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THE EXPERTS To help Nigel and Louise with their purchase, some words of advice...

Florida beach home – but which coast to choose? The Wellers from Sussex want a Florida home by the sea for £150k-£200k, but they can’t decide which coast to choose – Atlantic or Gulf. Christopher Nye offers some suggestions

Gaye Vogel tells us about the Gulf coast: This is like “old Florida”, with little cracker (wood-framed) houses and churches, and plenty of people on the streets. Tarpon Springs is like going to Greece, Old Palm Harbor and Crystal Beach are original Florida, and Dunedin is like the Lanes in Brighton. The landscape is also older, and more like an English county, but with sunshine all year. We have fantastic state parks, islands, rivers and beaches, including Caladesi Island – recently voted the best beach in America. Traditionally, the prices are lower than the Atlantic coast, with a more varied choice as our homes tend to be older. Prices have stabilised, and, without the huge inventory of recent years, I’ve seen prices rise when two buyers are going after the same home. I have a couple from Cheshire coming in this month to buy three investment homes.

THE BRIEF WHO? Nigel and Louise Weller are looking for a property in Florida. They are in their fifties, live in the East Sussex countryside near Eastbourne and work as a solicitor and a college lecturer.



Anne Conklin tells us about the Atlantic coast:

WHAT THEY WANT They want a three- or four-bedroom villa or seaside house with a pool and a garden. They say they would like something more interesting than the classic Orlando villa, with a bit more kerb appeal. A large, open-plan living area would be ideal, and they would be happy if the villa was nicely furnished – but this isn’t a deal breaker. It needs to be hurricane-proof, and reasonably lowmaintenance. Their budget is £150,000 to £200,000.

I love the Atlantic breezes of this coast, and the small-town atmosphere of places like Vero Beach, with the amenities of a larger city. Our climate allows the magnificent oaks of North Florida and the tropical fauna of South Florida to prosper side by side. If you like peace and quiet and nature, the beaches here are never crowded, so you can enjoy the sounds of the ocean lapping on the sand or watch the pelicans silently glide overhead. Property prices here are lower than their equivalent in South Florida, including parts of the west coast such as Naples. The market is still pretty flat, though we often find ourselves in bidding wars for desirable properties in all price ranges. Some properties sit on the market for a long time, but when a desirable property is priced right, buyers are responsive.



Amanda Lamb is presenter of Channel 4’s hit TV series A Place in the Sun

WHERE? When their children were younger, Nigel and Louise did all the usual Florida sights, especially the theme parks at Orlando. Now, while they would like to be able to visit them for the day, they also want to be near the seaside. So they’ve asked us to research options from each of the two coasts, the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, within a two-hour drive of Orlando Airport. They appreciate that sea views will be pricey, but they want to be within a reasonable drive of the sea. They also want a proper community – not just a holiday area.

REASON FOR BUYING The couple love America, and want to spend several months a year there – as long as a tourist visa will allow. They also believe that prices are likely to increase, so they are buying for a long-term investment.

Turn over to see the four exciting properties we found for Nigel and Louise 28



Most of us are guilty of following the herd sometimes, and in recent years there’s been a cliché that if you’re buying in Florida you must to be within 15 minutes of the gates of Disney’s Magic Kingdom, preferably in Polk County so you’re zoned for holiday rentals. But there’s much more to Florida than the theme parks, and you might not want to clutter up your lovely home with rental guests anyway. There was a flurry of excitement earlier this year when it looked as though South Florida prices were on the rise again. However, this may have been a blip, as prices elsewhere in the state still look pretty stable, and are amazingly low. Now this may be a cliché, but it is true all the same: it’s a great time to be buying in Florida, especially the one-off, architect-designed properties with access to the ocean that Louise and Nigel are looking at.

DID YOU KNOW? You can barely hit a tennis ball in Florida without it being lobbed back by a professional tennis player. Fred Perry, Britain’s last male Wimbledon champion, retired there – and perhaps Andy Murray was hoping a bit of Perry’s fortune would follow him, when he bought a flat in Miami. People may head to Florida for Donald Duck, a goofy dog et al, but the real wildlife includes the Florida panther, of which some 100-plus live in the wild, the Black Bear (around 1,500) as well as many large snakes and alligators. Florida is sometimes criticised for “cookie-cutter” overdevelopment of identical villas around its 1,481 golf courses, but it also has some pretty outlandish architecture dating from its various boom years. Look out for the Mediterranean Revival buildings dating from the 1880s and the Art Deco 1930s beachfront properties in Miami.







