Gulf Coast Things to Do, Tips & More!

Florida Gulf Coast real estate reports, things to do, buyer and seller tips, home improvement trends and more!

Oct. 15, 2020

Best Places to Retire 2020

Best Places to Retire? 13 of the ‘Top 25’ Are in Fla.

U.S. News & World Report’s latest ranking of top retirement communities could have almost said, “Pick any town in Fla.” Seven Fla. metros are in the top 10: Sarasota (No. 1), Fort Myers (2), Port St. Lucie (3), Naples (4), Ocala (6), Miami (9) and Melbourne (10).

WASHINGTON – U.S. News & World Report unveiled its 2020-2021 Best Places to Live and Best Places to Retire in the United States. The new lists evaluate the country’s 150 most populous metropolitan areas based on affordability, job prospects and desirability.

In the “Best Places to Retire” category, Florida metro areas stood out with seven out of the top 10 slots and 13 of the top 25 slots.

“After a prolonged period of staying at home, people are taking a critical look at where they live, and many are looking to find a place they can feel happier, afford more or pursue new opportunities,” says Devon Thorsby, real estate editor at U.S. News. “The Best Places rankings can help people examine the details they consider important in a larger community.”

This year, U.S. News increased the number of metropolitan areas evaluated for both sets of rankings from 125 to 150, to provide a broader and more accurate reflection of where Americans can live and retire.

Best places to retire

U.S. News & World Report’s announcement of top retirement destinations says it’s “dominated by Florida metro areas, largely due to affordable homes, low taxes and high ratings for happiness and desirability.”

An increase in Desirability and Job Market scores lifted Sarasota from No. 2 last year to No. 1 this year – but it overtook another Florida city, Fort Myers, which became No. 2. And while Port. St. Lucie’s Housing Affordability score decreased slightly, increases in Desirability, Job Market and Health Care scores helped it jump two places to No. 3.

Miami also saw a decrease in Housing Affordability, but it broke into the top 10 this year, jumping five places to No. 9 thanks to Desirability and Job Market score increases.

The top 25 places to retire also includes three Texas communities, and two places each in Michigan, North Carolina and Tennessee.

“Moving to a new place for retirement can reduce your cost of living and improve your quality of life,” says Emily Brandon, U.S. News senior editor for retirement. “The Best Places to Retire includes information about housing costs, access to quality hospitals and the strength of the job market, which can help you find a retirement spot that will meet your needs.”

The 2020-2021 Best Places to Retire were determined based on a methodology that factored in happiness, housing affordability, health care quality, retiree taxes, desirability and job market ratings. These measures were weighted based on a public survey of individuals across the U.S. who are nearing retirement age (ages 45-59) and those who are of retirement age (60 or older) to find out what matters most when considering where to retire. Data sources include the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as well as U.S. News rankings of the Best Hospitals.

2020-2021 Best Places to Retire – Top 25

  1. Sarasota
  2. Fort Myers
  3. Port St. Lucie
  4. Naples
  5. Lancaster, Pa.
  6. Ocala
  7. Ann Arbor, Mich.
  8. Asheville, N.C.
  9. Miami
  10. Melbourne
  11. Myrtle Beach, S.C.
  12. Nashville, Tenn.
  13. Jacksonville
  14. Manchester, N.H.
  15. Daytona Beach
  16. Orlando
  17. Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas
  18. Lakeland
  19. Chattanooga, Tenn.
  20. Tampa
  21. Grand Rapids, Mich.
  22. Houston, Texas
  23. Charlotte, N.C.
  24. San Antonio, Texas
  25. Pensacola

U.S. News & World Report is a global leader in quality rankings that empower people to make better, more informed decisions about important issues affecting their lives.

© 2020 Florida Realtors®

Sept. 10, 2020

Get outside in Lakewood Ranch, FL!

It's almost time to get Outside and why not in Lakewood Ranch, FL?

We're just weeks away from our perfect weather here in southwest Florida.  While the weather will stay nice and warm, the humidity will start to slip away and especially at this time, getting outside is the perfect thing to do.  While there are plenty of beaches and water areas to go to, remember that there are also plenty of parks just inland in the Lakewood Ranch area, just east of I-75 in Manatee and Sarasota county.  Here are just some of the parks that you'll find there.

Greenbrook Adventure Park -

For those with dogs, this park has a dog park with a separate area for small dogs along with miles of trails for us humans, too.  There are sports fields for the kids (and adults who still feel like kids), in-line skating track and a pavilion. Activities are held there throughout the year.  Find this park off of SR70 at 13010 Adventure Place in Bradenton, FL 34202.

