Home from Home in the Sunshine State | Case Study

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Home from Home in the Sunshine State | Case Study

After falling in love with Florida during their holidays, it was little surprise that Cardiff couple, Stephen and Deborah Price, decided to house-hunt in the Sunshine State when they appeared on A Place in the Sun: Winter Sun back in 2012.

What made you want to buy in Florida, instead of somewhere closer to home?

Well, we'd been visiting Florida for quite a few years on family holidays and it was full of happy memories and so many good times. There is a lot to love about life in Florida, each time we visited we found it increasingly difficult to leave.

We have been fortunate enough to see a lot of Florida so when it came to property hunting we weren't going in blind. After a lot of discussion and additional research we decided on the area known as 'Treasure Coast', which has an average year round temperature of 28⁰C. It was somewhere we had been before and it ticked all of our practical concerns like price, lifestyle, climate etc. - it was the obvious place to start!

Another key factor in us choosing Florida was the property crash had meant prices were incredibly low. Pre-crash our budget of £80,000 probably wouldn't have gone as far as it did when we bought in 2012.

Our chosen area was the Treasure Coast, which has an average year round temperature of 28⁰C plus the property crash was still in full swing so we knew that we could get a lot for our budget of £80,000.

We wanted a property that we could pack up and leave (or rent out) as we knew that we wouldn't be able to stay there for long periods of time due to commitments back home. On top of that we wanted to be somewhere not too built up but with access to good amenities and the beach.

You appeared on an episode of Winter Sun, how did that come about?

By accident really, initially we attended the A Place in the Sun Live exhibition in October 2011 at the NEC.

It was our chance to get a real idea of what buying in Florida would be like in terms of the paperwork, timeframe etc. - it's one thing wanting to buy abroad but another thing actually doing it. There were a lot of stands and the people we spoke to seemed very knowledgeable so we picked up a lot of useful information.

Whilst wandering around we noticed there was an area where people could screen test for the TV show, it seemed a bit of fun so we gave it a go. We didn't really expect anything to come of it because there had been a lot of people in the queue!

A couple of weeks later a researcher from the TV show got in touch and asked if they could come to our house to film an extended interview with us. The next thing we know is that we're being invited to film an episode with Jonnie Irwin in Florida!

Did you enjoy your time in showbiz?

It was hard work - showbiz isn't as cushy as it first looks (at least our five minutes of it wasn't). There were a lot of early starts and long days. We had viewings booked in for five properties on the 'Treasure Coast', which doesn't sound like many but we weren't in Florida for long and the actual filming itself takes longer than you think.

But the show worked hard to find us properties within our budget, requirements and location so it wasn't wasted. Overall, it was fantastic working with the production crew and was an experience we will both never forget.

All the work was worth it in the end though...

Definitely worth it! We got all we wanted and so much more.

We decided to buy in Vero Beach, a quiet and beautiful area of Florida with no high rise buildings (there's a limit of four storeys), we also felt we will be able to make new friends and be able to settle in quite quickly.

The property itself is a three bed condo with a garage, heated pool and large patio area in a gated community just five minutes from the beach. It's not far from some good local cafes and restaurants either so we don't feel isolated.

In 2006 the property had been listed at just over £200,000 but because of the property crash we had our offer of £66,000 accepted - since then its value has risen back to £160,000.

Many people find the buying process quite daunting, how was it for you?

We actually found it very straight forward and were lucky to have plenty of help from our realtor. The fact that everyone speaks English simplifies the process, I can imagine that it's the language barrier that worries a lot of people looking to buy in somewhere like France or Greece.

Though the HOA (Homeowners Association) fee was a bit of a shock - it is definitely something people buying property in the USA need to bear in mind because we weren't expecting it.

What does the future hold for you and your Floridian home?

The plan when we bought the house was to stay there for short periods while renting it out to holidaymakers. Once we were both fully retired we would then spend periods of up to 6 months of the year there.

Since then perhaps unusually, we are yet to stay at the property for any serious length of time because it has been rented on a long term contract. However, we do make an annual inspection visit to make sure everything is still in order.

Within the next 18 months we hope to both retire and then spend six months of the year in our condo and use it as a base to visit many other areas of the USA.

What advice would you give other people thinking of buying abroad?

There are a number of things we have picked up either through our own experiences or talking to other expats that people might find useful:

  • Set your budget, do your research and don`t rush in.
  • The buying process is pretty straight forward in the USA - similar in some ways to the UK - but make sure you know what fees/taxes you are liable for
  • Currency transfer specialists can save you thousands of pounds compared to a normal bank
  • Use a realtor you're comfortable with as they can assist and guide you with the purchase
  • If you plan to rent your home out it is really worthwhile getting a rental management company to look after your property as it is hard to put small things right from 4,000 miles away
  • If you rent you will be liable for income tax so it's important to find a good tax consultant, we found ours at the A Place in the Sun Live exhibition.

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