Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

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alpaca1
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Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by alpaca1 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:51 am

So, my parents are getting old and wanted to retire.. in Florida.

The thing is, we live in Virginia and that is hundreds of miles away. How do we go about "house shopping"?

They can't just be like "Okay this weekend lets drive down to the house to check it out..."

It seems risky because inevitably there will be houses for sale with hidden damage somewhere, and the worst possible situation would be to have bought a house "as is" and then find out that there's many issues with things like the pipes, or roof or something water related that could've been damaged on the house.

Fyi: They are targeting Ocala, or /Jacksonville/ St. Augustine (St. Johns County) and their budget is up to 200k and the maximum age of the house they are targeting is 10 years give or take 5 years.

Rupert
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by Rupert » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:55 am

They should rent a place for 6 months to a year before buying to make sure they like the location. Living in Florida isn't for everyone.

soccerrules
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by soccerrules » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:03 am

I will make the assumption that THIS is the area that they want to live. Now how to find a house ?

If it were me I would
1) Spend a lot of time on Zillow to see what is available for sale right now. You can search be location, price, # of rooms etc
2) Once you have an idea of what is out there-- then schedule a 1-2 week trip to go look at options in that area. If money is somewhat tight for a trip like this -- consider "off- season" AirBNB or VRBO condo/apt/house rental. It might take 2-3 trips to settle on a house - IDK
3) Could also contact realtor in that area and tell them what you want and have them do the work.

For grins in 10 seconds I found 1,781 homes for sale in Ocala,FL in the range of $125K to 200K. Happy Hunting !
Don't let your outflow exceed your income or your upkeep will be your downfall.

jebmke
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by jebmke » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:07 am

Rupert wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:55 am
They should rent a place for 6 months to a year before buying to make sure they like the location. Living in Florida isn't for everyone.
I would suggest even longer. Maybe a year or two. It takes a while to figure out if you made the right move and to find the right neighborhood.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

alpaca1
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by alpaca1 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:10 am

soccerrules wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:03 am
I will make the assumption that THIS is the area that they want to live. Now how to find a house ?

If it were me I would
1) Spend a lot of time on Zillow to see what is available for sale right now. You can search be location, price, # of rooms etc
2) Once you have an idea of what is out there-- then schedule a 1-2 week trip to go look at options in that area. If money is somewhat tight for a trip like this -- consider "off- season" AirBNB or VRBO condo/apt/house rental. It might take 2-3 trips to settle on a house - IDK
3) Could also contact realtor in that area and tell them what you want and have them do the work.

For grins in 10 seconds I found 1,781 homes for sale in Ocala,FL in the range of $125K to 200K. Happy Hunting !
That sounds pretty similar to what I had in mind. Yeah there's a ton of homes.. I suppose if you filter it down to specific criteria it should be much less.

Thanks!

md&pharmacist
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by md&pharmacist » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:12 am

Consider The Villages.

Also consider quality of healthcare/hospital system available in the area.

alpaca1
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by alpaca1 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:14 am

md&pharmacist wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:12 am
Consider The Villages.

Also consider quality of healthcare/hospital system available in the area.
Good point. I did check The Villages but neither of them drink alcohol.

I wonder if it's overblown and that most of the folks there drink moderately...

adamthesmythe
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by adamthesmythe » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:19 am

There are really only two sensible options.

1. House-hunting trip of days to weeks.
2. Rent first for X months.

The third, foolish option is to buy sight unseen.

I did #1 despite the common, and sensible, advice to rent first. I have made a habit in my career of ignoring good advice. It worked out well.

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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by Sandtrap » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:21 am

jebmke wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:07 am
Rupert wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:55 am
They should rent a place for 6 months to a year before buying to make sure they like the location. Living in Florida isn't for everyone.
I would suggest even longer. Maybe a year or two. It takes a while to figure out if you made the right move and to find the right neighborhood.
+1
And, purchase with resale in mind. Always have an exit plan.
aloha
j

soccerrules
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by soccerrules » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:40 am

alpaca1 wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:10 am
soccerrules wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:03 am
I will make the assumption that THIS is the area that they want to live. Now how to find a house ?

