I have been eligible to live in a 55+ community for almost 2 years now. Still, our visit to Latitude Margaritaville in Daytona Beach last week, was the first time that we have ever visited one.
It is quite a development. Pitched as a “55-and-better community inspired by the legendary music and lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett, built on food, fun, music and escapism.” it has almost 4,000 housing units in total, with 3,300 of them already built and sold. It’s gotten a lot of attention in the media.
We’ve stayed at the Margaritaville Orlando Resort before, so we partly knew what to expect. Still, that’s a hotel & resort meant for vacationing, not a neighborhood development for full-time residency – with mailboxes, garages, and golf carts zipping every which way.
The marketing of the property is top notch. They have a beautiful sales office with a luxury shuttle bus that takes you to a sunny model home street with a dozen different colorful homes. Each home oozes the “carefree, casual island vibe” that so many people love. The homes are expertly & elegantly decorated by Tommy Bahama’s wife (just kidding, but they are beautiful).
We were drawn in by the “Breeze” cottage. A 3-bedroom villa with a little more than 2K square feet. The model has a big open floor plan living / dining / kitchen area with huge sliding glass walls that seamlessly open the house to the lanai & screened in Florida room / hot tub / pool. This model starts at $400K, but probably tops $700K with all the extras shown in the model.
So, are we buying a vacation home in Daytona Beach soon? No, I really don’t see that in our future. First, we wouldn’t really want to live on the Atlantic side of the state. We’re thinking either in Central FL / Orlando area or over on the Gulf Coast between Fort Myers & Clearwater. The company developing Latitude Margaritaville is also taking the concept to Hilton Head, Panama City, and somewhere in Texas.
The second issue for us comes from our experience leaving the models and going “off tour”. We went rogue – driving through a open gate into one of the finished neighborhoods in Latitude Margaritaville. There we saw the “real world” side of the development and we were a lot less impressed. Lots were small, yards were unkept, cars/golf carts were parked everywhere, and many folks looked like they had decorated their homes with the kind of plastic accessories they sell in the Walmart garden department. It just looked cheap. And quite crowded.
It could have just been that the neighborhood we randomly pulled into wasn’t their best, but it SO lacked the charm, sophistication, and understated elegance that we see at their Orlando resort. The community center – with a nice bar & grill, theater, fitness center, woodworking shop, and racquet courts all looked great, but I was a bit shaken by the actual neighborhood we drove through. I know some people hate powerful HOAs (and their big monthly fees), but I do feel they are worth it if they uphold high-standards for design/maintenance.
So, we’ll keep looking. We’re finishing year 2 of our 3-5 year “Florida Project” and still (slowly) learning our options. We’re not staying in Florida long enough to make a big investment, but getting closer. We have a few areas around Orlando that we’d like to explore this month, but we’re not generally inclined to impulse buy into anything.
Besides, Florida real estate prices continue to be scary high. Scary, scary, scary high.
What has been your experience looking at retirement neighborhoods? What do you look for / watch out for?
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