One home, two locations From $199,000 (£125,200)

Key West-style home $250,000 (£157,300)

Atlantic bargain $250,000 (£157,300)

Barrier island property $379,900 (£239,000)

Where: Sarasota or Ellenton, Gulf Coast

Where: Palm Harbor

Where: Vero Beach

Where: Sebastian

Property details

Property details

Property details

Property details:





Three bedrooms, two bathrooms Open-plan living area Wooden veranda with space for seating Two-car garage at rear 6,000 sq ft to 8,000 sq ft plot Choice of two plots near Florida’s Gulf coast

Four bedrooms, three bathrooms 3,608 sq ft living area on 10,889 sq ft plot Well-lit open-plan interior Built in 2001 Water views Upmarket area

Three bedrooms, 2.5 bathrooms 1,800-2,000 sq ft living space Italianate tiling on ground floor, wood on the upper floor Attractive corner plot Private swimming pool Two-car garage

Three bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms Single storey Private heated pool Lake frontage Short walk to sea Within two hours of Orlando

For more details: Patricia Tan, 001 941 504 9232,

For more details: Gaye Vogel, 001 727 667 1960,

For more details: Anne Conklin, 001 772 569 0998,

For more details: Anne Conklin, 001 772 569 0998,

What could be nicer than being able to sit outside your front door and watch the world, and your neighbours, go by? The American veranda is a design classic. This home model, called Gull House, has space for at least two rocking chairs out front, a couple more on the balcony, and two cars out the back. This is a brand new property, with the most up-to-date fittings, and you can choose from two locations to the south of Tampa Bay – both within a 30-minute drive of the awardwinning beaches of Sarasota and Bradenton, and around 90 minutes from Orlando. One of the sites is in Forest Creek, a gated community with nature trails, lakes with kayaking and wildlife, and an upmarket mall close by.

What this house has most of is space. At 3,608 sq ft (335 sq metres), it is more than double the average size of a detached house in the UK (140 sq metres). The master suite is sumptuous, and the living area includes a kitchen, breakfast bar, dining area and sitting room with sea views, all open-plan on one floor, Being waterside and only a couple of bends in the creek away from the Gulf of Mexico, the garage is on the ground floor, minimising flood damage if there is a surge tide. Palm Harbor is a lovely part of Florida, with historic buildings and one of America’s finest golf courses. It has great schools, a wonderful community spirit, and is handy for the tourist hotspots of Clearwater Beach and St Petersburg.

The Americans came up with the concept of “kerb appeal”, and whoever coined the phrase might have been thinking of this house. It stands out from the run-of-the-mill Florida villa, partly because of its elevated setting behind a beautiful lawn and greenery but also due to its interesting variety of roof angles. It looks like something Edward Hopper would have painted in the 1930s, but was actually built in 1991. It has been kept in immaculate condition and is beautifully decorated inside and out. The house is in a quiet residential street in Vero Beach, about three miles from the seashore. The streets of Vero Beach are lined by live oaks, and there is a limit of four storeys on properties. Don’t expect wild nightlife ambience all year.

As if the warm waters of the Gulf, Caribbean and Atlantic aren’t tempting enough, Florida is blessed with something else that Britain’s seaside resorts could do with: barrier islands. Barrier islands protect most of Florida’s coastline, and are a playground for sailing, kayaking, fishing, or just living. This house is on a barrier island off Sebastian, a little north of Vero Beach. You reach it via a causeway, yet the drive is still just under two hours to Disney World. It’s an easy-to-maintain property, so a good option for people like Louise and Nigel who will not be using it all the time. Holiday homeowners are not limited to condos, and it is easy to find pool cleaning services and management companies.





• We’re sold on the idea of sitting out front on rocking chairs. This house seems to have a lot of outdoor appeal, with a veranda and balcony. • We really like the price – incredibly reasonable for a new property. • The design is fresh and perky. It’s modern, but also sort of colonial.