Summerfield Community Park - 

Bring your kids to this 15 acre park where you'll find swings and 3 separate playgrounds.  The adults will find jogging paths, soccer and baseball fields and tennis and basketball courts. This one has a pavilion, too.  Find it off of SR70 at 6402 Lakewood Ranch Blvd., Bradenton, FL 34202 

Heron's Nest Nature Park - 

This park was made for the birds!  There are 110 acres with trails and 2 lakes - 12 acre Heron Lake and 27 acre Summerfield Lake.  You can fish, boat and watch the birds that flock to this area.  This one is near the Summerfield and Greenbrook parks at 6399 Tupelo Trail, Bradenton, FL 34202

County Club Community Park - 

This park is in the gated Country Club community behind the Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club athletic center.  It has something for everyone, a tot lot, pickleball and basketball courts and a pavilion.  You will find it at 7650 Legacy Blvd, Bradenton, FL 34202

Bob Gardner Community Park - 

This is another park for dog lovers, north of SR70 near Manatee Ave. and Rye Road.  This park is smaller and has limited parking but many can walk there from the Arbor Grande and Mallory Park communities.  You will find a dog park, trails, 9-hole disc (frisbee) golf course and a gravity rail for the kids. You will find it at 2710 White Eagle Blvd., Bradenton, FL 34211

Roger Hill Park -

Just south of the Bob Gardner Park is the Roger Hill Park just behind the Harmony community.  This park is accessible by bike or walking and connects to existing trails.  5150 White Eagle Blvd., Bradenton, FL 34211

James L Patton Community Park -

Last but not least, for water lovers there is the James L Patton Community Park just north of SR70 south of the Bridgewater community off of White Eagle Blvd.  This park surrounds Lake Patton where you can launch a canoe or kayak along with trails, a children's playground and pavilion.  5725 White Eagle Blvd, Bradenton, FL 34211

Lakewood Ranch where you can live, work and play! It is easily accessible just east of I-75 between Manatee Ave. and south to just south of University Parkway where new communities and parks are underway.  Search for homes available in Lakewood Ranch at www.FLGulfCoastHomesForSale.com.  Get out and ENJOY!

Posted in Things To Do
Nov. 26, 2019

Steps to Become a Florida Resident

Palm trees along inlet at sunset
roberto bowyer / Getty Images

 

 

Snowbirds Can Be Taxed as Florida Residents: Here’s How

 

 

Recent changes made Florida a great destination to escape taxes as well as winter, but snowbirds don’t have to completely give up their summers in New England.   

 

NEW YORK – Shorter days, leafless trees and frost on the ground are all signs that it’s time for snowbirds to head south for the winter. Of course, I’m not talking about real birds – “snowbirds” are people who live up north during the warm-weather months and in the south during the winter. And if you’re one of the thousands of snowbirds heading to Florida this year, I bet you’ll hear a lot of chatter about the tax benefits of being a resident of the Sunshine State. After all, Florida is one of only nine states without an income tax.

pier and palm trees along florida beach
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So if your summer home is in one of those high-tax states up north – New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Maryland, Illinois, Connecticut, Wisconsin and the like – you can potentially save thousands of dollars each year if you can establish residency in Florida instead (perhaps millions for someone like President Trump).

But you can’t just say “I’m a Florida resident” and have the income tax bill from your summer state magically disappear. You need to show that Florida is your primary and permanent home – and it’s your actions, not your words, that count the most.

That means cutting as many northern ties as possible and putting down roots in Florida. But no matter how rooted in Florida you become, don’t be surprised if your summer state still wants you to pay taxes as a resident on all your income (instead of paying tax only on in-state income as a nonresident). The tax agencies in many high-tax northern states have well-earned reputations for fighting wealthier snowbirds who suddenly claim to be Florida residents. So, if you’re going to make that claim, be sure you can back it up.

Here are 15 things you can do to show that you are, in fact, a resident of Florida if your summer state challenges your residency status.

Spend most of your time in Florida

The majority of states have what’s called a 183-day rule, which basically means the state will tax you as a resident if you own a home there and spend at least 183 days during the year (basically, six months) in the state. (Some states require more in-state days to be considered a resident.) The days don’t have to be consecutive, and even part of a day can count as a full day.

Obviously, if you spend more than half your time in Florida, you won’t reach the 183-day threshold in the state where you spend your summers. If you can’t spend that much time in Florida, then take a vacation, visit family or friends, or otherwise spend time in some other location – anything to avoid spending 183 days or more in your high-tax summer state.

It’s also a good idea to keep a log of where you are each day of the year, just in case the tax agency from your northern state picks you for a residency audit. Keeping receipts from the time you spent in Florida will also help if you’re audited. For instance, if you had dinner at a Florida restaurant, a receipt for the meal will help prove that you were in Florida on that particular day.

Obtain a Florida driver’s license

Getting a Florida driver’s license is a must if you really want to be a Florida resident. In fact, this is something you should do right away, since you’ll need the license to vote, apply for property tax breaks, and do other things in Florida that will help you establish residency in the state.

New residents must apply for a Florida driver’s license in person at any local office offering driver licenses services. The fee for an initial Florida Class E license is $48. You’ll also need to submit specific documents to obtain a REAL-ID compliant driver’s license (the list of required documents for U.S. citizens can be found on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ website).

Register your vehicles in Florida

When you’re getting your driver’s license, make sure you register your car or truck in Florida, too. If you own an RV or boat, register it in Florida as well. This is further evidence that you consider Florida your permanent home.

You’ll have to pay a registration fee. The amount is based on the type and/or weight of the vehicle. A list of the various motor vehicle registration fees can be found on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ website.

illustration of scale with house on one side and tax on the other
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Vote in Florida

Where you’re registered to vote says a lot about the place you see as your permanent home. So, to be seen as a Florida resident, make sure you register to vote – and actually vote – in Florida.

