Florida...and the livin' is easy!

As someone who grew up in the Northeast (Massachusetts to be exact), there are a lot of good reasons to move to Florida...and a lot of reasons (possibly) to stay put.  Just kidding, I love living in Florida!

Over a series of blogs, I'll tell you about my experiences in and around Florida, particularly Flagler County, but lots of other areas as well.  Plus, there are tips and reminders for home ownership and care. 

Sept. 13, 2022

Mortgage IQ


Mortgage Payments and Escrow

If you've just purchased your first home or plan to buy soon, you may not be familiar with mortgage escrow accounts. Since most borrowers pay for home insurance and property taxes through an escrow account, here's a refresher on escrow basics.

An escrow or impound account is set up and managed by your mortgage servicer. It can help homeowners manage larger property-related expenses like taxes and insurance premiums. Since these are due annually, an escrow account makes these bills easier to manage by dividing them into 12 monthly payments. Every month, homeowners pay around 1/12th of their home's annual taxes and insurance into an escrow account.

Most homeowners find that their escrow account simplifies budgeting, especially as they won't have to pay an entire year's tax bill or insurance premium at one time. In addition, your mortgage servicer will pay these bills on your behalf, so you won't have to watch your mail for these bills. This eliminates the risk of being charged additional fees for late payments.

After you've been in your home for a year, your mortgage servicer will conduct an annual escrow review or analysis. This review compares your escrow account's annual balance to your future annual taxes and insurance premiums. If these have become more expensive, your escrow payments may be increased to cover them. However, if your escrow analysis finds that you have surplus funds in your escrow account, you may receive a refund.

Source: Consumer Finance.gov

March 12, 2021

Thanks & market update 2021

First of all, a big thank you to customers and future customers - in 2020, we were the top team for Realty Executives Oceanside for northeast Florida.  And, 2021 is looking to be just as busy and productive a year in real estate.  


In the fourth quarter of 2019, 660 single family homes closed, while in the fourth quarter of 2020, 939 homes closed - a 42% increase in closings.  Commensurately,  the average sales price on a single family home was up 17%.  The condo/townhouse market picture looks similar:  quarter four of 2019 showed 137 closings versus 215 closings in quarter four of 2020 - a 56.9% increase.  The average sales price increased by 32.6% (numbers courtesy of Florida Realtors).  Coupled with these numbers, inventory is incredibly low - right now, there are just seven homes for sale on the saltwater canals. 


When we discuss this market picture with customers and friends, two questions pop up: 

  • Is this a bubble market as in 2005-2007?

  • Does this market have staying power? 


We all know that it’s all about COVID.  Covid has defined 2020 and has caused unprecedented changes - experts say many of which are here to stay.  In this month, which marks the one year anniversary of our shutdown, there are countless articles and analyses in the news/newspapers/social media on how people coped with the shutdown - working remotely, remodeling projects, at home workouts, and contrary to what everyone expected, booming home sales.  As it appears that more and more people can work remotely, they are looking for places with nice weather and outdoor activities. Flagler County boasts over 125 miles of bike and walking trails along the ICW and through beautiful wooded areas - with benches for sitting and unwinding placed throughout.  There are 16 miles of beaches to walk along or sit on and where, even on July 4th, it’s possible to find a parking place!


In addition, Flagler County has been in the bottom half of total COVID cases in the state of Florida. 


Taxes - While the Florida tax burden may not be the lowest in the United States, it’s pretty close to the lowest.  That, plus the combination of taxes, weather and lifestyle might well put Florida at the very top of places to live. And, the cost of living in Flagler is lower than the state average, but residents of Flagler are still in close proximity to 9 million people.  Jacksonville, Orlando, Daytona Beach - cities where you can do anything you want to do - opera, Disney, space flight - are within an hours drive.  And, you can still but come home to peaceful living.