If it were me I would
1) Spend a lot of time on Zillow to see what is available for sale right now. You can search be location, price, # of rooms etc
2) Once you have an idea of what is out there-- then schedule a 1-2 week trip to go look at options in that area. If money is somewhat tight for a trip like this -- consider "off- season" AirBNB or VRBO condo/apt/house rental. It might take 2-3 trips to settle on a house - IDK
3) Could also contact realtor in that area and tell them what you want and have them do the work.

For grins in 10 seconds I found 1,781 homes for sale in Ocala,FL in the range of $125K to 200K. Happy Hunting !
That sounds pretty similar to what I had in mind. Yeah there's a ton of homes.. I suppose if you filter it down to specific criteria it should be much less.

Thanks!
I think the ability to look at 20-40 pictures of each home online will be a game changer for your parents compared to probably their (and mine) last home purchase.
Don't let your outflow exceed your income or your upkeep will be your downfall.

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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by neilpilot » Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:49 am

Do they happen to have any close friends in their area of interest who can possibly do any simple advance screening?

BTW I'm amused by your statement that "the maximum age of the house they are targeting is 10 years give or take 5 years". Does this translate to "the maximum age of the house they are targeting is 15 years", or is there a different way to interpret this ?

pennywise
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by pennywise » Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:02 am

I concur with the several responses about spending some non-committed (ie home purchase completed) time in Florida first. It tends to be somewhat of a polarizing place; people either really like living here or they really hate living here. While some areas elicit more of that dichotomy than others-my town Miami probably being top of the list-the state has some aspects that are so different from anywhere else that I don't believe anyone can or should make major life altering plans or spend major life altering amounts of money before being truly familiar with what they're doing.

As others have mentioned it's important to figure out first exactly where to live. The dream of water front or water-vicinity homes should be tempered by watching for MANY cycles to determine what if any flooding is happening, if it's getting more severe, what the status of the flood insurance for the area is, and so on. Speaking of insurance, homeowners insurance is a huge issue for Floridians and with the increase and unpredictability of major storms most of the state's residents are now facing very expensive costs to keep that insurance. This needs to be factored in to cost of living as a rising liability. For some folks, particularly retirees on fixed incomes, homeowner's insurance increases are actually forcing them out of the homes they bought years ago!

Medical care--Florida has a lot of elderly/retired living there so it isn't tough to find good health care centers, but it is important to know where you want to be for your own particular current or reasonably projected problems. So if for example your parents have eye troubles, the #1 eye hospital in the US is at Bascom Palmer. Which is in Miami LOL.

Taxes and services-Florida is known for having no income tax but that means a higher level of sales taxes, fees on transactions etc. Do some serious number crunching especially if the constraints include retirement income, it's not fun to need a side hustle at 70 YO to afford to live in Florida.

Lifestyle factors-it's known as a transient place for a good reason. Generally people in Florida come and they go, so if for example your parents have lived in and loved a community with the steady comfort of long time neighbors and friends around who don't change much, moving here may well be a major life style shock. But if they are people who yearn for the ability to be outside enjoying activities year round it's certainly easy to do that in Florida and to find others who share that passion--lots of golfers and tennis players and fisherman all over the state for sure. Yet another factor--if your parents are used to a temperate climate, like say Virginia, the surface of the sun heat of a Florida summer is going to be a shock that cannot be explained, it has to be experienced.

So definitely take some time and go slow!

RickBoglehead
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by RickBoglehead » Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:13 am

+1,000 to not buying a home remotely. Prior to an offer being made, an onsite visit is the only sensible option.

I had to smile at the wording in the OP's post:

"So, my parents are getting old and wanted to retire.. in Florida.

The thing is, we live in Virginia and that is hundreds of miles away. How do we go about "house shopping"?

Parents want to move to Florida, but the OP has to do the house shopping?

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Toons
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by Toons » Fri Jun 08, 2018 11:31 am

Start With Zillow
Search Anywhere.
Link is for St Augustine.

https://www.zillow.com/homes/saint-augu ... 3sQAvD_BwE






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gasdoc
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by gasdoc » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:01 pm

alpaca1 wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:14 am
md&pharmacist wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:12 am
Consider The Villages.

Also consider quality of healthcare/hospital system available in the area.
Good point. I did check The Villages but neither of them drink alcohol.

