No, I Can't Find You a Tudor Style Home on 2 Acres in Town
Posted by Benjamin Dona on Saturday, June 28th, 2014 at 9:52am.
In SW Florida? For how much? Did you say $650K? Really now - that's amusing. I basically busted out laughing at this request - couldn't help myself. Was probably not the best thing to do on the phone with a potential client. However, after almost 16 years of hearing every type of request under the sun, I just could not hold the laugh in any longer. I guess with the fact that so many have missed their buying opportunity with the housing downturn (4 years too late now) and others from up north thinking they can try and duplicate what they have up there here in Florida, I'm due one minor faux pas. And quite frankly, I'm too busy to try and chase something I know for certain does not exist - we don't have Tudor style homes here unless you spend three to four times that amount of money to build it yourself from scratch on a normal size lot or two in town. You can build anything you want if you have the bucks to do it. And, if you really want that style home and don't mind living out near the boonies of the Everglades, you can get two acres of your own, too, no problem.
So, I thought I'd put together this blog post with some of the "gems" we get asked over and over again and try to help enlighten folks as to what they can expect when they are considering buying a second home or retiring permanently to our little piece of paradise.
I'll preface the rest of this post by repeating again "you can do most anything you want here, if you have the bucks to do it." The questions you have to ask yourself first though is "why" and will it be "worth" it?
Let's begin with “my” Tudor style home seekers. Notice he (they) said "on two acres." This is not going to happen anywhere "in town." In most instances you'll be lucky to get a 75W by 120L lot or two let alone acreage. And, if you do go out to the areas where you can find such a thing, "how are you going to take care of it and at what cost?" And, please don't tell me what this client did - "we have two acres here in Anytown, USA and we are going to bring down our John Deere tractor and other implements of yard work and do it ourselves." "We do this where we live now and love working in our yard." My first response to this commentary was "how old are you two?" Fifty eight and sixty came back the reply. Alright I said; now let's deal with some of the realities of life here in sunny sub-tropical SW Florida.
Eight months out of the year (from May 1 to Dec 1) our average temp is 90 to 93 during the day with 90%+ humidity (heat index is usually very near or above 100). The sun is relentless, even after 5PM. Think you can work in the cooler morning hours? OK, the mosquitos and no-see-ums will carry you away. And those are just the start of your having to deal with the critters. Throw in wasps, snakes, fire ants, biting flies, gnat swarms, fruit/palm rats and a host of other creepy crawlers and that is what you will have to deal with everytime you do it. You'll also have to contend with the fact that most every prominent type of plant life we have here has thorns, spikes or razor sharp leaves of some sort. And, don’t forget if you live out there in the boonies, you are encroaching on our bigger critters, too. Black bears, panthers, coyotes, bobcats and wild pigs can be common visitors to your property. Also, please don’t forget the “alligators” if you're near any body of water whatsoever. And yes, you will live with all these insects, reptiles and animals whether you are doing yard work or not. It's just all a part of deciding to live on a sub-tropical sandbar in the middle of the Gulf and the Ocean (and their backwaters) and so near the swampland of the Everglades.
If you ever watch the folks who do the landscaping for a living here, you'll notice right away they are mostly in long sleeve shirts and pants and wear large floppy hats. They are sweating their rear ends off from the moment they start at 8AM until the moment they end for the day at around 4:30PM. They are, for the most part all young guys and gals. It's just the way it is. And, I guarantee very few of them are in their late fifties or early sixties. I tried it for the first summer after I moved here in 1997. I was staying at my mother-in-law's vacation home in The Cape. It sat on about 0.625 of an acre (3 lots). I was 42 years old and loved outdoor work back in St Louis (even in the summertime). She had all the implements of yard work, including a riding lawn mower, and I figured I could save her the $125 a month she was paying the landscaping company if I chipped in and did some of the work myself. By the time the end of September rolled around (I started on April 1st), I brought the landscaping company back to do the job. It was the worst summer I have ever experienced in my life. It darn near killed me - LOL.