• It’s a handsome house in a very attractive part of Florida which we liked on a visit a few years ago. And it’s an amazingly low price compared to Sussex. • The living areas are astonishing – huge, and beautifully presented. • Palm Harbor feels like a town we would like to be a part of. We don’t feel this seaside place will be too quiet in the off-season. • We like the idea that it’s not a gated community.

• There’s something of Wisteria Lane [the Desperate Housewives street] about it . It certainly looks beautiful – we really like the colour and the look of the wooden walls. • We like the pool area, and in particular the covered bit by the pool, and the French windows leading from the living room.

• We love this house. We can imagine sitting down to a breakfast of Florida oranges, with the lake spread out before us, then having a dip in our own pool. • We like the trees around it; the palms out front and the trees by the patio give it a bit of privacy as well as looking nice. • The interior looks a bit anaemic, so maybe we can make our mark on it.

THEY DISLIKE: • Our main worry would be whether this is a settled community, that happens to have great outdoor opportunities, or whether we would be like permanent residents at a Center Parcs site. • Both locations are a bit further from the seaside than we really wanted.


THEY DISLIKE: • Our only concern is that it is quite a drive from Orlando – two hours.

THEY DISLIKE: • Although it all looks lovely, the plot seems to be out front, and the pool area out the back looks cramped. • It’s a shame that the sea isn’t within walking distance.

THEY DISLIKE: • It is a bit over-budget. We would need to knock them down by around $40,000 (£25,100), but, if we can, we’re interested. 31



Gulf Coast

$149,000 (£93,700) This home, built in 1981, has views of the Gulf of Mexico and access via its own private boat dock. It has three bedrooms and two bathrooms, and an open-plan living area with “cathedral ceilings”. The kitchen units and appliances are new, and the covered veranda area adds more than 1,000 sq ft. The house is in Hernando Beach, next to the Weeki Wachee wildlife preserve and is just over two hours from Orlando. Florida Luxury Realty: 001 727 862 4447,

WHAT NEXT? We’ve shown Nigel and Louise four homes on both Floridian coasts. So what is their next move? Let’s find out what they’re thinking now... Nigel and Louise: We think we like the look of the Gulf coast more, especially the area north of Tampa Bay, maybe as far north as Hernando Beach and as far south as Palm Harbor. We didn’t have time to do the Salvador Dali Museum in St Petersburg last time, so there’s another reason to go back. The tricky bit will be to avoid the really touristy areas that may not have such a great community feel, while being far enough south to get warm winter weather. So we will probably rent to start off with. The architecture of the house is also crucial to us – since this is our big extravagant expenditure for our retirement, we just don’t want a boring house. We liked what the Gulf coast realtor Gaye Vogel said about the variety of properties in her patch, but are also intrigued by the first property, and wonder if there are other models to choose from? If we’re going off-plan, why not get an architect to make us something even more special? The other benefit of the coast, rather than the Orlando area, is being able to get into boating, which is something we’ve done a bit of in the UK – but with all the inlets, creeks and intracoastal waterways, kayaking and sailing here look much more interesting, and warmer. So, getting a property with a boat dock and access to the sea sounds brilliant.


If so, why not email Need help finding your place in the sun? ils of where you’d deta with om sun.c inthe liz.rowlinson@aplace rred type of property. like to buy, your budget and your prefe t photo. Please include a phone number and recen . acted cont Successful applicants will be


New Smyrna Beach, Atlantic Coast

$299,000 (£188,100) This two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on the sixth floor overlooks the Atlantic from its balcony. It is around 20 minutes south of Daytona Beach and 88 miles from Orlando. The condo complex has tennis courts, a pool and spa as well as the sandy beachfront. The company offering the property has special financing options that allow buyers to put just 5 per cent down to start using the property, and to rent it out at a rate of up to $1,100 per week in high season. Immediate Property Solutions: 001 321 345 3555,

Hernando Beach, Gulf Coast

$550,000 (£346,100) Three-bedroom, two-bathroom waterside home built in 2009, with its own boat dock and ramp giving access to a waterway leading to the Gulf of Mexico. The house has a floorplan of 5,818 sq ft on a 9,120 sq ft plot. The interior is stylish and contemporary, with an attractive glossy wooden floor and a kitchen with a granite-topped island unit. Outside, there are a variety of places to eat, including by the private, in-ground pool. Weaver Group Realty: 001 352 592 7576,


Property Hunt - Florida  

From A Place in the Sun magazine 2012