never thought i would like daytona. cars driving on a beach sounded tacky. after over 30 years in florida i finally went to visit on one of my mini-roadtrips to find a future downsize. i like daytona beach very much.
daytona is located 3 to 3.5 hours north of fort lauderdale, about 1 hour to orlando, 2 hours to tampa and an 1.5 hours south of jacksonville. i could have some palms but it is above the frost line so tropical planting is limited. daytona marks the eastern edge of what some urban planners predict will become one of the country's few megapolitan areas, stretching from tampa, though orlando, to daytona.
i came into town through port orange to the south. a very neat & tidy community with lots of landscaping and new buildings on the way into town. turning onto u.s. hwy 1, i immediately came upon a self-service car wash (one of my favorite conveniences) and got all of i-95's bugs off the car. driving up u.s.1, i passed some wonderful old houses right on the highway. i imagine these were built back when u.s.1 was a two lane road and were then set back farther from the highway, before the highway was widened and sidewalks were added. i imagined further that as the area develops, these houses would become professional offices, restored to their former glory rather than being torn down for new & ugly office buildings.
somehow i found myself right in daytona's downtown, so getting around there is easy. the downtown has a lovely restored area of old storefronts, a main street, then a linear park bordering some sort of canal or forking of a river, then a wonderful park with the jackie robinson ballfield, tennis, library, etc and then the halifax river section of the intracoastal waterway. here is downtown daytona...
four bridges make for easy access to the beaches. i didn't go to the beach right away as it was heading towards sunset and i wanted to view the area first. driving through sidestreets i found lots of houses for sale. also i spoke to the residents who were out in their yards or walking their dogs. i came across three hybrid wolves so of course i had to stop and say high. the puppy, about 120 lbs and just over waist high came running right over to me though the parents kept their distance. the owners insisted on bringing me their baby book to share their puppy experience.
here is a typical house for sale in this area. $250k asking price for a 2/1 with small inground pool just a block or two off the beach. i had no idea i could live that close to the beach for that kind of money. this is wonderful living. middle class on the beach. almost oceanfront single family houses for the working class. or for $250k you could also buy a condo with an ocean view. imagine that.
that house has been for sale for at least 1 year according to the date stamped on the pictures. it sits high on an old dune and so i would not imagine flood insurance too pricey. a few blocks down i asked another neighbor about wind insurance. he says he is paying just over $5k for $650 worth of house but i could not be sure if he was estimating his house value for giving me the actual value insured. for some reason i felt he gave me his 2005's house value (for reference, here are feb 2007 - feb 2006 delta percent for existing single family $215,500 $228,900 -6 and for existing condos $180,000 $250,000 -28). also the listing shows taxes in 2005 as $466.34, obviously misleading. according to county records, a new owner would pay $5,175/year in taxes.
my downsized window of opportunity would come only if florida changes how it charges property taxes. if i could take my "save our homes" homesteaded exemption with me it would cost me just $1,000/year to live 1 block from the beach. but if i downsize in half now, my costs go up 5 times, so i'd have to downsize out of state or just vagabond it.
as the sun started setting i headed back along the main strip that runs parallel to the beach and found what looked like a decent hotel, a comfort inn. i wound up with the honeymoon suite overlooking the pool & beach for $119/night plus 12.5% taxes. here's my room and view.
this is a truly great beach, a cross between coney island, what fort lauderdale used to be and what miami beach should have been. i've never before seen so much activity on the beach. nature designed it that way. the hard packed white sand slopes ever so gently up from the water so as to create about a 100 foot wide boogy boarding area of inflowing & outflowing thin sheets of ocean. this area is perfect for play. over the hard packed sand is a veneer of red sand which changes patterns with every wave like an etchasketch. it is beautiful. a lifeguard told me the red sands comes in with the tide from points farther north. on a latter drive north i found the farther north you go the more red sand there is.
here is one pattern of the bi-colored sand on daytona beach
this is a picture of the beach from daytona pier. at the pier are all sorts of amusements including arcades, some enclosed bungy looking thing that goes up between two crane towers and even a chair lift-type ride flying you 20 feet over the pier for a sea-gull's eye view of the beach.
and here is a picture of flagler beach pier, two cities north of daytona. note the large patch of red sand on the otherwise white beach.
between daytona and flagler beach is a town called ormond beach where i found small garden-style apartments, condos selling in the $200-400k range right across the street from the beach with no obstruction to their views. also there is a large stretch of state park right on the beach. miles with no buildings on the ocean, try finding that in fort lauderdale.
here is a listing on realtor.com of one of those condos which i happened to notice. it borders the park and i was thinking as i was driving, wouldn't that be a nice place to live (turns out it is not even $200K) http://tinyurl.com/2jg32a
yup, i could live here.