You can register to vote in Florida by completing a paper application and delivering it in person or by mail to the Division of Elections, any supervisor of an elections’ office, an office that issues driver’s licenses, or a voter registration agency (e.g., public assistance office, center for independent living, office serving persons with disabilities, public library, or armed forces recruitment office). You can also register online at registertovoteflorida.gov. You’ll need a Florida driver’s license (or ID card) and the last four digits of your Social Security number to complete the online registration.

Buy or rent a bigger home in Florida

Let’s face  … it doesn’t really look like you intend to make Florida your permanent home if you own a giant house up north but only rent a tiny apartment in Florida. That’s why New York, for example, considers the size of each home a snowbird owns or rents to be an important factor in determining residency. So, if possible, get a Florida home that’s at least roughly the same size as your northern home – although it’s better if your home in Florida is larger.

If your summer home is in New York, at least the state will consider home size in the context of the geographic area in which each residence is located. For example, while a 3,000 square-foot apartment in Manhattan may pale in comparison to a palatial home in Florida, it nevertheless may still be spacious by New York City standards.

Enroll your children in Florida schools

If you have minor children, have them enroll in a Florida school. Why? Because the quality of the local schools is usually an important factor for parents deciding where to live. This is true whether the schools are public or private. So, for example, if your children attend a boarding school up north and rarely visit your Florida residence, this could be evidence that you don’t consider Florida to be your primary and permanent home.

Tell people you’re a Florida resident

Yeah, we told you in the introduction that you can’t just say “I’m a Florida resident” to change your residency for state tax purposes. And that’s true – you can’t just declare that you’re a Florida resident. But even if you do all the other things we’re recommending here, you’ll never convince a tax auditor from up north that you’re a Florida resident if you don’t present yourself as a Florida resident to the rest of the world. So, if you meet someone new, tell them you’re from Florida. If you’re filling out a form that asks for your address, use your Florida address. And update your Facebook page so that your Florida town is listed as your current home.

Auditors will look for any indication that you don’t really think of Florida as your primary and permanent home – don’t give them any ammunition.

Tell the State of Florida that you’re a resident, too. File a “Declaration of Domicile” with the clerk of circuit court in the Florida county where you live. (“Domicile” is a legal term that generally means the place that you intend to be your primary and permanent home.) There isn’t a standard, statewide form that you can use. Instead, each county will have its own version – as an example, click here for the Broward County form.

Keep important personal items in Florida

Tax auditors know that most people keep prized personal possessions in their primary home. So, bring your most treasured items down to Florida for safekeeping to show that you consider the state to be your primary and permanent home. This includes all things that are near and dear to your heart, including photo albums, wedding dresses, family heirlooms, stamp or coin collections, works of art, rare books, and any other item that has sentimental value. Pets fall into this category, too.

Socialize in Florida

To show that your life is now centered in Florida (i.e., that you’re a real Florida resident), join clubs, take up hobbies, volunteer and meet new people in the state. Tax auditors are going to question your Florida-resident credentials if you’re constantly heading back up north to socialize. You can keep your northern friends, but make new ones in Florida, too. (Invite your Yankee friends down to Florida for a week of winter sun and sand … they’ll love you for it!) If you’re already a member of a national organization like the Lions Club or VFW, change the address on file to your Florida address and attend meetings in Florida.

Visit doctors, lawyers and CPAs in Florida

It can be hard leaving a family doctor up north that you’ve been seeing for decades and finding a new physician down in Florida. But you need to do just that if you want to convince a tax auditor that you’ve really settled down in Florida. The same goes for the dentists, lawyers, accountants, and other professionals you use in your summer state – you should replace them with new people in Florida.

It’s probably OK to see a specialist once in a while outside Florida, but your regular doctor (or other professional) should be in the Sunshine State. If you want to go to the extra mile, start seeing a barber or hair stylist in Florida, too.

Do your banking in Florida

Even in today’s world where online banking is popular, tax auditors know that most people park their money in a bank near their home. So, if you’re claiming to be a Florida resident, you should move your money to a Florida bank. It can be a national bank – like Bank of America – but there should be a branch close to your Florida home where you can do your banking in person (including renting a safe deposit box). You’ll also want to make sure all bank statements are sent to your Florida address.

This advice extends to all your financial activities. Start working with Florida-based brokers, financial planners, insurance agents and the like. And, again, make sure all statements, payments and notices are sent to your home in Florida, including credit card statements. If you’re retired, have your Social Security checks or retirement plan distributions mailed to Florida or deposited into a Florida bank.

Pay taxes as a Florida resident

Sure, there’s no state income tax in Florida, but that doesn’t mean Florida residents don’t pay other taxes. For example, you still have to pay federal income taxes as a Florida resident. So, when filing your next federal 1040, make sure you list your Florida address as your home address. You should also change your address on file with the IRS by submitting Form 8822.

As for Florida taxes, make sure you pay your local real estate taxes on time and in full. If you own a business, are self-employed, or rent out property in Florida, you might also owe personal property taxes. If you’re not paying these taxes as required, or any other Florida taxes levied on residents, your standing as a true Florida resident will be diminished in the eyes of the law.

