Vol 7 No. 34 - May 16, 2007

‘Half-backs’ scamper north – but only half way

By Louise Bolger
sun staff writer

Call me a snob. I’ve been called a lot worse, but recent reporting in local papers about the sad state of the Florida real estate market has started my blood boiling.

One of the stories talked about the advantages of renting rather than buying in an overstocked market. It’s no secret that renting a home you may not be able to sell is a viable option for homeowners, and this accounts for some of the very reasonable rental fees available. But if you really read the story, it turns out that the people who are choosing to rent rather than buy are either unqualified buyers or temporary renters who ultimately will buy. None of this is a new phenomena.

However, the story that really got me going discussed Florida residents who, because of financial pressures relating to taxes and insurance, are moving half-way back between Florida and the northern states, settling mostly in the Carolinas. The term assigned to these individuals is "half-backs," which is a little too cute for me. The story gives the impression that Florida has become so expensive to live in. Because of taxes, insurance and escalating home prices, the average family or retiree can’t afford to relocate here any more and is moving on to less expensive areas of the country. Of course, it goes on to say that even though more people are moving out of Florida, more than enough are moving in to maintain Florida’s status as one of the nation’s fastest growing states. Someone out there obviously doesn’t agree.

My take on this, and here’s where the snob appeal comes in, is a lot of people retired or resettled to Florida because it was a cheap state with good weather. Well guess what? It’s not cheap any more, and in my opinion that’s a good thing. Why would potential out-of-state residents, especially baby boomers, who have always demanded a high quality lifestyle, want to settle someplace that’s considered cheap? It just doesn’t go with the whole young-retiree-live-life-to-the-fullest image. I’m personally happy to see our area escalating in price, even if it means higher taxes. To me, that translates to a more upscale buyer moving into the area keeping the prices even higher in the future.

True, Florida is going through a painful readjustment in the real estate market, primarily because of over speculation, which will take several more years to settle down. But when that happens, watch out. Florida real estate will appeal to a whole new generation of retirees and not the ones who are looking to live on the cheap, but well heeled boomers ultimately bringing with them the demand for higher quality goods and services. These buyers also have a better understanding and more sophisticated view of taxes and insurance and the resources to afford it.

So if the half-backs want to travel north to escape taxes and insurance, I say good luck, but don’t call me in January when the ice storms hit or in August when there’s no sea breeze to calm the temperatures. And if you think you’re escaping hurricanes, the Carolina coast has always been a prime target for the big one, so don’t forget to pack the candles and batteries.

OK, so I’m a snob, but I’m also a realist, and I say follow the money and the money always goes to the best places. You get what you pay for in this world and the people with the money know that. If the half-backs are looking for a bargain, leaving Florida is probably the right move. And if they think it’s overpriced now, wait till they see what happens in a few years.

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