House Hunter: 'We'd like a lettable family property in Florida. Should we buy new or resale?'

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The Independent Online

Jane Hammond and Liz Peters write: "We are sisters and between us we have two husbands and five children.


Jane Hammond and Liz Peters write: "We are sisters and between us we have two husbands and five children. Last year we went on holiday together to Florida and really fell in love with the place. We're now seriously thinking about clubbing together and buying a place of our own out there, which we can use ourselves and also rent out.

"We shared a villa with its own private pool and it was just the sort of place we'd like to buy. We want to be able to use it for holidays together so we'll need somewhere that has at least four bedrooms and preferably two bathrooms.

"We've heard that there are some areas in Florida where you aren't allowed to rent out your property. Is this true? We stayed in the central Orlando area but are interested in finding out if there are cheaper areas - someone suggested looking in the north. We've also heard that, as Brits, we are only allowed to spend a certain amount of time in the property and wonder how this works if we co-own it.

"We'd like some advice on what sort of property to buy and are hoping to buy a resale property. We've heard they are cheaper but would this affect our rental income? We'd also like some advice on managing the property as, to cut costs, we wonder if we can set up a website and advertise locally here in the UK or would it be worth putting the property with an agent?

"We've been trawling the internet and have attended several property exhibitions but would be grateful if you could put us in touch with someone knowledgeable as we'd like more information before we go out to have a look around."


Garrett Kenny writes: "We have to establish if the rental income is an important factor in the purchase - most clients want to rent their property to offset expenses.

"Liz and Jane need to buy a property in a resort that is licensed for 'short term rental', which will allow them to let the home on a nightly basis. As for cheaper areas, they are around, but if they want to rent they need to buy within 25 minutes' drive of the theme parks.

"The visa waiver programme allows Brits to visit without a visa for up to 90 days. If you wish to stay longer then you need to apply for a visa, but buying a property in Florida does not entitle you to live there full time.

"The type of property that Liz and Jane want, a four-bedroom house with two master suites and preferably three bathrooms is the best type of rental property and Liz and Jane should engage the services of a licensed realtor, who can find the best property to suit their needs. All resale properties are listed in a computer system called 'the multiple-listing service'. Their realtor will then access this system and, if they decide to buy a resale, can tell them what similar properties in the same area have sold for so they will know if they are getting good value.

"New versus resale is really a personal choice but, if they choose resale, I'd advise using a home warranty inspector who will give them a written report highlighting potential faults of the property. We also advise buying a home warranty protection policy - around $350 (£190) - which gives 12 months cover against break-downs in the air conditioning or cooker or the like.

"If Liz and Jane opt for new then they will be able to choose their preferred colour scheme and furniture pack. New properties carry a one-year warranty on all working items in the home and a 10-year structural warranty.

"Liz and Jane should deal with a company who will represent them not the builder. The person sitting in the show home is there only to sell that builder's product! If you have your own realtor he or she will act exclusively for you and, importantly, will have local knowledge."

Garrett Kenny owns the franchise of Coldwell Banker Team Realty who have 3,500 offices in the UK and Florida: 001 863 420 9404;


Property one: Southern Dunes, Davenport.

Price: $265,000 (£145,000).

Agent's details: Detached property set in a gated development overlooking the Golf Digest four-star-rated championship course. The development features clubhouse, pool, tennis courts, park and playground. The property is fully furnished and comprises a living room, dining room, four bedrooms and three bathrooms.

Property two: Espirit Estate, near Disney World.

Price: $229,900 (£125,000).

Agent's details: Minutes from Disney World, this detached property is fully furnished and features a communal south-facing pool. The accommodation comprises a kitchen with dining space, formal dining room and living room, kitchen/family room, four bedrooms and three bathrooms. Appliances include dishwasher, gas appliances, dryer, disposal, microwave, refrigerator and washer. Outside there is a garage/carport for two cars. there is also a communal tennis court.

Property three: Florida Pines development, Davenport.

Price: $184,900 (£101,000).

Agent's details: This detached property comprises kitchen/dining room, living room, four bedrooms, two of which have bathrooms en suite and a third bathroom. Outside there is a south-facing heated swimming pool and garage space for two cars. It is offered fully furnished and has a one-year extended home warranty.


"This advice has been very helpful and it is especially useful to get some real insight into how the American system works as it seems to be quite different to the UK. We will definitely be contacting a local agent, a realtor, so that we will then have access to the multiple listings service that Garrett talks of. Unlike the tortuous process of house hunting in the UK it seems that you only have to register with one agent as they all have access to the same list of properties, which is definitely preferable. We still haven't decided whether to go for new or resale property but we're glad to hear that the size of property we are after - four bedrooms and two bathrooms minimum - is the one which rents best as this should I hope give us a good income."

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