Choosing a house to retire in

If you are choosing a house to retire in, your choice may be more about people than about the house.

“People pay to be doing what we are doing here in Florida.” My brother Bill and I say this to each other quite often. Long time residents in Fort Myers and in Fact all over South West Florida take for granted many of the day to day pleasures we enjoy.

Yesterday afternoon I sat on my back porch in 74 degree temperatures, a cool breeze wafting through the trees that shaded me from the sun that was otherwise unobstructed by clouds as golfers played by on the 12th fairway of Fort Myers Country Club. Cool beer in hand, my dog at my side, a tangerine tree to my left and a manicured vegetable garden already producing a wide array of herbs and lettuces was laid out before my feet.

It’s like this every day.” Is my other common exclaim.

Back in 1991 I was 38 years old and I “retired” to Florida; err, well, I “moved” to Florida. I left my secretary/assistant up in Ohio, and continued to travel my sales territory (From Asia to Europe and from Chile to Canada). Fortunately I could keep on doing what I was doing (a manufacturer’s rep) as long as I was near an airport and a phone and internet access. I came down for quality of life. Most of this had to do with family here in Fort Myers, my Folks had retired to Fort Myers Villas in 1972, but recreation and cost of living played an important role in their retirement choice.

When I came down, I built a house, bought a boat, bought a beach house, learned to scuba dive, fished, played tennis, hunted, and made money in real estate. I got out of the manufacturer’s rep business and concentrated on real estate. I bought and managed rental property, flipped houses, ran office buildings, and built and sold about 60 condos. In the beginning I drove an old pick-up truck and did all my own maintenance – even mowed my own yards. I collected rent and kept the books. I hung drywall and unstopped toilets. Eventually my time was better spent finding deals and doing them and I hired out much of the other work.

Over the last 20 years I learned a lot about real estate; more from my mistakes than my successes, of course, but also from immersing myself in, and becoming passionate about, real estate in Florida. Today I work for Market America Realty and Investments, Inc. a company I founded in 2001.

house to retire in

What do you need to know?

I thought I would share with you some the FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about retiring to Florida or more accurately, buying real estate in Florida that I have heard over the years. I’m not a lawyer or an accountant, I sell real estate – so keep that in mind! I have put links to articles I have written about many of these topics. Just click the highlighted text to go to the article

How and where do I start?

Well, you can’t steer unless you are moving, so you have to take the first step. For me this would start with what I call the “data dump stage”. Get yourself a three ring binder and gather all the information you can about real estate in Florida (or set up a Drop Box or Evernote app on your computer to store info electronically). Talk to your friends, come often to, spend time familiarizing yourself with neighborhoods. Use a good website like ours that has a map search and will let you look at a neighborhood as well as a house. Once you have an idea of an area – go there. Spend two weeks in one spot and get to know the area.

What about costs of Living?

Many folks move here because we have no state income tax, Our property taxes, as a rule of thumb are about 1.5%, annually, of the purchase price. The world is a small place these days, and I would venture to say that with the exception of locally produced abundant items the cost of most “cost of living” things are the same throughout the entire country. We do have a large selection of all items related to housing (furniture, appliances, construction materials and labor) so these things tend to be cheaper because of the large supply. We do need to cool our houses in the summer – the heat and humidity are a big factor – but I never use my heat,  in a well built home you may never use it either. So look closely at the energy efficiency of the house you ultimately buy.

Condo or Single Family Home?

There are trade offs for each decision between a condo and a single family house. First, learn what a condo is by reading this article. Many condo buyers mention the love of being able to lock the door and not return for two months as a big reason for wanting a condo versus a house – simply it’s the maintenance costs (and of course security). I have owned and lived in both. I prefer a single family home – I like to garden, have a dog run in my yard, and I like to putz in the garage. I also don’t like the compromises that are required for condo living.

Water or Golf or Neither?

Waterfront land is more desirable, more expensive to buy, and more expensive to insure and maintain. I have owned it all – and let me tell you that you just can’t beat living on the water. The breezes, the view, the recreation – as well as the insurance and maintenance costs. I now live on a golf course – and I don’t golf – but I love the privacy and the views

Pool or no Pool?

90 percent of the enjoyment of a pool is visual. If you don’t have a view – get a pool if you can afford it. Most second home buyers expect one and the house will be easier to sell.

Frame or Concrete Block Construction?

I prefer a well built frame house in Florida to a most CBS (concrete block on slab) homes. They are quieter, more energy efficient, and most have more interesting deign characteristics. But make sure it is well built, with good windows and exterior siding.

Where should you buy?

  • Buy what IS, not what is going to be. Buy in-fill, in a mature neighborhood. It’s worth it.
  • Gated or not gated? For me I like the flexibility of non gated, but this is a personal preference.
  • Think resell. You circumstances may change and you may have to sell. Buy a home that someone else will want.
  • Buy near stuff: shopping, friends, golf, roads, the beaches – you know, the normal stuff.
  • Buy on infrastructure – like sewer and water and cable.
  • Think medical and transportation – is it convenient?

What about hurricanes?

Most people ask about hurricanes, although less now than they did five years ago. My recommendation is to buy a house that was built since the hurricane codes went in to effect (post 2001). Look for things like hurricane resistant windows; look for elevation; look for a well maintained, well built home. You can’t control the hurricanes, just like you can’t control earthquakes and snow and rain – but you can buy smart.

Folks, moving here is about the people, not the real estate. Why retire to Florida? Because it’s where you want to be with your friends.


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