I wonder if it's overblown and that most of the folks there drink moderately...
Whether or not you drink alcohol is irrelevant to life in The Villages.

gasdoc

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djpeteski
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by djpeteski » Fri Jun 08, 2018 1:03 pm

One thing that you should know is that Florida real estate moves pretty darn fast. Lets assume that they have vacationed enough here or even lived here previously enough to know that they want to live in Florida and have a good idea of the area in which they want to live. While it is not quite the early 2000's one should expect a reasonable value home to be on the market for less than a month and possibly less than a week.

So I would plan a trip when they are ready to buy. Sure you can do research prior to, but you will need to refresh the house list no more than three days before coming down to FL. Then shop and be prepared to make an offer, if possible that day. This means I would have any financing in order prior to coming down.

An alternative is to select new construction which is very attractive to some. However, keep in mind that the model and your house will look very different. One I visited had chandlers in the walk in closets. Which made it look very luxurious, but the one you purchase will not have. It will cost a lot more than just the purchase price as it will not come with window treatments or ceiling fans, and probably only basic light fixtures.

RudyS
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by RudyS » Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:15 pm

There's a large Del Webb community, Stone Creek, in Ocala. No idea of cost though.

likegarden
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by likegarden » Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:44 pm

We knew people who first bought a trailer in a retiree community, for about $25k 20 years ago. They lived there 4 months a year for 10 years, then had figured out where to live all year and permanently, and built a house 10 years later in a new community.

Hockey10
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by Hockey10 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:53 pm

Sandtrap wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:21 am
jebmke wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:07 am
Rupert wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:55 am
They should rent a place for 6 months to a year before buying to make sure they like the location. Living in Florida isn't for everyone.
I would suggest even longer. Maybe a year or two. It takes a while to figure out if you made the right move and to find the right neighborhood.
+1
And, purchase with resale in mind. Always have an exit plan.
aloha
j
+2

Definitely take the advice of Rupert, jebmke, and Sandtrap. Rent for a minimum of 6 months, preferably longer.

I read an article once that discussed the large number of retirees who moved to Florida, but eventually moved back home within the first 5 years for all kinds of different reasons.

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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by Gill » Fri Jun 08, 2018 4:35 pm

I spent many years in the trust business in Florida, with nearly all our clients being elderly retirees. It always struck me how common it was for a surviving wife to move "back North" after the loss of her husband. The reverse was rarely true. I always felt many couples came to Florida at the urging of the husband so he could play golf every day, whereas the wife was far less attached to Florida and missed her children and social contacts at her original home. Many people in Florida speak of having "two sets of friends" with whom they become reacquainted every six months.

I also found the same to be true for younger career people who were brought here by their husband's job. The trust companies I was with lost several officers who enjoyed their job in Florida, having been brought here from our Northern main offices, but whose families were not happy here. It is a major commitment moving to Florida and there are far more ramifications to the decision than just trading snow for sand.
Gill

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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by jebmke » Fri Jun 08, 2018 5:46 pm

^ I would add, Florida is a pretty big and diverse state. I grew up in northern Florida - it is quite unlike many other parts of the state. Talking about Florida as a monolith is almost like talking about "Europe."
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by tennisplyr » Fri Jun 08, 2018 6:09 pm

They should do some research to decide on what part of FL appeals to them. Then, spends some months renting/living there through Airbnb/VRBO to "test drive" potential areas. After you feel you have enough info, ask realtor to check out some places. You might Skype with them to look around at them. Buying without physically seeing is pretty risky.
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2comma
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by 2comma » Fri Jun 08, 2018 6:30 pm

My DS and DIL had an agent walk the house while they used facetime. When they found out the agent missed some obvious things I started going along to help look for issues. It helped them rule out some houses so they didn't waste time when they came to look in person. It also helped that they were from this area and knew what neighborhoods they were interested in. If you don't have local knowledge, rent.
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cockersx3
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by cockersx3 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 7:39 pm

All good advice. I have purchased several houses remotely in the context of job relocations, and can say that the electronic tools available nowadays are just incredible. Zillow is a top choice, but I also found Google Maps / Street View to be helpful as well. Realtors can do amazing things with pictures on a listing (especially when it comes to hiding undesirable aspects of a property's location). Being able to look at a satellite map of the house, and/or the normal view of the street, etc can help further narrow down your list - saves you from, say, wasting time on a perfect-looking house that's across the street from the pig farm or something....