Over the last few years, we have heard a lot about the Baby Boom generation reaching retirement age, but that has not fully happened - yet.  1957 was the year in which the most Baby Boomers were born - 4.3 million babies!  In 2017, those people turned 60 - approaching retirement age.  In 2023, they reach full retirement age and are planning ahead where to live.  


2020 has also been characterized by an increase in civil disobedience and rioting, particularly in urban areas.  People are seeking safer havens outside of cities. 


So, when we get into a conversation about whether this is a market like the 2005-2007 bubble, we contend that bubble and the bust that followed in 2008 were more factors of poor banking/lending practices.  While no one can predict the future, there are stark differences between 2007-2008 and the market today.  Does the market have staying power?  Given the deep societal changes caused by our COVID year, we think so. 

March 3, 2020

Homekeeper Home Improvements

May 30, 2019

What's it like living in a condo: Tidelands

In Palm Coast and Flagler Beach, we have many beautiful condo complexes.  Altogether - at least at my last count - we had some 69 condo complexes. And, they came in every variety and shape - from a complex like Seacrest Manor built in 1973 with just 8 units to the more recent Hammock at Palm Harbor finished in 2011 with just under 45 units.  Like the size and the age, each complex has its own “complex” rules (and I mean that in both ways - rules of the complex and - sometimes - complicated rules!).  


Today,  I’m going to highlight Tidelands, a community located in the Palm Harbor area of Palm Coast, right off Palm Coast Parkway. This gated community located on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) was built in 2006 and has both single-family houses (which operate under different restrictions) as well as condos and townhouses (two-story units).  


There are a total of 246 condos located in 8 different buildings, each with 4 floors (with, of course, an elevator in each building), and 5/6 units to a floor. All the condos have a screened outdoor patio or lanai with either full or partial views of the ICW.  It’s the view, as well as the size of the unit, that influences the price. Units are 3 bedroom/2 bath or 2 bedroom/2 bath and vary in size from just over 1100 square feet to just over 1700 square feet. Some units have a garage; others have a storage unit. Prices range from the low $200,000’s to the upper $300,000’s.  


The townhomes range in size from just over 1600 square feet to just under 1800 square feet and are generally 3 bedrooms/2.5 baths. Again, each with its own lanai and garage.  Prices for these units are $200,000 - $225,000.


In addition, the complex has two gated entrances - each with strong and reliable security.  A walking path of well over a mile around the perimeter of the community allows one to stop at a pier or - further along - a gazebo to enjoy contemplating the ICW and watching the boats go by.  In addition, there are sidewalks and paths to get from buildings to the amenities. There are tennis courts and a workout facility, as well as two pools - one with cabanas and views of the ICW - and a hot tub/spa.  The community center includes a full time, onsite manager and a room that can be rented for larger party events.


What are some of the pluses and minuses of condo living?  

  • Minus: unless you live on the ground floor, you can’t just walk outside. If you have pets, this can be a consideration.

  • Plus: there is no landscaping/lawn to take care of!


  • Minus: you have to carry groceries up to your unit.  Unless you live in a townhouse, you will be walking from your car into your building.

  • Plus: lots of people use small carry carts or wagons.


What other pluses and minuses come to your mind?!

Posted in Condo, Tidelands
Dec. 10, 2018

Five Things to Know about Christmas in Florida

Five Things to Know about Christmas in Florida


When you buy a home in Florida, the first holiday season may leave you wondering about a lot of things. Here are some thoughts to know about Christmas in Florida.


First: Christmas - for most Americans - is associated with cold weather, and most Americans don’t associate cold weather with Florida.  But, December is one of the coldest months in Florida - average annual temperature is a high of 65 (average - Tallahassee is colder, Miami warmer!), but Palm Coast is warmer with the average at 74.  For many, that first holiday season in Florida can be a little unsettling - no snow and no freezing temperatures, but after a couple years, a high of 74 with morning lows of 49 will have you dragging out the scarves and sweaters! If you are a native Floridian (of which only 36% of the state’s residents are), that morning low is going to feel downright freezing!


