Adventures in buying a home in Florida

This page is entitled adventures in buying a home in Florida because it will provide a significant amount of information for you about the experiences we had during our home purchase in Florida. The hope is that if you decide to do so some of the pitfalls we experienced can be overcome for you in advance.

Other pages on this site refer to the different styles of home you can purchase in Florida and talk about purchasing the home out right with the land, or as we ultimately decided to do, purchase a home in a lease land environment.

When we looked at the options and the costs involved for us to purchase in Florida we determined that the best path for us to take given our economic situation was to acquire a home in a 55+ mobile home park and lease the land from the park owner.

Finding our home

There are many ways to find mobile homes for sale in Florida including local newspapers, word-of-mouth, and online sources.

We used all of these in looking for the ideal location for our needs in Florida.

An overcast Florida sky in March... but it's warm!

An overcast Florida sky in March… but it’s warm!

Be aware when looking at retirement community advertising. There are different words that describe the type of communities they are.

If a retirement community advertises itself as “active” that means that people living in that community are not in a support or full support environment. In more simple terms, this means that people living in that community are out and about, enjoying the benefits of living in the Florida, and do not require assistance on a daily basis to exist.

If you look at a retirement community and it does not include the term active in it’s description, it may mean that this is a support community. If that’s what you are looking for that’s fine but for now we don’t require a daily-living support community other than having friends there and so we looked for an active retirement location.

We did not buy on either coast

Our original dream for being a Snowbird in the U.S. included having a small home with ocean or Gulf view in a neat and clean retirement community.

There are no shortage of homes for sale on both Florida coasts including condominiums, detached homes and a multitude of mobile home parks.

It did not take us long to realize that our financial reality did not allow us to do more than scan the offerings on both the Atlantic coast and Gulf coasts in Florida,  quickly realizing that the financial requirements for living in either location were beyond our means.

In retrospect, given of the “delightful” weather enjoyed by both coasts in Florida in recent years, what with the high winds and high storm surges, we actually are quite happy that we were unable to purchase there.

How’s the winter weather where you are looking?

I don’t know about you folks but I do not like cold. It’s not just a preference. With my advancing years exposure to subzero temperatures causes real physical pain in my knees shoulders and knuckles.

To reduce the cold-weather risk while in Florida, one of the things we did do was to look at the average mean temperatures in areas in Florida where we might want to purchase.

We found it interesting that it would appear as though Florida’s interstate 4 highway, which travels from Daytona to Tampa seems to be a demarcation point for cooler weather.

It seemed to us that locations north of I – 4 had more colder days – and you can read that as at some of those days being below the freezing point – then areas south of I – 4, with average temperatures increasing slightly the further south in Florida traveled.

For us this meant that for sure we would be located south of I – 4.

So, we knew that the coasts were out, north of I – 4 was not in serious contention for us, although if you are really price conscious and don’t mind some cold weather during the Snowbird season, some really good deals can be had up in the Florida Panhandle if you can put up with issues of not just colder days, but it seems with the wonky weather of late that the panhandle section of Florida gets more than its share of tornado activity as well. Nope, not for us.

For these reasons and some others, we ended up in South Central Florida, and are happy now to tell you about how we picked our park.

This article continues describing how we acquired our Snowbird home in Florida. If you would like to read the entire article from the beginning, click here to be taken to the first page.

We left off talking about how we determined that we would acquire a home in South Central Florida.

One of the things that was important to us was to be in a community of like – minded people. For us, too, that meant being located in a park where other northern Snowbird folks came from a similar community or geographic location.

How did we determine whether or not a specific park suited our needs for that? Simple, we spent days on the road driving to and through the various mobile home parks that appeared to offer what we were looking for and by driving through those parks we took an unofficial census of the inhabitants by looking at the license plates of the vehicles in the various driveways.

Yep. High-tech.

We found a number of parks where a significant number of vehicle license plates were from an area that we figured was similar and that particular park moved up the list in terms of desirability.

Condo fees / land lease fees

When you enter into a park agreement whereby you own the mobile home you typically enter into an agreement where you pay lot – fees or lot rent. Some folks find that concept unacceptable.

If you simply consider the lot fee as a condo fee the whole concept becomes more easily understood.

When you acquire a home in a multi-story condo building you own the home in which you live but you do not own the common elements throughout. This is exactly the same as buying a mobile home in a land lease Park.

Among other things, roads are typically maintained via the monthly park fee in many mobile home parks in Florida.

Among other things, roads are typically maintained via the monthly park fee in many mobile home parks in Florida.

The monthly fee paid to the park takes care of the maintenance of the common areas and often in Florida mobile home parks, and I would expect in the rest of the southern United States as well, there are extensive common areas. These include things like in-park roadways, garbage and recycling pickup, property taxes, swimming pools [heated or not], shuffle board courts, horseshoe pits, bocce ball fields, and often a reasonably large and the guest welcoming community center. Typically maintenance on all of these are paid by the condo fee / lot fee in the mobile home park.

Resale issues in the mobile home park of choice

While it may seem a bit odd to consider selling a mobile home while you are in the process of buying one,  we try to be realistic about this whole process.

We are in good health, for now. We can afford the health insurance to spend an extended time in Florida, for now. We can handle both the acquisition price of the home and monthly fees, for now.

That’s all subject to change for a whole host of reasons, none of which we want to happen, but one or more of which will become problematical in time.

We talked to some biased persons (those in the park office for example) and we stopped and chatted with some of the present home owners. We learned that about 10-15% of the homes in the park come up for sale every year? Wow!

We talked further with these folks. Remember all the issues noted above that I said we could handle, for now?

Well, each year for a lot of folks that have been “Snow-birding” for years or decades circumstances have suddenly changed, and all of a sudden it became necessary for those folks to sell.

Was selling a problem? Not so far and not in the park we selected. Average “for sale” time for a home that was market priced and reasonably maintained was 2-3 weeks. Over-priced and homes that were not maintained took longer, but in time, every home in the park that was for sale, sold.

When selecting your park, and you too are looking long term, this is an issue that you might want to inquire about to get the information you wish.

This article will continue here: What to look for in a used mobile home (link will become effective when the page is ready)

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