Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Leisureville Takes A Look Inside The Villages

Lots of people who visit and read this blog regularly originally came here because of information I have posted about The Villages retirement community in central Florida.

Well, The Villages just got a little more famous. This past weekend the Wall Street Journal published a review of Leisureville: Adventures in America's Retirement Utopias.

One of the "utopias" chronicled happens to be The Villages. You can also read an excerpt of the book here.

Leisureville comes on the heels of another "ville" book called Nextville: Amazing Places to Live the Rest of Your Life by Barbara Corcoran.

I'll have a review here and on Amazon.com after I've read Leisureville. If you're looking for solid advice on buying a home and living in The Villages don't forget to check out The Villages Florida Book.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Problem With Nextville

Nextville: Amazing Places to Live the Rest of Your Life by Barbara Corcoran drops this month and I was given a copy by the publisher to review. You should also know that Barbara was kind enough to provide a quote for the advertising of my book, Florida for Boomers: A Guide to Real Estate.

Nextville is less "how-to" guide and more of a "find yourself" or "figure out whats right for you" guide. Barbara basically breaks boomers down into eight possible different lifestyle categories such as "following your passions", "living green", "losing yourself" for the soon to be ex-pat, as well as those who will choose to "stay put".

While actual "how-to buy" advice isn't as meaty as you might have hoped, there are plenty of checklists and quizzes to help guide the boomer who isn't quite sure where they want to end up or what they want to do with the next quarter century. The main strength and value of the book is that it does a great job of exploring several out of the ordinary places to think about spending your time.

Which leads me to my only bone to pick with the book. In Chapter 1, "Forget Florida" Barbara is clearly highlighting what the media is making everyone "think" is the trend, that nobody is moving to Florida anymore. The media wants everyone to believe that Florida is dead as a destination. Forget it, it fell off the map!

However, and believe me, I hear it from people everyday, folks are still researching and moving to Florida more so than any other state. There's even a book reviewed by the Wall Street Journal this weekend which chronicles the lives of folks who have moved to The Villages, located in, yup, you guessed it...Florida. (This book is called Leisureville...Leaving me wondering what's with all the "villes"?)

For good measure how about some search engine stats to back me up (Data is from Wordtracker):

Estimated Daily Searches:

Florida retirement communities: 51
Georgia retirement communities: 12
South Carolina retirement communities: 9
North Carolina retirement communities: 11
Tennessee retirement communities: 4
Virginia retirement communities: 12
Texas retirement communities: 23
Arizona retirement communities: 26
Nevada retirement communities: 4
New Mexico retirement communities: 7

You can clearly see above that interest in Florida still out paces most other states by quite a wide margin.

Lastly, and then I'm done picking on this fantastic book (I promise), is that someone needs to tell the publisher that postcard book covers are sooooo 2007 :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

How To Make Sure A Retirement Community Lifestyle Is Right For You

TopRetirements has a good article here that talks about the pros and cons of retirement community living.

A compilation of input gathered from boomers who have lived the community experience, the article does not try to scare you from exploring the active adult retirement options available to you, but it does give you some things to think about before making a decision.

As with anything there are good things and bad, and what is good for you may not be good for someone else. So when reading the article, don't just rely on what someone else experienced, think about how the experience fits your 'ideal' lifestyle.

image credit: nickgraywfu at flickr

Monday, April 14, 2008

Unfinished Houses Causing Nightmares for Buyers and Neighbors

A few months ago I covered the topic of houses and communities not being completed due to bankrupt builders who have become victims of the housing market.

Mainstream media is finally catching up to us bloggers in describing the topic.

It's not only a nightmare scenario for buyers whose dream homes are not being completed, but what about the folks who've already moved in and have unfinished home sitting on either side of them?

Be smart out there.

image credit: dospaz on flickr

Friday, April 11, 2008

Boomers Want to See the Green Choices

The Chicago Tribune has a good article here on Boomers choosing to "go green" when shopping for new homes and communities.

But, this is only after their specific lifestyle and convenience needs are met. The article compares the choice to "buying a Lexus Hybrid instead of a Toyota Prius".

