An island under the radar
If it's possible for almost seven miles of sand to be under the radar of most of the world, then Anna Maria Island is definitely a stealth place. And it doesn't take too much TV time to learn that Anna Maria is a special place with all of the ingredients that make up that perfect pot of stew called paradise.
I've written before about HGTV's show House Hunters International, which takes its viewers all around the world with home buyers. It's both a fascinating and informative journey seeing how people live around the world, but the shows that focus on Americans and Europeans purchasing vacation properties has recently resonated with me.
Most of the time these buyers are looking at properties in Mexico, Central America or on Caribbean Islands, and they almost always want the same things. Homes or condos in good condition with updated kitchens and baths are at the top of their list. Next up are beautiful beaches, clean aqua water and spectacular views. Pricing is all over the place, with condos meeting these criteria in Nicaragua starting around $200,000 and houses in the Caribbean in the millions.
There's no secret that I like to travel and experience other cultures, but if I were buying a vacation property, I think I could live without the unpaved roads of Costa Rica and Belize. And as charming as outdoor markets are, the scarcity of fresh meat and other creature comforts would get old real fast if you were visiting on a regular basis.
I almost hate to bring up the instability of governments in some of these small tropical countries, but the reality is that making a real estate investment is always risky. If our real estate market can fall so drastically, what can happen in less developed countries without a strong central government and resources to bounce back?
Currently on Anna Maria, you can buy homes and condos either on the water or with some type of water view starting at a shade above $200,000. This is, of course, in a safe community in a country which is not likely to be overthrown, with good medical facilities, paved roads, great shopping, public transportation and best of all Publix.
Even getting to Anna Maria is a lot easier and less costly, and our hurricanes have been traditionally less intense then Central America and the Caribbean. The only negative that I am forced to admit is four to six weeks of cool weather during the winter, but if you're coming from Alberta, Canada, Buffalo, New York or Copenhagen, Denmark you'll probably never notice.
As I watch these shows I find myself practically screaming to these poor uninformed buyers, what are you doing, you need to be on Anna Maria Island. Without a doubt the Island has all of the advantages of living in a beachy remote part of the world without any of the disadvantages.
I know there's a lot of anti-development sentiment out there about Anna Maria recently being promoted too much to the rest of the world and the changes that may bring. If you're already here, you may not care what the rest of the world is missing out on, but remember the positive changes to Anna Maria like great restaurants, Pine Avenue and Bridge Street restorations, wonderful boutique shops and more all came about because of demand for those services from recent visitors and residents.
Staying too far under the radar can be bad for business and real estate, but staying just at the right height can balance the old with the new. It's just possible we may have arrived.