Are you thinking about moving to Florida? If so, then there are some essentials that you need to know about.
That’s because Florida is unlike any other state, and while there are theme parks aplenty, this state is about so much more.
If you are new to Florida or are considering a move here, then keep reading. You’ll gain some valuable insights that will help you make a smooth transition into being a Floridian.
Always Assume There's a Gator
Florida is home to lots of alligators. In fact, there are so many of these crocodilians that it’s always wise to assume that there’s a gator lurking in every freshwater lake, river, marsh, pond and canal. That applies equally to natural and manmade water features.
Despite the large number of alligators, deaths by alligator are rare. Since 1973, there have been just 23 such fatalities. Some of these have come about because people think that it might be fun to feed their picnic lunch to an alligator. Because alligators have a superb sense of smell, it’s wise to never swim or sunbathe in close proximity to bodies of water, and it’s never a good idea to feed alligators.
Chances are good that if you’ve been thinking about moving to Florida, then you’ve encountered news stories about sinkholes. While these phenomena do happen, they’re not as frequent as you might fear.
Sinkholes are depressions that form as a result of a collapse at the surface level of the planet. Some sinkholes are small while others are large enough to swallow whole buildings or neighborhoods.
The western side of Florida is more prone to sinkholes than the eastern side. Accordingly, if sinkholes frighten you, it might be wise to live on the eastern side.
Even if you decide to live in Florida’s Sinkhole Alley in Hillsborough, Hernando and Pasco Counties, you don’t have too much reason to worry. Most sinkholes are not catastrophic.
Hurricanes Happen, but There's Time to Plan
Anyone who’s new to Florida is bound to be hyper-aware of hurricanes. While hurricanes are relatively common, they don’t sneak up on residents. Usually, there are at least a few days’ warning before a storm strikes. This means that there’s time to prepare yourself and your home or to evacuate.
Plus, it’s wise to ensure that your home is equipped with heavy-duty storm windows and that you’re carrying insurance coverage that protects against hurricane damage.
If your property has been hit by a hurricane, here are ways to recover.
Homeowner’s Insurance May Be Different than You're Used To
If you’re already a homeowner, then you’re familiar with the insurance that goes along with owning a home. However, you’ll need additional coverage in Florida that you may not have now.
This additional coverage protects your home against things like hurricanes and floods. Insurance companies that offer hurricane policies are required to offer deductibles of $500 or two percent, five percent or 10 percent of the dwelling or structure limits. This deductible only needs to be paid once per hurricane season, and some insurers allow customers to finance this deductible.
If you want to protect yourself in the event of a flood, then you’ll need an insurance policy that may be purchased from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. This will cover any water damage.
The Beach Is Close By
You don’t have to live on the coast to be close to the beach. Even in Central Florida, a drive of one hour is enough to get you to some of the most famous beaches in the country.
This means that you have access to outdoor recreation like swimming, surfing, snorkeling and more. Anglers love it here since they can explore freshwater springs and deep-water fishing in the ocean.
All you have to decide is whether you want to visit the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean. Visit the Gulf for white-sand beaches and gentler waves that are welcoming to young swimmers. The waves on the Atlantic tend to be bigger and rougher, and the beaches are covered with golden-brown sand.
If you decide to live on or at least close to the beach, then be prepared to pay more in insurance. Premiums are higher the closer you get to the coast.
You'll Probably Have an HOA
A Homeowner’s Association, or HOA, is the rule rather than the exception in Florida. In neighborhoods where there is an HOA, the association owns the land and everything else that is outside your home.
HOA’s are intended to make life more convenient and harmonious for residents by imposing certain regulations. The community agrees on these regulations, and it is the responsibility of all members to abide by these rules.
The HOA effectively governs the exterior of your property, which means that the association must approve any changes you want to make. HOAs also may have regulations for the height and materials of fencing as well as the breeds of pets that are allowed.
People who live within the HOA pay dues to help with community maintenance. It is not possible for people to opt out of an HOA when one is already in existence. Accordingly, it’s a good idea to be OK with the HOA regulations in the neighborhood before you buy a house.
You might have an idea that the weather in Florida is almost always warm and sunny. We do enjoy a lot of that type of days here, but that’s not the whole story.
Summers are long, relatively hot and very humid. Thunderstorms can occur on almost a daily basis, but they tend to move through pretty quickly. Winter generally is mild across the state, with cool or cold weather invading only infrequently.
This may be starkly different from what you’re used to.
No State Income Tax + Florida Homestead Exemption
Florida offers some attractive tax advantages to residents. In addition to there being no state income tax, Florida has no estate or inheritance tax. Tax exemptions also may apply to you, such as:
- Military/veterans exemptions
- Limited income senior exemption
- Disability exemption
- Widow/widower exemption
- Homestead exemption
As long as you spend six months and one day out of every year in Florida, you may be eligible for numerous tax advantages.
On top of that, Florida offers homeowners a Homestead Exemption. This is a tax incentive available to you every year that you maintain a primary residence in Florida. The discount comes from the assessed property value starting at a minimum discount of $25,000.
Be Ready for Tolls
Are you used to toll roads where you live? If you move to Florida, they’ll soon become familiar to you. In total, Florida boasts nearly 750 miles of toll roads. Among these roads are the Florida Turnpike and numerous state roads. Most of these have signs displaying a special toll shield.
Programs such as E-Pass from the Central Florida Expressway Authority make payment of tolls easier and more affordable.
55+ Communities Abound
With sunny weather, beaches and plenty of tax advantages, there’s no shortage of seniors moving to Florida. To accommodate them, developers have built dozens of communities across the state that are reserved exclusively for residents who are 55 or better.
In fact, Florida is home to The Villages, the largest community for 55 or over residents in the world. The Villages and other communities offer amenities like swimming pools, golf courses, recreation centers, gyms and theaters. With a variety of clubs and hosted activities, these communities are just like upscale resorts.
Lots of Florida families choose to homeschool their kids. If you’d like to find resources to start or continue homeschooling, look to the many support groups that are found in virtually every Florida county. Homeschooling your children has never been easier.
Here is a great resource for finding groups, coops, lesson plans and more.
Living in Flood Zones and Wetlands
Surrounded by the Gulf and the Atlantic while also boasting numerous lakes and streams, Florida is inundated by water. Accordingly, you may be considering buying a house that’s in a flood zone or that is at least partially categorized as wetland.
Buying a wetland property requires a lot of hard work, and there may be restrictions with regard to what you can do on the land. It is possible to mitigate the wetland with pumping, but this is a constant and expensive fight.
If you are considering a property that’s located in a flood zone, which you probably will if you’re buying a home in Florida, then you’ll want to know the rating of the flood zone so that you’ll understand how it will affect your insurance rates.
Contact The Waypointe Group
If you’re considering buying a home in Florida, then contact the Waypointe Group. Our expert Realtors are dedicated to finding the perfect home for you in the Sunshine State and answering all your questions as you make this transition.
We are relocation experts and have helped families move from all over the country to Central Florida. Let us help you make your move to sunny Florida!
Call 407-801-9914 to get started!