Photo of a couple selecting the best home for them.

How To Buy The Right Home In Southwest Florida

So you want to buy the right home in Southwest Florida. The first thing to start to talk about with your real estate agent is why you’re looking for a new home.

Most of my clients are either relocating here for a job, or they are purchasing a home for their retirement or vacation home a second home, and it’s been a life goal for them.

The Importance of Your “Why”

Starting with your why is the most important information to share with your agent, because there are so many things that we will talk about that will pivot off of your why.

Value vs. Lifestyle

If you are purchasing it as a home, that is a smart financial decision for your family and an alternative to renting. You might be a first-time home buyer or you’re on a budget, it’s going to be more of a value proposition and maximizing what you’re getting for your money by talking about the nuts and bolts of it. How many bedrooms, how many bathrooms? Where is your commute to? Where do the kids go to school? That’s maximizing value.

The flip side of that, which we have a lot of in Florida, especially my clients, it’s not necessarily about maximizing value. It’s about the fulfillment of a life goal, a dream, or a lifestyle. This is typical once a person reaches over that tipping point of having more money than time, then you’re not necessarily looking to maximize your square footage or your commute time to a particular location, but more to check off those boxes for that home that you’ve been waiting decades to buy.

Consequently, it allows you to enjoy your life with your family, and have your kids, and your grandkids come down. Giving your wife the kitchen that she’s always dreamed of, and spending time on the golf course with like-minded people. Just your goals and your why are going to be a lot different depending on which stage in your life you’re at. From there, your real estate agent is going to start handpicking different communities that you might want to consider based on your why and your lifestyle choices.

Talk With Your Agent

So you want to begin a conversation with your real estate agent as soon as you make the decision that you want to buy a home in Florida. There’s no wrong time to begin this conversation. Sometimes people have the conversation in order to determine whether they’re serious about buying a home in Florida or not.

Other times, you’ve already decided and narrowed it down but still trying to decide which city. Then you start talking to agents in different areas of Florida to determine which city is the best match for your lifestyle.

In another case, maybe you’re relocating to this specific area and you know you’ve got a hard deadline. You need to work with a real estate agent in order to line everything up properly. There’s really no wrong time and people should not be intimidated about contacting a real estate agent to talk about their move because they feel like they’ll be pressured.

Proper Communication

If you’re if you feel like your real estate agent is pressuring you to make a decision before you’re ready, then you probably have the wrong agent, or you need to have a conversation about how you feel so that they know where you’re actually at in the stage.

So communication is so important and really communicating your why and your timeline and how comfortable you are with the process. Also, having a conversation about your goals is going to keep you from making an impulsive decision that you might regret. And we’re always going to bring you back to that original value or lifestyle. What are we looking for? And that’s okay if it evolves, we’re here to listen. To help you unpack everything and continue to point you back to what you originally said that you were looking for.

Influences and Hobbies

If we start to go off track, one of the questions that we might ask you is if you have friends or family that already live here in Southwest Florida. If you have people in your life who are of great influence, you might want to make sure that you run the communities to them to make sure that they agree that you’re making a good decision in the community where you decide to live.

We’ll ask for this information to try to get a frame of reference for what you’re looking for here in Southwest Florida. If all of your friends that have moved here all live in a certain type of country club, and then you decide to buy into a different type of country club, then you might have more buyer’s remorse afterward if your friends’ opinions are very important to you.

We might also ask if you have particular hobbies or a particular location that you frequent regularly that we want to stay within close proximity of. And if you go walk the beach every day and that is your thing, then you definitely want to stay within a certain proximity of the beach. If you travel internationally or domestically frequently, you might find it more convenient to be within a certain distance of the airport.

HOA Preferences

Another thing to ask is are you an HOA person or are you not?

There’s a lot to be said for living in a home where it’s maintenance-free and you have someone come and mow your grass for you and do your landscaping and maintain things. You don’t have to worry about those kinds of things, living in places with HOA allows you to have more free time for your personal life, for work, for family, for entertaining, etc.

