9 Tips for Selling Your Home in the Winter

Is it harder to sell a home in the winter? Not necessarily, especially if you follow these nine trusted tips from expert Realtors.

1. Upgrade Your Home’s Curb Appeal

Winter may not represent the height of the growing season, but the state of your yard remains important to buyers. Make certain that flower beds look neat and tidy even if they’re not in bloom. Consider placing a few planters with seasonal blooms on the porch or along a pathway.

Rake away leaves and other yard debris, and also put away any out-of-season décor. Keep in mind that potential buyers may drive by at night to see what your home looks like. Install lighting along paths and flowerbeds and ensure that the porch lights are working.

2. Use Only Minimal and Tasteful Seasonal Décor

‘Tis the season for spreading holiday cheer, but not every buyer shares your celebratory mood. This means that it’s sensible to have a pared-down holiday display. Opt to only display the outdoor and indoor decorations that your family loves best, especially if these are tasteful and understated.

While you may love all of the lights, colors and motion-activated Santas, browsers may agree. They may be distracted or turned off by the display. Bearing this in mind, choose white lights and natural greenery to give your home a festive atmosphere that doesn’t overwhelm. Consider decorating one room instead of the whole house to give buyers a chance to see what your home looks like without holiday items.

Make certain that holiday décor is removed by the first days of January, when most house hunters won’t expect to see festive garlands and lights any longer.

3. Give Your Home a Good Cleaning

It’s important to not relax your cleaning standards when selling your home in the winter. Thanks to the harsher winter light and more time spent inside, your home can look dirtier than it might in other seasons.

Make certain that area rugs are clean by shaking them, vacuuming or running them through the washer if they are small enough. Clean the floor vents and baseboard heaters as well as the furnace room. Dust off the ceiling fans and light fixtures, and spend some time wiping down light switches and cabinet doors. Try to keep your floors as clean as possible by vacuuming or mopping between showings.

4. Don’t Overlook Seasonal Maintenance

Most homes need extra TLC in the winter, and when you’re trying to sell your home, it’s critical that you keep up with seasonal maintenance.

Schedule a cleaning and inspection of your HVAC or furnace system as early as possible. You want your heating and cooling equipment operating efficiently as it’s a huge selling point. Make certain that your home’s gutters and downspouts are clear, and trim any tree branches so that they don’t overhang or contact the house. Have your roof and chimney inspected for damage, scheduling any necessary repairs for the earliest possible date. Take a look at weather stripping and caulk to ensure that your home isn’t drafty.

5. Adjust the Temperature

Florida isn’t known for its freezing winter temperatures, but it still can get quite cool for many days. Ensure that your house is a cozy, warm temperature without being too hot. If you have a fireplace, consider lighting a small blaze to enhance the atmosphere and add some warmth.

Even if you prefer to have your thermostat set to 62 degrees in the winter, it’s wise to dial things up a few degrees so that house hunters get a warm and cozy vibe from your property.

6. Make the Lighting Just Right

Daylight hours are at a premium in the winter, even in Florida. This makes it more likely that your home may be shown in dusky light that could make certain aspects of the interior or exterior of your home difficult to see.

To take advantage of as much natural light as possible, make certain that your windows are clean both inside and out. Open the curtains and blinds to let in even more light. If you have dim bulbs in some fixtures, swap them out for brighter ones.

If your home will be shown on a gray, overcast day, then make certain that you take advantage of lamps, light fixtures and track lighting to give your home a rosy glow. A few well-placed flameless candles brighten up dark corners without giving off too much glare.

7. Make Your Home Winter Cozy

Add a few seasonal touches to your home’s décor to give it a cozier feel. Some blankets on the sofas and beds and additional throw rugs can make a huge difference. If you opt to use a scent diffuser of some kind, choose aromas like clove and cinnamon that are associated with the colder months. Place a coat rack in the entryway so that potential buyers have a convenient spot for their jackets too.

8. Have Seasonal Pictures on Hand

Does your home look quite different in the spring, summer and fall? Maybe you want to show off the fantastic blooms that appear in the summer but can’t be seen right now. Make certain that you make photographs of your home in various seasons available, perhaps in a small picture album, so that buyers can get a better idea of what your home looks like in other seasons.

