female friend there several times a year(refugee from Katrina).

heh heh heh - That far north - then you get some hint still of seasons.
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Old 09-08-2007, 03:17 PM   #18
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Let me suggest Gulf Shores, Alabama. Coming back nicely from Ivan 3 years ago. Lot's of Canadians come down for the winters. Much more affordable than Destin, FL which is about an hour away.

Below is a new development in progress there. I'm going down in a couple of weeks to check it out myself.

Bon Secour Village

Having said this, why not just lease? That way you can spend your winters at different locations.
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Old 09-08-2007, 05:06 PM   #19
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My favorite(being a cheap bastard) is crashing with relatives - Reno(Sparks), Pensacola(Pace), and a new condo one hour over the Border in Baha - still smoozing/researching that one. Lost track of a buddy who planned to retire in Gulfshores - I think his Son got him to go Whidbey instead(some contrast).

heh heh heh - what's the skinny on Port Aransas?
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Old 09-08-2007, 07:20 PM   #20
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I don't see all that many jet skis on Toledo Bend, mostly fishermen in high-powered bass boats (like me)! However, although I live near Shreveport, LA, the biggest alligator I've ever seen in the wild was on Toledo Bend Reservoir, on the Texas side of the lake, down near the southern end of the lake. The lake is around 78 miles from north to south.
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