I've written about Boomers exploring different ways of going green here before, and no doubt it will be a noteworthy trend in years to come. Developers interested in the boomer market better get their green home plans and designs together!

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

No Guarantees When Booking Flights with Struggling Airlines

Before 2006, if you were to purchase airline tickets and before taking your flight the airline were to go out of business, other airlines were required by law to honor your ticket.

Well, that's not the case anymore since Congress let this law lapse.

So with today's rash of airline failures and bankruptcies, you may not only have to research your airfare online, but also the health of each airline your considering flying with.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Everywhere a Travel Magazine for Everyone

Tired of all the usual travel magazines covering the same places from the same point of view? Then check out Everywhere, a new "2.0" travel magazine.

Everywhere Magazine is comprised completely of "user generated" articles, that is, articles are submitted by readers/freelance writers/travelers and editors select the best of the submissions to put in each issue.

A 1-year subscription (6-issues) is $24.99. If you think that is a bit much you can read the issues online for free.

Hat tip to Rohit Bhargava of Influential Marketing blog for this awesome find.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Mount Vintage Plantation Getaway Deal

I get several emails a week from different retirement communities and other developments offering deals to come and stay with them for a few nights to check the place out. I like to share some of the best deals here with my readers.

Today I got an email from Mount Vintage Plantation in North Augusta, South Carolina. Gorgeous place from the pictures on their website.

"We invite you to join us for the grand opening of the new nine at Mount Vintage. Designed by world-renowned golf course architect Tom Jackson, the new nine is a superb addition to the beautiful layout of the current 18-hole course also designed by Jackson.

Call 888-271-3330 to schedule your personal tour of the Mount Vintage community."

The deal in the email was for 3 days/2 nights at $69. Looks like it might only be good for March. Give them a call and check it out if you're interested.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Boomers Heading to Montana and Wyoming

Image Credit: JohnMuir of flickr

In recent weeks there have been several articles in major newspapers and media talking about boomers who are looking to the Rocky Mountain West, including the states of Wyoming and Montana, for retirement.

Because these destinations aren’t as popular as say, Florida, its hard to find quality information on retirement communities in those states.

To be sure, there aren’t a lot of retirement communities in those states. A big reason for this is that people heading to these states are often looking for larger pieces of land (acreage) and a little bit of solitude that comes with that.

A couple places to help in your search for information about real estate and communities in Wyoming and Montana:

First check out The Land Report Magazine. They have a search box (right side of the screen) Type in “Wyoming” or try “Montana” if that suits you. This magazine has stopped publishing unfortunately, but their site is still up and has a lot of good info.

Next, check out the Yahoo! Directory for Wyoming and Montana real estate:



Searching in other search engines for Montana or Wyoming retirement communities doesn't bring up very good results, but you're welcome to try it.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Miami Realtor Being Sued by Developer

Condos by vgm8383

A Miami Realtor is being sued by a Miami condo developer for the tidy sum of $25 million, over comments the Realtor made on his blog about the developer "filing for bankruptcy in the '80's and his current condo project possibly being in trouble."

From what I've read about people being sued over comments made on their blogs, the Realtor should be o.k. However, the broker he was working for terminated him, as they are also named as defendants in the lawsuit.

I understand their reasoning behind this, but this quote the brokerage gave to the Miami Herald irks me a bit:

"We want to encourage associates to be a positive source of information,''
Does that mean they just want their associates to talk to the public about the "rosy" side of the picture and just brush the bad stuff under a rug? Licensed real estate agents in Florida have a duty to fully disclose "all known facts" to clients. Are they asking their agents to neglect that duty a bit?

