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Since tropical storm Fay has been in the news for the past week, we should report on how it really affected the Central Florida area. Many potential residents have the mistaken impression that a hurricane in Florida means that the entire state is ingulfed in a huge storm event with much damage and flooding as the result. Nothing could be further from the truth. While on radar maps, clouds did appear to cover much of the Central Florida area, the actual storm itself was many miles away and had minimal effect on our area.
Here in Ocala, we had a few days of rain with occasional windy periods no stronger than we would normally experience in an ordinary Florida thunderstorm. As usual, news reports concentrated on low-lying areas along the coast which did receive much more rain than the Ocala area, and these areas did experience some localized flooding.
As mentioned in a previous blog, the central Florida area around Ocala has seen very little real tropical storm or hurricane activity over the past 50 years or more. True, we do see some effects in the form of rainy conditions and mild winds as storms move through coastal areas to the south of us.
To prove this point, here is a tracking map produced from the NOAA website that shows all hurricanes (Category 1-5) that have crossed Central Florida since 1960:
Note that when a line changes from red to yellow that means that by the time the storm has reached that point, it has degraded from a hurricane to a tropical storm.
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Check out “Where To Retire” Magazine this month for the article entitled “8 Popular Spots With Home Bargains Now.” It names Ocala, Florida, as having some of the “most affordable housing in Florida, and one of the state’s lowest costs of living.”
According to the article, prices for new homes in the Ocala area dropped from a median of $169,000 in October, 2006, to $145,000 in February 2008, according to Bert Meadows, president of the Ocala-Marion County Association of Realtors. “Sales started picking up in April,” he said. “In April, the average listing price of an existing home was $167,700 and in May, it was $186,538. We’re predicting within a year we’ll have a shortage of homes because builders backed off and we’ll have gone through some inventory, which we saw drop a bit in May.”
The article also mentioend SummerGlen as one of the featured retirement communities in the Ocala market, offering special new home pricing from the $150,000’s.
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Many people have started to think that Central Florida is no longer the retirement paradise that it used to be. We hear many comments that potential newcomers are afraid of hurricanes, that insurance and property tax rates are too high and that the area has become generally too expensive. While some of these concerns are valid in some parts of Florida, Central Florida has been largely spared the problems in other parts of the state that are often reported in the news media.
Since this is hurricane season, let’s talk about hurricanes. Did you know that the last hurricane to cross Central Florida–specifically the Marion County/Ocala area–was Hurricane Gladys in 1968? That’s 40 years ago. In fact, since 1950, there have been only two hurricanes and three tropical storms that have significantly affected the area. (This is based on the excellent hurricane/tropical storm tracking site that NOAA maintains at http://maps.csc.noaa.gov/hurricanes/.) Central Florida generally sees very little effect from the hurricanes that often cross South Floria or skirt the Atlantic or Gulf Coasts.
As a result of having far fewer storms than other parts of the state, Central Florida enjoys relatively low insurance rates. Most medium priced homes, such as those in the SummerGlen community in south Ocala, can be insured for under $1,000 per year. Remember that newer homes in Central Florida are built to strict building codes that are mandated statewide so insurance rates on new homes are much lower than on older homes.
Likewise, taxes on moderately priced homes are also relatively low compared to other parts of the U.S., particularly when you consider the lack of a state income tax and relatively low sales taxes. Taxes on homes in the $200,000 to $250,000 will probably run between $2,500 and $3,500 per year, if you are a Florida resident and enjoy the homestead exemption. That may be higher than you are paying in property taxes on your current home in another state, but just think of all the other taxes you are paying that Florida residents do not pay.
Lastly, let’s move to the issue of the cost of living. There are many things to consider here, but I’ll be you are going to find that overall, Central Florida is very affordable. Housing is moderately priced, even for new modern well-equipped homes. Typical homes in SummerGlen, for example, range from $155,000 to $250,000 and include excellent features and community amenities. Because Central Florida cities are smaller and easier to get around, you spend much less gas travelling to shopping, medical care and entertaining and avoid all the expenses of living in larger cities (for example, free parking is available almost everywhere you go in Central Florida.) You’ll find the cost of food, entertainment and just about anything else comparable to almost every other part of the country, except for those expensive big cities. And let’s not forget about all the money you won’t be spending on fuel oil or other energy to heat your home because of our excellent climate.
So come on down. Central Florida is still a great place to call home. We’re looking forward to having you join us.