Who Wants to Be a Florida Expatriate?

On January 10, 2012 by Jonathan Bright

It’s estimated about 1.5 million Brits take Florida holidays every year, and nearly half a million now live there. Scores of expatriates that set up shop in Florida were hit hard by plummeting house values, a direct result of the mortgage lending crisis central to the US recession. Now however, the market there once again is potentially a significant growth driver for the American economy. With house prices down, the word is out to get international buyers buying property to let as holiday homes. But, would you?

Florida Association of Realtors reckons average family house prices dropped by nearly half between 2006 and 2009, to about $142,000.

Interestingly though, in 2009 CNN Money ranked Deerfield Beach at the top of its Best Places to Live: Affordable Housing chart. It cited a median house price of just $67,000 in an area just a few miles north of the very upmarket coastal resort of Fort Lauderdale.
Do you think this is representative of house prices now, or something similar could be considered a good deal?

Flying over the Sunshine State one cannot help but notice the tangled web of cul-de-sacs and residential developments. They sprawl from the edges of the Everglades and swampland to the Atlantic coast with few discernible townships, only golf courses, to separate them. Meanwhile even outside the major hubs the coast’s unending sandy beaches are lined with pastel-shaded high rises and hotels, inviting cavalcades of watersports enthusiasts and sun-seekers alike.

So it seems this might be a good time to buy again, but would you trust the market? Moreover, would you borrow from a US lender or do you think companies have recognised their mistakes?

Of course, we know Britain cannot possibly compete with Floridian weather, mind you that hardly comes as a surprise. But temperatures can reach sweltering levels, and the infamous hurricane season can hit the south of the state especially very hard. Moreover most people just hate waiting for the hurricane to hit.
The wildlife, too, can be intimidating to say the least. Scare stories have emerged of scorpions, red ants and killer bees. Freshwater is on the whole considered unsafe, home to snakes and alligators – the last time I was in Florida my cab driver mused on a local news story where an alligator ended up in some poor woman’s kitchen after eating her dog – and the coast can attract the likes of sharks and dangerous jellyfish.

That said, there’s a reason the expatriate community in Florida is so widespread. Hopefully you’ve now paid pittance for your property you can now enjoy the permanent sunshine and the easy-living. You can enjoy the delights of wonderfully diverse cuisine, including obviously some fantastic seafood, as much as you can also find an English breakfast on most corners.

That staggering bastion of human invention – Kennedy Space Center – is nearby, although sadly you won’t see a shuttle launch. At least not until they make a new one. And of course the theme parks should keep most entertained for a while.

Miami and Miami Beach is one of the most vibrant and energetic US cities I’ve had the pleasure to visit, and Key West is known to most as a tropical paradise. Further still and you hit the Caribbean – the Bahamas and the fascinating island of Cuba are just a stone’s throw away.
We seem to be approaching a time when it could be quite a favourable prospect to buy in Florida again. Many have for many different reasons, and while buying up there might have turned into somewhat of a cliche in the last couple of decades, perhaps the tides have turned once again?