OK, let's move on to some other interesting questions we frequently receive:
1. Why don't the homes there have actual furnaces and double paned windows?
Well, in a bad winter you might turn on your furnace (we use forced air HVACs here) maybe 10 nights out of the year. And, as for the windows, we're more concerned about how they will stand up to hurricane force winds versus whether or not they will keep the house insulated. Shoot, most of the time you'll find out you will have your glass slider doors to the lanai wide open with the AC running full tilt. We Floridians like to air condition the outside air. Actually, we just like to breathe the fresh air and that's the easiest way to do it - open the sliders. It also lets us enjoy the afternoon sea breezes in the comfort of our air conditioned homes.
2. I want tile floors everywhere in my home.
OK, no problem. Just have to spend a little extra to have it added to replace the carpeting the builders typically use in the bedrooms. You can always use an area rug to keep your toes warm when you get out of bed in the morning. You might also want to remember that most of the homes here are built on concrete slabs and the tile is laid right on the concrete foundation. Walking and standing all day long on tile floors does wonders for aged knees and hips. Makes them tend to ache just a tad more than they normally do. Oh, and if you're in a low, mid or high-rise condo, be sure to check with the HOA/Condo board and the management company before you begin to replace any flooring. Many have their own set of rules regarding using tile and wood flooring in multi-floor condo buildings.
3. Why can't I find a home design like I have up north?
Again, this is sub-tropical SW Florida. Mediterranean and Tuscany designs are the most prevalent. Concrete block and stucco are also the norm - remember those hurricane force winds we mentioned previously. Bricks and sticks become flying objects in such winds. And yes, the interior wall finish is the norm too. It's called Florida mud and they basically throw it up on the walls and only use a trowel to smooth out the big lumps and catch the runoff. If you want a true smooth wall finish it likely will be an upgrade on new construction or a remodel effort on your part in order to get it.
4. My best friends got a 4 bedroom + den, 3 bath, 2 car garage, pool home for X amount of dollars in 2010. I want that kind of deal now. And, the seller should be willing throw in their furnishings too.
As we also said above, sorry, but you're four years too late. I can't help it that you thought things would just continue unabated to go lower in price. You said you've been using our website for a long time now. Well, did all those blog posts we wrote telling you that the "turn around" was happening here were written for our own personal amusement?
The fact is we are approaching being up in price by about 30% to 35% (on average) from the lows and are likely to keep on rising based on the severe shortage of re-sale inventory we currently have available right now (SW Florida is at its lowest inventory levels since 2007). The only saving grace is the thirty or so new construction communities we have available for you to choose from. And remember, we are still some 40% off the price highs of 2005-6, so you are still getting a pretty darn good buy, even if it's a new construction home. And, as far as the furnishings go, yes, we all know it is worth 50 cents or less on the dollar in comparison to what you would pay for new stuff, but the sellers are not going to just give it to you for nothing. Make them a reasonable offer and in the end you might save yourself more than the many thousands of dollars you will spend buying everything new from the furniture stores.
5. We saw this foreclosure on-line that is available in X community. We can just buy it and gut rehab it to our liking. That will be perfect for us.
Until you realize that at the price the banks are selling them for now is also way above the lows and if you sink $100K or more into making it be just what you want it to be, you'll most likely never get a ROI for the money you have spent rehabbing it. The purchase price is just too close to the top end now for that design and the $100K+ will over improve the home way above what it will be worth anytime in the foreseeable future. Remember all that new construction we have been talking about. A home built in 2002 is not going to appreciate above the norm no matter what you do to the inside and at some point a bunch of those newer homes (with more bells and whistles than your rehabbed home) will come on the market and will be your competition when you decide to sell in the future.
6. We just love the lived in feel of an older home.
See above, see above, see above…
7. An older home will be better built in our opinion.
See above… And, know that the construction code has changed here 4 or 5 times since 1996. Each time it was to make the builders build better quality homes that can withstand even greater hurricane force winds. So, in actuality, the newer homes are better built than the older homes in most cases. And, if the home was a second home, it is also likely in many cases that the owner did not give due regard to its maintenance/upkeep like they do to their primary home up north. Shoot, they only use it a few months out of the year. With the sub-tropical sun, heat and humidity and the never ending mold and mildew growth, it does not take long for neglected items to deteriorate badly in SW Florida.
