Here’s a (slightly revised) message I sent to a friend who wanted to know about Florida (she’s considering moving south). She only knew we love our Florida life and wanted to be filled in. You might be interested is my explanation to her. She asked about costs, pros and cons, and general information.
Here’s how I explained things to her:
Actually I don’t have a lot of knowledge about Florida in general. We moved to the community where we live because it was where my mom and dad had retired. I had to care for her so we went there. It ended up being an excellent choice for us, but I’m sure other folks would prefer other areas.
We have a place in Kings Point, a gated community, within Sun City Center. It’s about 30 miles east and south from Tampa. Ours is a very social environment. We love the activities which are centered around two large club houses, four outdoor pools, three indoor pools, tennis and pickleball courts, classes of every type, clubs of every ilk. We personally love dancing and belong to a ballroom dance club, a baby boomers club, a country couples club, line dance, and an Oldies but Goodies club. We also belong to the Michigan Club, a writers club, John’s in the chorus and we are part of several other organizations.
We pay a monthly home owners fee (about $400 a month) over and above our household expenses which goes to our owners association. The activities and facilities within Kings Point are supported by the HOA fees. The fee also covers cable TV, our “exterior” insurance, our lawn care, water bill, and maintenance on the exterior of the unit. It’s worth it. We have exercise rooms, safety, educational choices and fun.
With the exception of the Oldies but Goodies club and an occasional dance outside the gate, all the activities we are involved with are in Kings Point.
Why do we like the gated community? We can easily be snowbirds and spend six months in Michigan without worrying about our place in Florida. It is maintained without us being there. The city outside the gate (Sun City Center), is well kept, but the homeowners are responsible for their own lawn care, roofs, painting, etc. Often they pay a lot for services that are done for us.
Our residence is a condo which we purchased in 2008. It’s about 1,500 sq ft with a huge lanai (screened porch). We’re located on a golf course with a view of two lovely ponds. We’re within walking distance to one of the two club clubhouses with a large heated pool.
The landscaping is very nice. It’s a place you can be proud of. Kings Point has about 8,500 residents. Sun City Center has about 10,000.
The primary negative is the heat in summer. The area really clears out during the mid-summer months. It is in the 90’s most days with humidity. (Sorta like a hot, humid Michigan day but all the time.) Our area has successfully gotten rid of mosquitoes but we do have pesky “lovebugs” that don’t buzz or bite but they nearly crowd us out two times a year for a couple weeks each time. Sometimes January and February can get pretty chilly, but most of the time, we are able to enjoy the pool and lots of out-door time.
We have friends who first tried Sarasota but they sold their place there, and now live in our Kings Point community. Why? … They are very conscious of the risk of hurricanes (because they work with emergency radio and with emergency medical services). Sarasota was too vulnerable and at sea level, so they felt it was a risk. Our community is more elevated and 7 miles from Tampa Bay. We are the evacuate “to” area for much of our county. (We are where they’d direct folks if there is an approaching storm.) Our buildings are all cement block so very sturdy and quite storm resistent.
The community is enhanced with many volunteers. There’s a wonderful emergency service which staffs a free ambulance service for both Kings Point and Sun City Center. It’s a model for any community that cherishes it’s residences.
Kings Point also has the unique distinction of being served by a bus route with buses that will take you to doctor appointments, shopping centers, etc. It’s all free to residents.
But by some, KP is thought of as sort of unfriendly because you can’t just drive in. You must have approval of a resident before you can enter the manned gates.
Expenses?? Housing is CHEAP! You can buy an older unit for about $30,000 but you still have to pay that $400 home owners fee monthly. Of course there are nicer places up to about $200,000. Those same units were priced at $300,000 a few years ago, but we were really hit hard when the housing market tanked. (Values are gradually recovering but there are lots of deals to be had.)
You can also rent in the area. There are two kinds of rentals, annual and seasonal.) Annual is cheaper. Prices run as low as $800 a month if you sign a year lease. Seasonal rentals are generally for three or six months at a time (or occasionally one month). You can rent inexpensive units for about $1,500 a month (with a 3 month lease). Most of the seasonal rentals come furnished, but the yearly rates are proportionally lower and you generally provide your own furnishings. (Be aware that there’s a hefty tax assessed by the state of Florida for units rented for less than six months.)
Our condo is pretty typical. It’s about 15 years old but it’s been VERY well maintained with a new roof installed last year and the exterior totally painted (all of that exterior work was paid by our home owners association).
We have two bedrooms, two full bathrooms, a two-car garage, a huge living area 20 x 22, a dining room, kitchen, and my office.
Most everyone has a golf cart and the whole town is covered with golf cart paths. (After dark, you can’t have them on the streets in Sun City Center but it’s acceptable in Kings Point if you are equipped with headlights.)
We drive our big GMC diesel truck down there (to bring all the stuff we need for our stay). But once we’re down there, we put the truck in the RV storage area (which we rent for an extra annual fee) and we use our Florida car which is waiting for us in our garage. The other half of our garage is for our golf cart and a workshop for John. Also my washer and drier are in the garage (which I prefer because it’s always warm down there and the extra heat and mess is kept out of the house).
Food costs are a little higher than in Michigan but we pay less for our heating/air conditioning. (We paid last year to have a humidistat installed and it lowered the summer electric bill by about $40 monthly because the A/C doesn’t run as often but it’s triggered when needed to keep the humidity down.) Insurance is higher but part is covered by our home owners fee.
Yes, having a home in Florida is a luxury for us and we have no plans to sell our Michigan home. But I know that if anything ever happened to John, it’s where I would choose to live. It would be doable for me. I could swing it financially and it’s an easy life-style. If I ever got so I couldn’t drive, there are the buses and that’s a big sell to some folks. (Kings Point is the only city with this service.)
But for us it’s the pools, clubhouses, and the friends we have made. It seems that because everyone is from some place else, they are all open and friendly. I know everyone in my neighborhood down there. We socialize a lot and they are friends. Contrast that with my Michigan neighborhood where I can’t tell you the names of my next door neighbors and wouldn’t recognize them if I saw them elsewhere.
I am reluctant to encourage folks to come to our area. It’s kind of “our secret” but I do love it!!