Second:  There are opportunities to experience a little of the snow and ice magic.  When you live a stone’s throw from Orlando, one opportunity is to visit the Gaylord Palms.  From mid-November through early January, they offer a chance to view the classic holiday movie, A Christmas Story, through ice sculptures and scenes from the movie...using 2,000,000 pounds of ice!  There are also eight lanes of snow tubing to enjoy….all for a fee, of course! In addition, the town of Celebration, Florida, has snow fall nightly at 6, 7, 8, and 9 pm.  And, they feature an outdoor ice skating rink - also at an additional charge.  Ice skating rinks are another way to enjoy the sensation of winter holidays with Orlando RDV Sportsplex ranking high up on this list, as does the Jacksonville Ice & Sportsplex.


Third: Poinsettias!  These beautiful plants that grace many homes, hotels, restaurants, and businesses in northern climes come from Mexico and work well with the Florida weather.  I group mine in a large pot on the front steps and plant others around the property, so the red color really livens up the appearance of the garden. Unless there is a really hard frost, the plants make it through the winter fine and flourish through the Florida spring, summer, and fall, throwing out the red bracts just in time for the next Christmas.


Fourth: Holiday parades - there are a lot of Santa parades to chose from.  Flagler County offers two. One is the Flagler Beach parade which is usually mid-day the first weekend in December.  Residents march in the parade - local fitness groups, high school groups, “ Little Miss” Flaglers, and many other floats  entertain spectators. The highlight of the event, though, is Santa Claus parachuting in from over the ocean onto the beach near the historic Flagler Pier. There is a second parade, The Starlight Parade, usually the second weekend in December in the evening near the town center.  It features over 80 floats and lots and lots of lights….and, of course, Santa Claus.


Fifth: Boat parades!  This year is the 36th iteration of the Palm Coast boat parade.  People line the ICW for miles to cheer on the boats as they pass, bringing with them chairs, snacks, and libations.   Those who have homes along the ICW host parties and crowd the docks and piers. In 2017, over 40 boats participated - from the small 18 foot boats to much larger 50+ foot boats.  Each one is decked out with lights, Santas, and music. Captain and crew usually have on Santa hats and the Flagler County Sheriff’s office escorts the parade from Cimarron Basin to the end of Grand Haven. The boats leave Cimarron Basin at 6pm usually the third Saturday in December.  The flotilla is a sight to see.


So, if you want the flavor of a northern holiday season, you can still get it in Florida with snow (fake!) and ice, but you can also enjoy the beauty of poinsettias, parachuting Santas, and lots and lots of lights - both on land and on sea.  

Posted in Palm Coast Homes
Aug. 28, 2018

Why Retire Palm Coast, Flagler, Florida?

If you are thinking of retirement, you have probably thought of Florida just because so many people do, in fact, retire here and it probably breaks down to two reasons: weather and money! Florida shows up in articles about retirement in publications as diverse as Coastal Living, The Bulletin (AARP newsletter), and Money Magazine.  Among the top questions people ask are:

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Posted in Palm Coast Homes
April 1, 2018

Four reasons to walk and bike in Palm Coast

For Florida retirees (and others), there are four fabulous reasons to walk and bike on a regular basis in Palm Coast...probably more, actually, but four for sure! Here they are: 1. low tide at the beach, 2. miles of trails, 3. bird, birds, and more wildlife, and 4. the majesty of nature.

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Posted in Palm Coast Homes
March 25, 2018

Flagler Fun: Princess Place Preserve

Why Princess Place Preserve is a great destination on a beautiful Florida day: history, eagles' nests, camping, canoe/kayaking, and crafts.

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Posted in Palm Coast Homes
March 15, 2018

What 3 things to know about Biketoberfest and Bike Week

PREFACE -  A TRUE STORY - A Harley couple came to Daytona for BIKE WEEK '99. Riding on A1A with ocean on the east side and the ICW on the west, they saw a home being built, stopped & never left. Sunrise Ocean, Sunset ICW.

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