Disney World, Universal Studios, the Everglades, golf courses and beaches are just some of the reasons why 70 million visitors come to the Sunshine State every year.
Florida is one of the major tourist destinations of the world. Yet with a permanent population of just four million in an area greater than England, Florida still offers a sense of space that appeals to many people looking for a holiday home or to relocate permanently.
The fact that the US is an English speaking nation is also a big plus for British property buyers who, along with large number of house hunters from Canada and northern Europe, find themselves spoilt for choice in the Florida property market. At prices far lower than one would pay at home, a property buyer can find apartments, condominiums and houses in a wide range of locations including the beach, marina, countryside, urban areas or on a golf course. One of the biggest headaches a property buyer will have is making a decision about which one to plump for.
Overview of the property market in Florida
- Slowing US house price increases and favourable exchange rates are good news for those buying Florida property
- A wide choice of Florida property to buy, suiting everyone
- Over 300 sunshine days a year
- A wealth of natural beauty and some of the world's most popular tourist attractions
- Easily accessible, with cheap flights available from a number of competing airlines
The property market in Florida
However, the rise of the pound against the dollar since 2006 means that property buyers' money goes a lot further than it did two or three years ago. It is difficult to generalise about prices of Florida property for sale as there are so many factors that determine the value of a particular property. In broad terms, prices in the north of the state tend to be lower than in the south (the more popular areas with tourists). And the Atlantic Coast, which includes Miami, Orlando and Palm Beach, tends to be pricier than the Gulf Coast in the west, in for example Tampa, Naples or Clearwater. But there is a lot of variation even at a local level.
With the burgeoning tourist industry, the rental market for Florida property is strong, both for short-term and long-term lets. Florida property buyers looking to earn rental income from their Florida property should make sure of the zoning of their home before committing to it, as there are restrictions on short-term lets in some areas.
The choice of property in Florida
There is still a great deal of land to develop in Florida, so as well as a wealth of re-sale Florida property, there is an ample supply of new and off-plan homes. Although the tourist resorts are often the first places that spring to mind when Florida is mentioned, it is a large state with a great diversity of locations to find a property. As with every property purchase, location is the prime consideration, and the best location for you rather depends on what you want the property for.
If you are looking to buy Florida property as a holiday home, proximity to one of the tourist resorts, a golf course or the beach will be an important factor. This will also maximise your chances of renting out your Florida property when you are not there. The downside is that understandably, property prices will tend to be higher in the most convenient spots.
Gated communities are a popular option, offering a private and secure environment with communal facilities. Condominiums are more common in urbanised areas, offering private properties and communal areas, and those looking for a Florida property have a huge choice, from ordinary family homes to palatial multi-million dollar residences. The excellent year-round climate in Florida attracts a large number of retirees. The security and social options offered by a gated complex will appeal to some, though there is also plenty of choice for the independent homebuyer too.
Those on a very tight budget might look at two other options. Fractional ownership schemes are becoming increasingly popular, and offer property buyers a chance to have a share of a Florida property and its usage for only part of the full price of the property. There are also plenty of mobile properties in Florida, although the devastating effects of recent hurricanes to these cheap dwellings would make a potential property buyer understandably hesitant.
Hot spots to buy property in Florida
Miami and Miami Beach offer the best opportunity for appreciation over the next five years. Miami remains a world class city and rental income from quality properties will escalate as the US economy reignites.
Lured by a unique combination of family fun, top quality golf courses and reliable rental returns, Orlando has been the first choice for many property buyers. It is in the world's single largest tourist destination, with more than 50 million visitors a year.
The process of buying property in Florida
- When a Florida property has been chosen, the property buyer and seller draw up a contract setting out the conditions of the sale, which also includes title checks and property inspections. Both parties are represented by different agents, who act through a broker.
- A deposit of at least 10 per cent is paid at this point. The property buyer loses this if they withdraw from the deal. If the property fails to meet the conditions of the sale outlined in the contract the deposit is refunded.
- The property buyer and seller then both appoint a settlement company in order to complete the transaction. The balance is paid by the buyer and both parties sign the final documents.
- The transfer of ownership is then registered with local authorities.
- When buying from Britain, you might want to consider giving a US representative power of attorney to act on your behalf. Making frequent trips can be difficult to arrange, not to mention expensive.
- You might also need to find an American notary here in Britain to oversee the paperwork.
Fees and taxes
- Allow between 3 per cent and 5 per cent for transfer fees, although this will be more like 2 per cent if you do not need to take out a mortgage on the property.
- Purchase taxes do not exist in Florida, but annual taxes of around 1 per cent of the value of the property apply.
- There are no agents fees for the buyer.
- Ensure you set aside at least $300 (£152) for title service companies.
- Population: 18.5 million
- Languages: English, Spanish
- Area (km2): 170,304
- Currency: dollar
- Dialling Code:+1
- Emergency services: 911
Private medical insurance is a must for anyone visiting the US, as all treatments in American hospitals and clinics are based on a pay-as-you-go system, which could leave you having to pay thousands of pounds if you fail to take out insurance.
Flights to Florida are widely available from major airports in Britain. It definitely pays to book well in advance - you could halve the cost of your ticket, especially if you plan to go during school holidays. Direct flights take around eight and a half hours and are offered by Virgin and BA among others.
Visa & residency issues
Visiting for periods of up to 90 days is pretty easy for British citizens, and simply requires that you complete a couple of forms on arrival into the country. However, for those wishing to spend longer periods of time, visa and immigration issues are notoriously complicated in the US and the bureaucracy involved - though pretty straightforward - should not be underestimated. Consult the American embassy for advice or hire an independent consultant to guide you through the steps.
Buying property in Florida - top tip
Lawyers are not generally used during the buying process in Florida, as title insurance firms review all documents. That said, it is well worth seeking advice from one to check your rights and fully understand your legal obligations. Better to be safe than sorry.
Some information contained herein may have changed since it was first published. HomesOverseas strongly advises you to seek current legal and/or financial advice from a qualified professional.