For instance, a roof that should last anywhere from twenty to forty years (depending on the materials used) can be ready for replacement in half that amount of time if it is not properly maintained. Same goes for HVACs/AC compressors, pool equipment and appliances. So, give due consideration to that home inspection we've suggested on numerous occasions on "any" given re-sale property you consider buying here. You might also want to consider that one year home warranty program we mentioned too. Five or six (or even seven hundred) bucks on average for a home inspection and a couple hundred bucks for a warranty program in order to get some peace of mind might be something you should think about. A typical new HVAC/AC compressor generally runs in the four to five thousand dollar range.
The (insert your question here) doesn't bother us either, we'll just ignore it if we can get the home at a lower price.
The "insert your question here" might include things like: power lines off in the distance from your view on the lanai, a community thoroughfare boulevard, main city street or interstate highway just over the hedgerow and community buffer wall, any unusual add-on or oddity to the home's original design, and last but not least, no you can't just cut down a tree or bring in and plant a Norfolk pine fir tree (invasive species) like you have in your backyard at home. You must get HOA/Condo board permission to do that sort of thing if you live in a gated community. If you don't want those kind of restrictions, see our boonies commentary at the beginning of this post.
Lastly, when you ask about a property (or a community) you saw on the net and we tell you it is not in an area you should consider, please take it to heart. Yes, you can buy whatever you want, but if we tell you it would not be a wise investment on your part, it's because it is true. Period. We take the fact that any amount of money you are considering investing here is "a lot of money" and to throw it away by investing in something you will likely get very liittle ROI (or even lose money on) is something we take very seriously at our company.
OK, that's about enough preaching to the choir for one day. You either get our drift or you don't. Just do us all a favor. Don't blame us for not telling you about these things ahead of time. And, please leave what you've learned up north (for the most part) at the Florida state line and don't expect us to find you a Tudor style home on 2 acres in town for $650K either.
Postscript – 6/29/2014
We almost forgot about another good one for you all to consider, especially if you are relocating to SW Florida permanently. I had a phone conversation with one of our buyers this morning that will be closing on their "new construction" home in about 30 days or so. You know how the photo of the Tudor style home that might just not look right with palm trees around it, well the same things goes for certain designs and styles of furniture. They just don't look right in a SW Florida home. And, beyond the esthetic considerations, the sun (even with tinted windows) heat and humidity wreak havoc on solid wood furniture and darker color fabrics. Trying to keep it protected and avoiding the dried out wood damage and faded fabric colors that can occur in no time at all is a full time job. So, give due consideration before you cart it all down here. Remember, we don't have basements for storing things and large pieces of furniture aren't made for attic storage spaces either. The only alternatives when you realize it is not going to work well is giving it up to a consignment shop for pennies on the dollar or calling St. Vincent’s De Paul as they are about the only charity left who will still come out and pick things up you don't want anymore. Remember, the living is supposed to be easy down here in sunny SW Florida. Being surrounded by things that don't require constant upkeep and care are part of that easy living lifestyle.
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About the Author
Benjamin Dona is the Broker and Owner of Gulf Coast Associates, Realtors in Bonita Springs, Florida. He holds two advanced degrees, an MBA and an MA, and has an extensive background in both business and marketing. In 1998, he founded Gulf Coast Associates, and formed a group of like-minded Realtor® associates dedicated to offering professional Southwest Florida real estate services by concentrating on information, education and the use of leading edge technologies. He also is a recognized expert on the "Net," a much-quoted and read blog author, and a contributor to both national and international news outlets. Benjamin is a member of the National Association of Realtors, the Florida Association of Realtors, and numerous local real estate boards throughout Southwest Florida.
Contact Benjamin Dona at 239-948-3955
Southwest Florida Real Estate Blog