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Florida Passes Tax Reform Amendment

As of 11:40 p.m. the precincts are still reporting, but it looks like Amendment 1 (Florida's Property Tax Reform Amendment) has passed by a pretty wide margin. So, let's recap again what this Amendment means:

  • "Doubles" the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000. However, the 2nd $25k does not apply to school taxes (~30% of most property tax bills), so it's more like an additonal $15,000 exemption. (Assuming a 2% tax rate thats about $300).
  • Portability of Save Our Homes. SOH is Florida's cap on how much your property taxes can go up in a year. Previous to this amendment passing, once you sold your home and moved, you lost your built up savings and had to start again in your new home. Now, take a good portion of it with you.
  • Snowbird only living in Florida part time (non-homesteaded)? Your property tax increases will now be capped at 10% per year. Big whup now you say... but if there's ever a time like 2003-2006 when property taxes nearly doubled for some folks, you'll be happy with this change.
Time will tell if this is *the* spark that the Florida real estate market needs. Those on the fence don't have too many excuses left to wait now.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Find Arizona Retirement Communities On Our New Site

In the last couple of years, as Florida has fallen out of favor a little bit because of high prices, high taxes, high insurance, and hurricanes, more and more boomers have been thinking about Arizona for their new retirement community.

I've talked to several boomers who have made the move from the Northeast to Arizona, and even some who went to Florida first, and they all love the climate and the Arizona retirement communities they found.

If you are also considering Arizona for your retirement plans, I've got great news. The next edition of the for Boomers book series will be Arizona for Boomers: Guide to Retirement Communities.

Feel free to click the link and check out the site. It's a work in progress, and we'll be adding more articles and resources each day to help you find an Arizona retirement community. I don't have an ETA on the book yet, but rest assured we'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Florida and Allstate Insurance Toe-to-Toe

My advice to people moving to Florida and shopping for homeowners insurance is to always check with your current carrier (assuming you're happy with the rates and service you receive) to see if they offer policies in Florida.

Well, for the time being, if your current insurer is Allstate, you're out of luck. Allstate is locked in a battle with Florida's Insurance Commissioner over documents regarding the rates Allstate charges for hurricane insurance.

Florida's Insurance Commisioner originally ordered Allstate to stop selling homeowner's policies until the matter was resolved, but has now gone a step further and has ordered Allstate to stop writing ALL new policies, including automobile policies.

I don't expect this little tif to last too long...I can't see how the citizen's of Florida come out a winner in having one of the largest insurers not being able to write new policies. Granted, this does not effect policies currently in place or their renewals. But in my mind, healthy competition is about the only thing that ever seems to keep prices down.

Update 1: That was fast...by order of the 1st District Court of Appeals, Allstate is back open for business.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Two Weeks Until Florida Property Tax Vote

Two weeks from today on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 Floridians will step into the voting booths... hanging chads and all... and decide on an important property tax measure.

If approved, the measure, among other things, will serve two main purposes:

1) It will "double" the homestead exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 (Uh, not really double...read what I'm talking about here) and

2) It will also provide portability of the Save Our Homes Tax (Not sure what that is? Learn more here)

You can read more about the property tax bill at http://www.yeson1florida.com/amendment_1.php

Also, this past weekend I read a good (good meaning funny) column in a local paper which "answers some questions" about this whole Florida property tax issue. Think you'll enjoy it!

My favorite question and its "brilliant" answer:

Friday, January 11, 2008

Sun City Center FL: A Complete Guide

Do you know what one of Florida’s first retirement communities was? Sun City Center, located near Tampa Florida began in the early 1960’s and is still under development today. The internet is loaded with information about Sun City Center but sometimes the information is very outdated, and searching online can just get overwhelming.

To solve this problem, and as a follow-up to my first e-book about The Villages, I've put together a complete 117 page guide for Sun City Center at: SunCityCenterFloridaBook.com

You'll find a ton of great information including a complete detailed community overview, useful links, information about buying a home in Sun City Center, what it costs to live there, golf in Sun City Center, and much more. Check it out.

Be sure to watch this space for announcements on guides to other Sun City communities around the country.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Bankrupt Home Builders Break Dreams

What a scary time to be a buyer in the real estate market right now. While everyone knows it's a buyers market, the deals are great, and prices are falling faster than a rock, you still have to be careful about taking that final leap and putting a contract on a new home someplace warm.