Apply for a Florida Homestead Property Tax Exemption

In addition to paying taxes in Florida, take advantage of the state’s tax breaks for residents. For example, if you own a home in Florida, apply for the state’s homestead property tax exemption. Not only could your home’s taxable value be reduced by as much as $50,000, but it’s further evidence of your status as a Florida resident. That’s a win-win!

To apply, submit Form DR-501 and all required documentation to the property appraiser in the Florida county where the property is located. You can also use the form to apply for property tax breaks available to disabled or blind persons, senior citizens, widow(er)s, veterans, and first responders.

If a similar tax break is available in your northern state, don’t claim it if it’s only available to residents. If you do, you’re telling your summer state that you are a resident there, not in Florida.

Work in Florida

If you work at home or in multiple locations, make sure your employer lists your Florida address as your home of record. Paychecks and W-2 forms should be sent to Florida, and all your benefits should be based in the state.

If you’re an independent contractor, all invoices and other correspondence should include your Florida address. Payments and 1099 forms should be sent to Florida, too.

If you’re a doctor, lawyer or other professional, get licensed to practice to Florida.

Move your business to Florida

If you own a business in your summer state, moving it to Florida will certainly help your case if your status as a Florida resident is challenged.

If moving your northern business to Florida isn’t possible, running it from Florida might be an option. However, business owners in Florida who are deeply immersed in their company’s operations up north can have a hard time establishing residency in Florida. Even if you’re running your business from a Miami Beach cabana, tax auditors in your summer state will see substantial involvement in the management of a business in their state as evidence of residency in that state. It will be weighed along with all other factors, but this type of evidence can persuade a court that you’re not really a Florida resident.

The degree of your involvement in the business’ day-to-day operations will be looked at closely. You don’t necessarily have to sell the business or completely relinquish your management role, but taking more of a “hands-off” approach will support your claim for Florida residency.

2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors

 

Nov. 11, 2019

So Many Things to Do in Venice, FL!

So Many things to Do and See in and Near Venice, Florida!

Snook Haven

You'll find a little piece of Old Florida at Snook Haven, just off I-75 at River Road in Venice.  Don't be deterred by the dirt road that goes to it (just take it slow!) as you'll find a gem at the end.  Snook Haven is on the Myakka River and you may see an alligator float by but you'll also find live bands, boat trips and kayak rentals.  There is indoor and outdoor dining with a menu featuring bbq, seafood and more.  There's also a bar and plenty of outside seating and entertainment.  You can listen to banjo players on Thursdays and local bands most other days of the week.  Logan River Tours offers boat trips beginning in November.

Venice Pier and Sharkey's Restaurant

Travel through downtown Venice on the island and head south to find Sharkey's on the Pier.  The pier recently went through renovations and is the only Gulf-front fishing pier in Sarasota county.  While you fish, the kids can search for Shark's Teeth in the sand.  Follow-up with a bite to eat, both inside and out or a cool drink at the Tiki bar. There's plenty of rest rooms with showers, a gift shop and ample parking.

Downtown Venice on the Island

On your way to or from Sharkey's, stop at the quaint downtown Venice area to shop for colorful Florida gifts, eat or grab a drink at the Daiquiri Deck.  You can also find ice cream, a free concert at the Gazebo in the park and the Venice Theater nearby.

Pop's Sunset Grill in Nokomis

Just north of Venice on the water you'll find another quaint Old Florida restaurant - Pop's Sunset Grill.  Have a bite and a drink at this indoor/outdoor restaurant and watch the boats go by … or rent one at the marina next door.  They also have outdoor entertainment.  Try their great seafood, three bean salad, gumbo, a burger and more! You can also attend the Drum Circle on Nokomis Beach every Wednesday and Saturday about 2 hours before sunset.

Manasota Key Beach

Just south of Venice is Englewood and the Manasota Key Beach.  Find a beach on both the north and south ends of the Key.  Stop for a drink and lunch or dinner at the Beach Road Bistro, the Waverly or the Sandbar.  You can also find boat, kayak and stand-up paddleboard rentals at Hooked on SUP's at Stump Pass Beach State Park in Englewood and explore Lemon Bay. You can also rent two-person fast catamarans or take a guided nature tour at Riding the Waves.

Atlanta Brave's Training at Cool Today Park

2020 will bring the first full Atlanta Brave's Spring Training season to the brand new Cool Today Park at the West Villages in North Port, bordering Venice.  When baseball ends you'll find plenty of other events throughout the year.   

If these weren't enough reasons to visit Venice there are also plenty of new and old communities in the area to look for homes and condos.  Sarasota National Golf and County Club is a huge community surrounded by beautiful wetlands and preserves. You'll also find a resort-style pool with tiki bar, restaurant and spa treatment rooms.  Other communities include the West Villages, Gran Paradiso, Stoneybrook at Venice and the Venice Golf and Country Club.  Check our website for listings in Venice and the rest of the southwest Florida area and contact us with any questions or to schedule a private showing.  We'll help you find and own your Piece of Florida Paradise!

 

Posted in Things To Do
July 5, 2019

Top 10 Beach Towns near Sarasota, FL

The Sarasota, Florida area has 2 Beach Towns in the Top 10!

