Buying a property in Florida during the pandemic has not been easy. Interest from British buyers nose-dived during 2020 on aplaceinthesun.com but increased by 110 per cent in 2021, when flying restrictions eased up.
Despite Julie and Tony Scott not being able to fly there themselves for months, the flood of rental bookings for their new home has more than helped compensate.
The couple from Maidstone in Kent completed on the five-bedroom property in Orlando in July 2020. Located in Windsor At Westside resort, a holiday rental community six miles from Disney World in Kissimmee, the property was bought to attract paying guests. Tourism in Orlando has remained strong during the pandemic’s staycation trend, although the couple had feared the opposite would be the case.
“Our property hunt started at A Place in the Sun’s London Olympia exhibition in 2019. We love Florida for the level of the service, the ease of doing everything, the weather, the choice of food everywhere and all the things to do there,” says Julie, 60, who runs a domiciliary care service company and has three sons with Tony.
“We flew out to Florida shortly afterwards and put a 10% deposit down on a nine-bedroom offplan property. These ‘hotel villas’ are very popular for families joining together to book a holiday."
“But then the pandemic hit and we became worried that we’d be able to cover the cost of the mortgage [that we hoped to get] if travel restrictions went on for months. Things looked very uncertain, and we’d lose our £30,000 deposit if we pulled out, so we transferred it to a five-bedroom villa on the same resort that cost $375,000 [£276,000].”
The property, that comes with its own swimming pool, completed in July 2020 and has been rented out since, occupied with bookings for 30 weeks out of 52. A typical rate is $130 (£95) per night.
Carol Dudley, of NobleGate Realty, is the licenced broker who helped guide them through the whole process, says Julie.
“From finding the home, to helping us decorate and find a management company, she’s been great. Getting the mortgage was a very vigorous process that took so many months – partly due to the pandemic - but she was there for us, telling us to hang on in, it would be worth it.”
It very much was, and the couple got out there for the first time to stay there last week. “We are learning about having a rental property and the importance of having the right management company, which is key if you are back here in the UK,” she says. “The wear and tear on a property after all those guests is also considerable. You need to furnish it with that in mind, not to your own taste with anything fragile or precious that might get broken.
“We hope to spend winters there when we retire, but for now we will just block out certain weeks in the year for our own use – we are all staying there for one of our sons’ wedding in May. We’ve both had a very busy pandemic with work – Tony works for a pharmaceutical company – and it’s wonderful to finally have somewhere to escape to.”