In November 2007, a popular builder of active adult retirement communities throughout the SunBelt, Levitt and Sons, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This has left buyers stranded with partially or wholly unfinished homes, not to mention unfinished community amenities. Deposits as high as $50k per, are also presumed lost.

Levitt and Sons is a "wholly owned subsidiary of Levitt Corporation (NYSE: LEV) whose other divisions include Core Communities and bluegreen Vacation Resorts. Levitt Corp. is apparently trying to sever its ties all together with Levitt and Sons so that they won't have to pick up the tab for the unfinished homes, communities, and lost deposits. Merry Christmas have a nice day!

If it can happen to a development company the size of Levitt and Sons, assume that it can happen to anyone. What can be done to protect yourself, your money, and your dreams of owning a (completely finished) new home?

Thats a tough question to answer. To avoid having to put up such a large deposit (most new home builders require 10-20% or more) you could go the construction loan route where you will essentially pay the builder in different phases tied to the construction of the home. But as I've written before, this is not without it's troubles.

Another option that this article says to try is to get the builder to agree to place your deposit in an escrow account held by a third party. If something happens, you'd at least be able to get your money back.

In my experience, I'd say good luck to this. While you might get the smallest of builders and developers to agree to this, most will not. Look...these guys have in-house counsel, out-house counsel, and every other which way of counsel you could think of protecting their (ass)ets first. They're going to make sure that they are covered and protected before you are.

The best solution I can come up with? For now, in today's real estate environment, buy a house that's already built or almost complete (trust me...there's plenty out there) and buy it in a community that is already somewhat established with completed amenities you are happy with. This way if something happens and the second community swimming pool you as a buyer were promised never gets built, you've got the amenities already there to fall back on.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boomers Go Green With Cohousing

No doubt about it, green is in. And not just the color...the movement. And why shouldn't it be baby boomers at the forefront?

Read about the Wolf Creek Lodge [via TreeHugger] in Grass Valley, California. The Wolf Creek Lodge is a "Cohousing" community for active adults. If you've never heard of cohousing, here's a description from the Wolf Creek website:

"Cohousing communities are small-scale neighborhoods that provide a balance between personal privacy and living amidst people who know and care about each other. Individual dwelling units enjoy convenient access to shared space including a common house with facilities such as a gourmet kitchen, dining room, laundry facilities, guest rooms, library and sitting areas, and workshops. Each home is entirely self-sufficient, complete with a kitchen, but residents often prepare common meals together in the kitchen of the common house."

The environmental benefits of cohousing are achieved through the sharing of resources and space.

While there are currently less than 100 cohousing communities in the United States, look for that number to grow as boomers look for ways to go green and also look for alternatives to the traditional retirement community concept.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Retirement Community Politics

Great article in the Sarasota Herald Tribune about the massive effect retirement communities can have on elections.

The article focuses on The Villages and the 2008 Republican primary.

A large majority of "Villagers" are republicans, and candidates regularly stump there.

Even this guy made a stop there leading up to the 2004 election.

The Villages Homes May Exceed Standards...Get an Inspection Anyway

Came across this article in The Villages Daily Sun about homes that have been built since 2002 in The Villages exceeding the required construction standards.

While homes in the area where The Villages is located need to be built to withstand 100 mph winds, they are engineered and built to withstand 110 mph winds. Wa-la-ya but...

The article implies that you shouldn't bother having a home inspection done...that all home inspectors are crooks and aren't licensed anyway. If you've read any of my books, you'll know I strongly recommend having a home inspection done before buying a home anywhere...no matter how it was supposedly "engineered and built".

Lots can happen once "certified" house plans leave the building department office. Always best to be safe and get an extra set of eyes on the house before going forward.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bloomberg: "Market to get worse in '08"

On the heals of my post the other day about possible real estate market optimism for 2008, Bloomberg has a report today saying things will get worse in 2008.

According to some experts quoted in the article hope for a turnaround in 2009...at best. Bad news for homebuilders, mortgage lenders and the like.

Good news if you're a boomer looking to get a good deal and don't have a house to sell first.