We are proud to have not 1 but 2 of the Best Beach Towns to live in according to WalletHub!  This 2019 list has Sarasota as #6 and Venice as #10. They were judged on affordability, weather, safety, economy, education, health and quality of life.  Both cities have beaches on the Gulf of Mexico with homes and condos spanning inland to just east of I-75. 

You will find the beaches of Longboat Key, Lido Key, Siesta Key and Casey Key near Sarasota.  In Venice you will find the Venice Municipal Beach along with Caspersen Beach and Brohard Beach which also has a dog park.  Homes, condos and townhouses in both areas run from under $100,000 to luxury homes over $1,000,000.  Most homes will be no further than 30 minutes to the nearest beach and are surrounded with great restaurants, shops, music venues, theaters, malls, marinas and more.  Search for homes in the area at www.FLGulfCoastHomesForSale.com.  Feel free to call us at 941-725-9946 (John) or 941-238-7714 (Leslie) if you have any questions or would like to schedule a private showing.  Let us help you find your Piece of Florida Paradise!

May 21, 2019

Best Upgrades to Your House for Re-Sell

A home has tons of amenities – which do you list first?

 

 

NEW YORK – May 20, 2019 – Homeowners are sometimes hesitant to upgrade when it's time to sell. After all, you won't be living there much longer, and most home remodeling efforts only increase home values by 50%-80% of the average project's costs, according to Remodeling magazine's 2019 Cost vs. Value report. For example, the average cost of a mid-range bathroom remodel is $20,420. You'd recoup about $13,717 (67.2%) of that amount during a resale.

While you may not want to spend the extra cash, the cost of inaction can be far greater than the small loss you'll incur on any home-improvement projects. "Making small upgrades over time serves a seller immensely," says Brian Lewis, a real estate broker with New York City-based realty firm Compass. These don't have to be break-the-bank alterations, either. Even merely keeping the color palette up-to-date will go a long way.

"Getting stuck in time with your home isn't a smart move and is rarely rewarded financially at sale time," he adds. In fact, it may cause your house to linger on the market longer. As a result, you'll likely have to pay ongoing mortgage, maintenance and staging costs. To make the most of your remodeling budget, focus on features that most homebuyers really want to see.

Home features most coveted by today's buyers

Laundry room
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 91%
Cost to install: $1,000 to $5,000 for a small-scale project

More than anything else, homeowners want a room other than the guest bedroom to stack all the clean laundry in until it finally gets put away. A separate laundry room tops the National Association of Home Builders' (NAHB) list of most-wanted home features by buyers.

"Having a separate room [to use for things such as folding or ironing clothes] helps to keep the mess out of your living space … Potential buyers will see it as a huge benefit," says Paul Sullivan, founder and president of the Sullivan Company, a Newton, Mass., remodeling and custom-building firm.

If you don't have an existing laundry room and want to add one, the basement is usually the easiest (and cheapest) place to put it, Sullivan advises. The utility lines are already there, and in many cases the basement is unfinished, so you won't have to demolish anything first. Adding a laundry room in the basement can cost as little as $1,000, he says.

However, homeowners who prefer a laundry room or laundry closet (which fits just a washer and dryer) closer to the bedroom can expect installation to cost around $5,000, Sullivan notes. The cost of a full laundry room complete with a sink and storage cabinets could easily surpass $10,000, he says.

Energy efficiencies (appliances and windows)
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 89%
Cost to install: Varies by appliance

Would-be buyers looking to limit utility bills will likely be drawn to properties with energy efficiencies, such as Energy Star-qualified windows and appliances. "Buyers are most impressed with smart, energy-efficient choices that in no way limit their comfort, but in every way save them money in the long run," Compass's Lewis says. Sellers should be sure to play up these features in their home listings.

Energy-efficient windows can trim heating and cooling costs by 12%, while individual appliances, such as an Energy Star-certified washing machine ($528 to $1,800 at Home Depot), can save homeowners $45 a year or more on their utility bills. Replacing an existing clothes dryer with an energy-efficient version could save as much as $245 over the appliance's lifetime.

Energy Star-qualified windows have an invisible glass coating, vacuum-sealed spaces filled with inert gas between panes, sturdier weather stripping than regular windows and improved framing materials – all of which reduce undesirable heat gain and loss in the home. An Energy Star-certified dishwasher (ranging in price from $230 to $1,709 at Home Depot) uses soil sensors to assess how dirty your dishes are to minimize water use.

Patio
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 87%
Cost to install: $963 per 120 square feet for a concrete patio

It's important for homeowners not to neglect the backyard area when prepping for resale, says Mike McGrew, former treasurer of the National Association of Realtors and CEO of McGrew Real Estate, a Lawrence, Kansas-based realty firm. In today's housing market, outdoor living spaces have become the most coveted outdoor home feature.

"When most buyers see a house with a really nice backyard, they start to envision themselves sitting outdoors with friends having drinks," McGrew adds. Outdoor areas offer more living space without the cost of a large-scale home addition.

Thanks to the popularity of backyard renovation TV shows, such as HGTV's Going Yard, DIY Network's Yard Attack! And Bravo's Backyard Envy, buyers now envision everything from a traditional ground-level patio to an elevated deck to a backyard kitchen area.

