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The US is the most popular country after Spain for British people buying second homes abroad, and the majority of them buy in Florida. Attractions include the climate, favourable exchange rates and the availability of flights (and bargain fares) from all major UK airports. Few purchasers appear to be put off by travel time – a minimum of eight hours from London, depending on whereabouts in the state you are flying to.
As the US economy slid into recession and the long-standing property boom came to an end, many developers in Florida faced tough market conditions in which to promote their projects. One consequence of this has been that intrepid British buyers have been able to get some great discounts on new properties. Another is that the exchange rate between the US Dollar and Sterling means Brits are getting far more property for their Pounds.
Some watchers are predicting that the fall in Florida property is almost at an end, and prices have nearly ‘bottomed out’, so for people buying now it could be the perfect time for an investment.
This guide gives a flavour of the areas of Florida most popular with British second home purchasers – the central region around Orlando, the east (Atlantic) coast and the resorts on the southwest (Gulf) coast.
Although there are no restrictions on Britons buying a property in Florida or anywhere else in the US, there are limits to how long they can spend in the country each year (see Passports, visas and residency section). Many areas of Florida also impose restrictions on the number of days per year that homeowners are allowed to let their property. Some ban letting altogether, so if you are counting on your property in Florida to pay for itself through rentals in any way, it is vital that you know what the letting situation is as early as possible.
The central part of the state, particularly around Tampa and Orlando, has long been a favourite with British holidaymakers, especially families, as it is there that most of the big attractions are located, including Disney World, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and Sea World. Unlike some other parts of Florida, it is warm all year round, and there is less rain than in coastal areas.
Its popularity, and the resulting healthy rental market, which offers owners the best returns in Florida, makes the area a magnet for both second home purchasers and buy-to-let investors. Prices reflect this, but generally still represent good value as the volume of new construction helps keep them competitive. Most purchasers here are looking for detached villas with pools.
Unlike the inland areas around Orlando, the Gulf Coast tends to be wet, particularly in July and August, so the potential for letting properties, certainly to families, is not as good. However, it makes up for these disadvantages with magnificent white beaches, azure seas, plentiful moorings and fine restaurants – attributes that have made it popular with the super-rich. Around 60 per cent of the US’s wealthiest citizens winter at Naples, an exclusive resort on the Gulf Coast, or at Palm Beach, on the Atlantic Coast.
Consequently, the Gulf Coast is a hugely expensive area. Houses on the waterfront, in particular, command prices easily in excess of twice those of similar-sized ones in the Orlando area. Properties further inland or up the coast are slightly less expensive.
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