I have a lot of videos on my YouTube channel that talk about the pros and cons of HOA living so make sure to check them out.

Living Outside HOA

We’ve lived outside of HOA fees, and this was when there were certain things that my husband and I wanted to be able to do and to have certain freedoms that we could not have in an HOA. For example, a sawmill and a kiln to do woodworking in a barn with a tractor. Having some acreage in an agricultural rural area is really beneficial for that kind of lifestyle.

There are certain communities that you’ll need to stay clear of if you do not want to be in an HOA. In the state of Florida, there are hundreds of flavors of HOA fees. You might not even know you’re in a homeowner’s association. But there are a lot of benefits to having a homeowner’s association and some caveats, and we can discuss that further.

Pet-Friendly Communities

I might ask you if you have pets. If you have very large dogs, for example, it will be hard to live in a townhome or a condo, or if you have any of the breeds of dogs that are considered to be aggressive, that may be difficult in some communities.

Most new construction communities will allow any kind of pets in the beginning until the developer turns over the community to a professional association, and at that time, the people who live in the community already are going to vote and enact certain rules. But sometimes it’s a maximum number of dogs or types of pets. Of course, if you have horses, then you’re probably going to be in a rural area, where there are some HOAs that have stables and allow for horses. So this is a very important conversation, especially because our animals are a part of our family.

So we definitely want to consider that in our decision of where to live, you can see there are a lot of things that we think about before we even start to talk about the house itself because the community is the first thing that we really need to hone in on.

Budget Matters

So an important factor here, of course, is the budget, right? Whether you’re actually on a budget or not, there’s going to be an amount of money that you intend to spend on your purchase. And we’ll have to talk about your budget because that’s really important to narrow down the communities. There are thousands of communities in Southwest Florida, homeowner’s association or not. By having a price range, we can help you narrow down the focus to homes that are a much better match. We’re playing matchmaker with you here, which can be fun.

So the more we find out about you and what really lights you up and inspires you, the better we’re able to match you with the right community.

And when it comes to your budget with buying a home, it’s more than just the purchase price. So one of the other variables when it comes to the budget is the cost of taxes, insurance, and maintenance. Obviously, the more expensive the home, the higher those are naturally going to be. But there are different areas of Southwest Florida that have different tax rates, different CD amounts, and community development districts certain areas require flood insurance and certain areas do not. Depending on the age of the home, and the construction type of the home, all of those factors will play into the overall cost of maintenance, the cost to carry that home over time. So talking about budget is critical.

Financing Considerations

Also, are you planning to use cash or are you planning to leverage financing in the purchase? Because we need to get that conversation going. Once we find the right home to buy for you, we will need to be prepared with that proof of funds letter or that pre-approval letter in hand. So it’s critical to have this conversation right now. If you are financing, it’s important to know what kind of financing you’re doing, because there are particular homes that will not allow particular types of financing. Again, this is why we ask all of these prying questions. We want to get to know you more so that we can help you in the best way possible.

Long Distance Homebuying

If you are trying to buy the right home in Southwest Florida and you’re coming from out of state, I do have a video about working with an out-of-state realtor. You can check that out there, but I want to encourage you to start the conversation.

As soon as you know that it is your intent to buy a home in Florida, it’s okay if you’re not planning to come down for a year or more, depending on where you’re at in the process. Start to have that conversation. Learn more about the areas that you’re interested in. Get set up on the MLS with some emails that will allow you to mark your favorite properties. If you mark your favorites, when it goes from an active to a pending to a closed status in the MLS, you will continue to see that property stay in your portal so you can use it as a baseline.

There are a lot of considerations when buying the right home especially if you are a first-time home buyer in Southwest Florida. You have to consider reaching out to a professional real estate agent to guide you and provide you with all the necessary information you need to know before deciding on the right home just for you. Whether you already live in Florida or living out of state, having a local real estate agent help you sort the best properties within your budget and considerations will take off some of the hardships people face when buying a new home.

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