Ceiling fan
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 85%
Cost to install: $466 per fixture with light kit and remote control

In addition to improving a home's aesthetic, energy-efficient ceiling fans (ranging in price from $69 to $1,300 at Lowe's) can also help lower cooling costs when used in conjunction with an air conditioner during the warmer months.

Ceiling fans create a wind-chill effect that helps cool the people sitting in the room. Homeowners should be able to raise the thermostat level by four degrees without a reduction in comfort while the fan is in use, according to Energy.gov.

Energy.gov recommends that ceiling fans only be used in rooms with a ceiling height of at least eight feet. The fans work best at that height and when they're hanging 10 to 12 inches below the ceiling.

Garage storage space
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 85%
Cost to install: $2,025 - $2,363 for 380 square feet

Buyers with growing families need lots of storage space. Sellers should keep in mind that "streamlined living equates to more dollars in your pocket at sale time," Compass's Lewis says. Carving out some space in your garage to help keep clutter out of the main living area could help your bottom line. "Make sure the bonus space is easily accessible and wonderfully organized," he adds.

Unlike an attic or a backyard shed, the garage is accessible – generally, just a few steps away from the rest of the house – making it easier to transport items such as tools, patio chairs or boxes to and from other parts of the house.

The installation cost includes adding cabinetry and shelving, peg wall boards for tool storage, overhead lighting and additional electrical circuits.

Exterior lighting
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 85%
Cost to install: $65 per fixture

Illuminating a well-manicured lawn with exterior lighting can help grab potential buyers' attention before they even set foot in the front door. In fact, exterior lighting is the second most-wanted outdoor feature (patio was first), according to the NAHB. Options include spotlights, walkway lights and pendant lights.

Aesthetics aside, exterior lighting also serves as an added safety feature for your home, says Daniel Hurst, owner and general manager of Hurst Design-Build-Remodel, a Middleburg Heights, Ohio-based home remodeling company. Motion-sensor lights, for example, turn on automatically whenever there is movement outside your house.

Walk-in pantry
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 83%
Cost to install: Varies based on design

Home buyers with families know that the kitchen can quickly become overcrowded when there's not enough space to store the essentials (think: canned goods, condiments and food storage containers). That's why many are including a walk-in pantry on their must-have list for potential homes. In fact, it was the most-wanted kitchen feature among buyers polled in the NAHB's report.

Unlike reach-in closet pantries with sliding doors that offer limited space, walk-in versions allow homeowners to store larger quantities of non-perishable food items and other kitchen essentials just steps away from the food prep area, suggests Neil Parsons, project designer for Move or Improve, a Matawan, N.J.-based home design firm. This can be especially helpful for those who like to shop in bulk at warehouse clubs.

Walk-in pantries are typically 5 x 5 feet and have U-shaped open shelves or cabinets with a countertop. Make sure the pantry is situated somewhere that is cool and dry.

Hardwood floors
Percentage of buyers who want this feature: 83%
Cost to install: $999 per 120 square feet of red oak flooring

Hardwood flooring offers a cleaner look, is easier to maintain and is more durable than carpet, which needs to be replaced every eight to 10 years. "Hardwood can be refinished periodically and lasts a lifetime," Sullivan says.

Sellers on a budget may want to buy engineered wood flooring (which is a hardwood veneer wrapped around several layers of plywood, fiberboard and hardwood). The cost to install 120 square feet of engineered wood flooring is $858 – nearly 15% cheaper than pure hardwood flooring.

Walk-in closet (master bedroom)
Cost to install: Varies based on design

While walk-in closets aren't among the top demands of all homebuyers, they're quickly gaining in popularity among first- and second-time homebuyers, according to a 2018 NAHB survey that focused on new buyers. A walk-in closet in the master bedroom ranked among their top five features.

If you live in an older dwelling with a reach-in closet, you may want to consider revamping it, suggests Maria Zamora, a realtor associate with Realty Consultants Network in Addison, Tex. Couples generally want a closet with more space because they'll be sharing it. Singles desire the flexibility of being able to store their personal belongings – from clothes and shoes to jewelry and other accessories – in one place, while keeping them organized.

"Homes without a walk-in-closet in the master bedroom are more of a challenge to sell and will attract less buyers," Zamora adds.

If you live in an older home with less space, a full closet renovation in the master bedroom may not be practical. However, you still have options that will help make your property more appealing. Update an existing reach-in closet by installing an organization system complete with shelving units and hanging rods for clothes. You can purchase a prefabricated system from Ikea, which range in price from $155 to $2,077. Go the DIY route or have an Ikea professional install the unit for an additional fee.

You can also hire a consultant from a custom closet design firm, such as The Closet Factory, to come to your home and design an organization system that fits your space. The cost will vary based on your requirements.

If you're an empty-nester, you could even turn a nearby smaller room into a custom walk-in closet. Depending on the quality of the materials used (for example, solid wood shelving vs. wooden veneer shelving), this type of project could range in price from $1,000 to $6,500, according to HomeAdvisor.com.

