Florida is one of our top ﬁve locations to buy an overseas property and we get many questions about buying in the Sunshine State. Here are ﬁve of the most frequently asked things at our A Place in the Sun Live exhibition earlier in 2017 at London’s Olympia.
1) How do I stay for more than 90 days allowed by the visa waiver?
That’s easy. Once you own a holiday home in Florida, simply apply at the US Embassy in London for the B1/B2 visa. This will allow you to come and go at will but do count the days you have your feet on American soil. Staying for more than 182 days in any calendar year will mean you become “resident for tax purposes”, and you will have to ﬁle a US tax return on your worldwide income – something most people choose not to do!
2) Who will look after my home when I'm not there?
It’s no surprise that professional ‘Home Watch’ services abound in a state where many homes are left unoccupied for long periods of time. For a set fee per month or per visit, these companies will send a representative to visit your empty home periodically, to make sure all is well – air conditioning working, no plumbing leaks for instance. We know of this service being oﬀered for as little as $20 per visit, but always make sure you are dealing with a bonaﬁde company and not just a nosey neighbour making a few extra dollars on the side.
3) How easy is it to insure a property that's empty for six months?
Florida is a state where many people own a second home. Most insurance companies who operate in Florida are familiar with the market and will have the policy to cover property that is unoccupied for periods of time. Some of them may reduce premiums if the property beneﬁts from a Home Watch service.
4) Should I buy a car or hire one every time I visit?
If you don’t mind driving a small car, at the discretion of the car hire company, then a rental you pick up at the airport on our arrival may work out cheaper. If you are particular about the kind of car you drive, have a garage, and a car to transport bikes, kayaks and golf clubs, you may want to buy a car. Some auto insurance companies oﬀ er discounts if the car is used for only part of the year.
If you chose to own a car, remember to keep the battery on charge while you are gone. What’s the best way to get from the airport to your home if your car is there? I suggest picking up a rental car at the airport and returning it the next day. This assumes you have two drivers of course – one to drive your personal car, and one to drive the rental car to the drop oﬀ point. This works even if you ﬂy into an airport some distance from your home – hire companies don’t usually charge mileage, but they may charge a one-way drop oﬀ fee when returning the car to a diﬀerent location. This is usually much cheaper than a taxi.
5) What if I need medical help when I'm there?
High-quality medical care is readily available, but what about the costs? The cheapest way to obtain medical insurance for longer trips is through your travel insurance company. Most of them will extend cover, but this will involve a conversation, rather than simply ordering the cover online.