In that vein, Bing Maps is also good - they have 3D images of some locations shot by satellite, which can give a better view of an area.

Having gone through this before, my view is that it is always a risk to buy like this. Would definitely recommend renting first if at all possible.
Gill wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 4:35 pm
I spent many years in the trust business in Florida, with nearly all our clients being elderly retirees. It always struck me how common it was for a surviving wife to move "back North" after the loss of her husband. The reverse was rarely true. I always felt many couples came to Florida at the urging of the husband so he could play golf every day, whereas the wife was far less attached to Florida and missed her children and social contacts at her original home. Many people in Florida speak of having "two sets of friends" with whom they become reacquainted every six months.

I also found the same to be true for younger career people who were brought here by their husband's job. The trust companies I was with lost several officers who enjoyed their job in Florida, having been brought here from our Northern main offices, but whose families were not happy here. It is a major commitment moving to Florida and there are far more ramifications to the decision than just trading snow for sand.
Gill
Very interesting! My parents moved down there several years ago, and it was very much my mom that drove that decision - dad was ambivalent at best. Exception to the rule I guess. :sharebeer

lgerla
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by lgerla » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:18 pm

Having recently made several visits to Florida (also moving from Virginia), I agree that it's imperative you look at houses you are interested in in person. Most of the houses we thought looked great online were definite "No's" as soon as we drove up or walked in the door, for various reasons. On the other hand, one house we almost didn't go to because the pictures were so bad turned out to be our "dream house." But - we found it 6 months before we were truly ready to make an offer, and it was gone by the time we could.

Even after visiting, and preferably before you put in an offer, do more homework. We put an offer on a house, and the sellers countered. In the counter, they provided disclosures that the house included a bit of unpermitted work (should have been done disclosed in the listing, IMHO). That is, no permit sought from the county, work never inspected, and possibly not up to code. Sure enough, we looked at the county tax map for the property and it showed it as 960 square feet smaller than the listing. They had an addition with plumbing and a new roof put on without permits. Realizing we would have to either 1) get the sellers to apply for permits and have all work brought up to today's code or 2) also need to disclose same to our eventual future buyer, we decided to pass...

In two weeks, we are moving into a rental house that we picked without visiting from Zillow. It's in a good area that we can scout from for the next year.

Finally, we found Trulia helpful and better than Zillow in some ways.

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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by runner540 » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:44 pm

jebmke wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 5:46 pm
^ I would add, Florida is a pretty big and diverse state. I grew up in northern Florida - it is quite unlike many other parts of the state. Talking about Florida as a monolith is almost like talking about "Europe."
Thanks for my laugh of the day!! 8-)

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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by IFKC » Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:48 pm

Plenty of great posts in here, and I'm far from retirement, but I'll add my 2 cents: Florida is way too variable (like any state, but Florida especially) to generalize about a RE market. Layer that with sometimes transient communities, building booms, and building busts, and I'm another +1 for verifying in person.
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by Misciagno » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:03 am

RudyS wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:15 pm
There's a large Del Webb community, Stone Creek, in Ocala. No idea of cost though.
Also a Del Webb just outside (5-10 min) of The Villages. Cheaper than living in the Villages, but ready access to all it offers. My dad had a beautiful place there and sold it, fully furnished, for $207k to move back to Ocala, where he knew the area better. His brother and cousins (all are from New York originally) live in the Villages and love it. Hundreds of clubs, tons to do, almost as many golf carts as people, outdoor shows and events. It's a complete lifestyle. OTOH, my dad can't stand the Villages, mostly 'cause he doesn't much like being around people. I've seen all the places he and my various relatives have lived in the area, and can say that if you just show up in Ocala without knowing anyone, you should like doing things on your own. The Villages does have a ton of happy hours and its share of golfer/drinkers, but that's beside the point. It's a nice, safe place to live with a ton to do, with or without alcohol. There's something for everyone. In Ocala, you're just in a town with lots of horse ranches.