Eat-in kitchen
Cost to install: $1,000 - $10,000

Eat-in kitchens are also a must-have among first- and second-time home buyers. They're especially attractive to families with children. It's a space where they can congregate in the morning for breakfast before the kids head off to school and parents to work, or in the evening for dinner so everyone can share highlights from their day.

Removing a non-load-bearing wall to create space for a small table and chairs in your kitchen is relatively inexpensive (as little as $1,000), but that price can quickly escalate if your demolition reveals plumbing, duct work and electrical wiring that needs to be removed, Move or Improve's Parsons says.

If you're on a tight budget and can't afford to knock out a wall to create more space for a table and chairs, consider adding a center island with room for bar stools, he suggests. You can purchase prefabricated kitchen islands with space for seating at Home Depot (starting at $540) and Lowe's (starting at $464).

Dining room
Cost to install: $1,000 - $6,000 to add ceiling fixtures or structural columns to open floor plan

In recent years, formal dining rooms (and closed floor plans) have taken a backseat to open floor concepts in today's home models. While open floor concepts help maximize space when entertaining, there are still home buyers who desire a separate dining area distinct from the kitchen. In fact, a separate dining room is among the top 10 essentials for first- and second-time home buyers in the NAHB survey.

"A meal in the dining room creates a sense of importance … It makes people feel special, whether it's for holiday gatherings or a quiet sit-down dinner with your family," says Shannon Lynch, a Realtor with Savvy + Co. Real Estate, a Charlotte, N.C.-based realty firm.

If your home has an open floor plan, there are still ways to create a dining space that's distinct and will attract buyers who desire such a feature. You can add an over-the-table lighting fixture or incorporate a tray ceiling to help define a particular area of the main living level – perhaps just off the kitchen. Another option: Install decorative columns instead of a solid wall. Adding the tray ceiling or decorative columns would skew on the higher end of installation costs and includes materials and labor, Parsons notes.

For those with older homes that have a closed floor plan, it may be time to reexamine your dining room. The cost of a small-scale remodel to a 190-square-foot space ranges in price from $5,832 to $6,804, according to HomeWyse.com. This includes installing new flooring, doors, switch plates, decorative hardware and recessed lighting.

Copyright © 2019 The Kiplinger Washington Editors, Andrea Browne Taylor, online editor

 

Posted in Home Improvement
May 16, 2019

The Mighty "OAKS"

The Oaks Club in Osprey, Florida

The "Mighty Oak" is a great analogy for the elegant Oaks community and The Oaks Club in Osprey, Florida.  The vision began in 1910 when Bertha Honore Palmer, widow of the multimillionare Potter Palmer acquired 80,000 acres between Sarasota and Venice (now known as Osprey) and built her estate there on Little Sarasota Bay.  In the early 1980's the area was developed into The Oaks community along with a 40,000 sq. ft. elegant clubhouse, 2 championship golf courses, 12 HAR-TRU tennis courts, 3 outstanding restaurants, pool and playground.  

Homes in the community include condominiums, villas, townhouses and single family homes found in 3 gated communities with 2-6 bedrooms and baths from 1,600 to over 8,000 sq. ft. priced from the high $200's to over $4 million.  Residents of the Oak Club community are required to join the club as Equity or Social members.  In addition to golf and tennis, the Club has a very active Social calendar.    

Contact us with any questions and to schedule a private showing!

Jan. 29, 2019

Lakewood Ranch Florida Turns 25!

Lakewood Ranch Florida Celebrates it's 25th Anniversary!

When looking at everything around Lakewood Ranch, it's homes, retail, restaurants, schools, hospitals and more … you wouldn't believe that any of it could be 25 years old - it all still looks so fresh and new!  But the first homes in the inaugural village of Summerfield were sold in 1995.  Lakewood Ranch Boulevard is still the Ranch's most traveled road that passes by Summerfield with it's tree-lined canopy of Live Oaks.  Age has actually improved the looks of these mature trees and the upkeep is impeccable.  Building began in this area in Manatee County as the commissioners in that county were more responsive to the development and permitting east of I-75 than Sarasota County was at that time.  In fact, residential building in the Sarasota County portion of Lakewood Ranch only began in the last few years.

Waterside Place is the newest Village in Lakewood Ranch.  It's 5,000 plus homes will be built on a 30 acre peninsula that will be surrounded by a 360 acre lake.  The Lakehouse Cove community will include 7 lakes with 20 miles of shoreline.  Waterside Place will also include a mix of residential including apartments as well as commercial space, shops, restaurants, outdoor space and entertainment venues including the Players Centre for Performing Arts.  The water aspects will be put to good use by having a marina with electric water taxis, kayaks and canoes.  This will be the 3rd Town Center in Lakewood Ranch and expects to be open in 2020.

Lakewood Ranch has now grown to be the second fastest growing master-planned community in the UNITED STATES! It now has over 13,000 homes, condos and townhomes with over 30,000 residents and commercial sites employing over 14,000.  Everything you need is found in the Ranch including schools, churches, grocery stores, fitness, a post office, sports facilities including a Polo Club and 8 golf courses, a hospital and other medical facilities.  Even though Lakewood Ranch is used by the postal service as a "city", a plan to incorporate it into a city was defeated in 2011 when a debate on how it would provide services such as sanitation and law enforcement were raised.  These services are now provided by the 2 counties.

