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Due South — 4 Tips For Buying A Vacation Home In Florida

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For many people, the idea of buying a vacation home in Florida is a dream come true. The tropical environment, history, culture, and plethora of fun activities in this state make it an ideal spot for a second home. But, before you put your money down on your new Florida house, it's vital to know how to make the best decision for yourself. Here are 5 of the top tips for buying in Florida.

Know Your Area. Florida offers many different locales — each with its own tone, style, and appeal. Before you start looking for a home, determine what your personal style is and where you fit in the best. Love the laid-back island life? Try areas on the Gulf coast or in the Keys. Want somewhere with a lot of fun for the kids (and kids at heart)? You may want to look for a house in the Orlando or Tampa areas. Looking for great night life? Miami might be your best bet. No matter what your preferences, learn about what the individual areas in the state offer rather than thinking of the state as a single, homogeneous location. 

Do a Test Run. Even if you've visited Florida before, you may want to plan a longer temporary stay before committing to buying a house. Many vacationers who come for a week or two in the ideal time of year may find that other seasons — such as hurricane season, spring break season, or the humid summers — in certain regions aren't nearly as appealing as they thought.

Decide on Renting. Buying a second home gives you the option of renting it out when you're not using it. In a vacation hot spot like Florida, renting your home out can bring in enough extra income to pay for its costs. But, becoming a landlord or guest house operator means more work, more financial risk, and having to deal with customers. Before you decide on your budget and location, decide if you're up for using it as an investment home or not. If you're on the fence, talk with your real estate agent about management services.

Learn the Costs. Florida has some advantages and disadvantages when it comes to the financial part of buying a house. Insurance, for example, may be trickier than normal due to its proximity to water, potential flooding, and storms. An older home that doesn't meet some modern recommendations may cost more to insure as well. However, you may find that you can use Florida's homestead tax exemption if you decide to make Florida your permanent residence (such as upon retirement). 

Watch the Market. Florida real estate can be quite volatile, so it's important to know how the housing market is behaving before you decide when to buy. In addition to doing your own research online, work with an experienced local real estate agent in your intended area. He or she can help you meet your budget, learn how the local market is doing and what its history is, and price different options. Being patient and educating yourself about Florida's ever-changing real estate market is key to making a good choice.

By following these few tips before you purchase, you can find the best place in Florida to buy a home and make the wisest decision about how to proceed with it. Then, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy your fun in the sun.