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TeamArgo
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by TeamArgo » Sat Jun 09, 2018 7:00 am

DW and I faced a similar situation 4 years ago. We lived in KY and wanted to move to St. Augustine, where we had vacationed for years and had spent winter for two years following retirement (so we were pretty sure we wanted to be here). Our answer was to rent a condo for a month while a realtor showed us property. That way we became familiar with the different neighborhoods and areas, with all their pros and cons.
We did not find a place or make a purchase during that month, but the realtor kept looking afterwards. Four months later, a good place came on the market that he let us know about as it was being listed. We liked the pictures, so we booked a flight, a motel, and a rental car to look for ourselves. Nothing beats seeing it "live". In this case, it was just about everything we were looking for. We made an offer, and flew home. Counter-offers were arranged remotely from KY. Long story short, and we are now approaching our fourth year here in that home.
Does it bother anyone else that non-hyphenated is spelled like that, or that abbreviation is such a long word?

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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by Bluegrass62 » Sat Jun 09, 2018 9:14 am

alpaca1 wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:14 am
md&pharmacist wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:12 am
Consider The Villages.

Also consider quality of healthcare/hospital system available in the area.
Good point. I did check The Villages but neither of them drink alcohol.

I wonder if it's overblown and that most of the folks there drink moderately...
You are joking right? I have first hand experience of alcohol consumption in The Villages. It is my opinion that people there drink like fishes. The bars in the squares are packed everyday at Happy Hour.

Dandy
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by Dandy » Sat Jun 09, 2018 5:28 pm

hey should rent a place for 6 months to a year before buying to make sure they like the location. Living in Florida isn't for everyone.
+1

My parents did many many years ago because they couldn't afford to live in the NY metro area. They adapted. Many others tried but couldn't adjust. North Florida isn't quite as hot as the south. But can be plenty hot anyway. It's a pain to rent and move again but a bigger pain to buy and sell.

If they buy make sure to find out what hurricane insurance costs before they sign on the dotted line.

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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by AlphaLess » Sat Jun 09, 2018 5:35 pm

alpaca1 wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 9:51 am
So, my parents are getting old and wanted to retire.. in Florida.

The thing is, we live in Virginia and that is hundreds of miles away. How do we go about "house shopping"?

They can't just be like "Okay this weekend lets drive down to the house to check it out..."

It seems risky because inevitably there will be houses for sale with hidden damage somewhere, and the worst possible situation would be to have bought a house "as is" and then find out that there's many issues with things like the pipes, or roof or something water related that could've been damaged on the house.

Fyi: They are targeting Ocala, or /Jacksonville/ St. Augustine (St. Johns County) and their budget is up to 200k and the maximum age of the house they are targeting is 10 years give or take 5 years.
Just like anything, this activity requires planning a resources:
- one or more (likely: more) house-hunting trips, during which you still live in Virginia, but travel to Floriday,
- initial trips can be 1-week per clip,
- stay in hotels or B/B, AirBnB,
- become familiar with areas, neighborhoods,
- hire a real estate agent.

I think shopping for a house remotely is a fools errand.

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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by AlphaLess » Sat Jun 09, 2018 5:37 pm

md&pharmacist wrote:
Fri Jun 08, 2018 10:12 am
Consider The Villages.

Also consider quality of healthcare/hospital system available in the area.
I would also consider the walk score.
A high walk score would ensure that they walk a lot.
It is a huge determinant of longevity.

CurlyDave
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Re: Buying a house in Florida but you are hundreds of miles away

Post by CurlyDave » Sat Jun 09, 2018 6:18 pm

There are really only two sensible options.

1. House-hunting trip of days to weeks.
2. Rent first for X months.

The third, foolish option is to buy sight unseen.


There is a fourth option.

When DW and I approached retirement, we bought a motorhome and used it to travel to areas we were considering for long term living. We towed a car behind it. The advantages were that we could leave clothes, toiletries, kitchen supplies in the motorhome and did not have to pack for every trip, but could stay as long or as short a time as we wanted in any area. We could also take our pets with us so no arranging for care every time either.

We spent over two years looking at various areas and properties before we settled on one area and then a specific property in one town. For us it was a nice relaxed way to do this and when we bought our retirement property, we built a house and then sold the motorhome.

I suspect the total cost was higher than if we had used motels and/or Air b-n-b, but the ability to just leave when we wanted to without having to pack for each trip and the ability to extend our stay let us get a much nicer place than we would otherwise have.

If we had bought a used motorhome the cost would have been much less, possibly even less than staying in motels.

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