If you are new to the area or haven't visited Lakewood Ranch yet, visit it's Music on Main fest on the first Friday of every month from 6 - 9 p.m. - but get there early to find parking.  You can also visit Main Street at any other time for a meal, movie, shopping or a late night drink or dessert.  If you'd like to explore living there, search for homes at www.FLGulfcoastHomesForSale.com to find your "Piece of Florida Paradise"!

Dec. 6, 2018

'Tis the Season for Farmer's Markets

It's that time of year again … for Farmer's Markets!

'Tis the season that we all wait for! Six months of the best weather you can find with lower temps and humidity and LOTS of Sunshine! That's why you will find the Farmer's Markets opening up in almost every city in the Bradenton/Sarasota area. Yesterday, Dec. 5th, was the opening day for The Market at Lakewood Ranch. This is the second year for this market and features everything from food to crafts and events for the whole family ... and dogs are allowed! You will find it every Wednesday until April 24th from 3 - 7 p.m. at the Sarasota Polo Club - 8201 Polo Club Lane in Lakewood Ranch. Call 941-556-8300 for more info.

The Sarasota Farmer's Market is open all year round in downtown Sarasota. It runs from 7 a.m. until 1:00 every Saturday. Along with the fresh produce you will also find live plants, artisans, food and beverage vendors, music and more! While you are there visit the many stores and restaurants along Main Street. Call 941-225-9256 for more information or to become a vendor at the market.

Bradenton's Farmers Market runs from Oct. through May on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown Bradenton. Chefs demo their recipes as farmers sell their produce. Find them at Old Main Street (12th St. W) between Manatee Ave. and Third Ave. West. More info can be found at www.RealizeBradenton.com

Move to the Beaches and you will find the Beach Market at Coquina Beach on Anna Maria Island on both Wednesdays (Dec. 19 - May 22) and Sundays (Nov. - July) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. There's not a better place to walk along the beachfront to find produce, arts & crafts, live music and food vendors. There's also plenty of parking at 2650 Gulf Drive S., Bradenton Beach.

The Anna Maria Farmer's Market is found a little farther north on the Island from mid-Oct. to mid-May on Tuesdays from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. It is found near the City Pier Park on Pine Ave. and North Bay Blvd. Along with produce you will also find fresh herbs, juices, honey and more. Find more info at www.CityOfAnnaMaria.com.

On the famous beaches of Siesta Key you will find their Farmer's Market on Sundays from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. Their vendors include candle makers, pottery, jellies, art, olive oil, breads and more. Find them at 5104 Ocean Blvd.

South of Sarasota in Englewood you will find 2 Farmer's Markets. One is on downtown's Dearborn St. at 348 W. Dearborn. It is open on Thursdays year-round from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. They market organic produce, pies, artisan cheeses, olives and more. Find more info at www.DearbornStreetMarket.com.

The Englewood Farmer's Market is found on the same days and times as the Dearborn St. Market from Oct. through May. It is found in the 300 block of Dearborn St. and vendors come from around the state. More information can be found at www.EnglewoodFarmersMarket.org.

You can visit these local Farmer's Markets 5 days a week so plan a visit to all over the next several months to see what they have to offer!

 

Posted in Things To Do
Sept. 17, 2018

New Construction Contracts

Buying a pre-construction home: Do you have to close?

 

 

 

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Sept. 14, 2018 – Question: Several years ago, we signed a contract with a developer to purchase a new construction condo. After several delays, they finally told us we had to close in just 10 days. When we went to look at our new home, we found it to be very different from the floor plan in the brochure. Do we have to close? – Anne

 

Answer: Purchasing a new home pre-construction can be a great way to get all the designs, colors and features you want and to make the perfect home for your family in a trendy new community. For these reasons, along with a slick marketing team, these properties are usually in high demand. This, more than the wealth and experience of the developers, puts the buyers at a competitive disadvantage when negotiating the sales contract.

 

Having reviewed hundreds of these contracts, I have found them to usually be extremely one-sided, allowing the seller to plan changes and delay while requiring the buyer to close on the purchase on very short notice. With these contracts, even more than most, make sure to read and understand all the fine print and decide if you can live with the terms before signing and putting your large deposit into escrow.

 

Most of these contracts will allow the builder to delay for a variety of reasons and will even allow it to deviate from the floor plan and specifications under certain circumstances. Look at the floor plan you were provided, and you will likely find small print advising that the plans were for illustrative purposes only and are subject to change. This is what you agree to when you sign the contract.

 

I have seen many people purchase, own and love their new construction home. I am not telling you to avoid these deals, just to know exactly what you are getting into.

 

The seller, just like you, is bound by what the contract says and can be held responsible for its breach. The relevant laws rely on full disclosure, so if developers hide something or outright lie, they can be held to task.

 

To answer your question, you will need to review what you agreed to in the contract carefully. If the developer did not hide anything and lived up to the contract – taking into consideration the exceptions, fine print and all – then you will need to move forward or lose your deposit.

 

However, if it failed to live up to its promises, you should find a good attorney to hold them accountable.

 

About the writer: Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation.

 

Copyright © 2018 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.), Gary M. Singer. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.