9. Maintain Flexibility with Scheduling Showings

Winter can be a busy season with so many holiday obligations and events going on. This may mean that home buyers might request a showing earlier or later in the day than they might in other seasons. If you are serious about selling, then it’s wise to be flexible with your schedule so that as many house hunters as possible may visit your home.

Contact Florida’s Choice Realty

If the time has come to sell your home, call Florida’s Choice Realty first. Our expert Realtors are ready to help you sell your home fast and even find a new property no matter the season.

Best Neighborhoods in Amelia Island

Amelia Island is a favorite vacation destination for families across the country, so it’s no surprise that so many people would like to call it home. One of the chain of barrier islands known as the Sea Islands, Amelia Island is only 13 miles long, but it is loaded with golf courses, gorgeous beaches and luxurious resorts.

If you are considering a move to Amelia Island, then you’ll definitely want to learn more about the neighborhoods there. Here is an overview of some of the most desirable communities on the island.

Ocean Village

Families who are looking to escape the rat race are encouraged to consider Ocean Village. Found on Amelia Island’s South End, Ocean Village promises stunning ocean views along with quiet streets. Golf courses and tennis courts abound in this neighborhood, and there are two private pools here. With so much to do, you might think that this would be a bustling community. However, it is quiet and secluded, allowing residents a sense of calm.

Homeowners living in Ocean Village pay a low monthly fee that gives them extensive lawn service. The neighborhood consists of 111 single-family dwellings, most of which are spacious and expansive. Expect multiple bedrooms and bathrooms to accommodate the whole family.

Amelia Park

Located in Fernandina Beach, Amelia Park encompasses more than 300 single-family dwellings plus condos and townhouses. This neighborhood is widely considered to be one of the best on the island, and it is constantly growing. As you stroll through the streets, you’ll see homes with welcoming front porches, picturesque picket fences, mature landscaping and numerous walking paths. Informal and friendly, this is a wonderful place for families who want to get to know their neighbors.

The Town Square provides the ideal setting for holiday festivals, concerts and the Final Friday potluck dinners. With the beach an easy walking distance away, families have the option of splashing in the waves or playing on the shore whenever they wish. Most of the homes here are quite affordable, making this a good choice for those on a tight budget.

Azalea Pointe

This small, upscale development is on Amelia Island’s South End. Boasting just 30 unique homes, the entrance to this neighborhood is lined with ancient oaks. An azalea nursery once occupied this land, but now it holds a community without through streets so that there is never any unwanted traffic.

The developers of Azalea Pointe strived to keep the land’s natural beauty intact when designing this community. They excelled in their efforts, which means that this is a gorgeous, carefully developed area that you will be proud to call home.

Azalea Pointe may feel like it is worlds away from everything, but the historic downtown district in Fernandina is only a short drive away as are the beach and opportunities for hiking, dining and bicycling.

Old Town Fernandina

The city of Fernandina Beach sits on the north end of Amelia Island and boasts many charming neighborhoods. Perhaps the most desirable of these is Old Town Fernandina. It is located adjacent to the historic downtown area, and Old Town is recognized as being the final Spanish city ever to be platted in the Western hemisphere.

Old Town is the perfect place to buy a home if you are hoping to live on a river or have a love of historic homes. Perhaps the most famous house in the neighborhood is the Captain’s House, also known as the Pippi Longstocking house, but many homes here date back to the middle of the 19th century. These homes also share excellent proximity to the water, with many residents noting that they can go from bed to the water in just a few steps. Two marinas are located here too for people who want to get out on the water.

Seaside

Also located in Fernandina Beach is Seaside, a lovely, family-friendly community that was established in 1999. Most of the homes here were completed by 2003 and have four bedrooms and two bathrooms. Kids living in this neighborhood attend excellent schools and live in homes along tree-lined streets. Noted for its unusually spacious lots, Seaside is a great place to settle if you want a bit of space between your home and your neighbors’. The Atlantic Ocean is an easy stroll away as are the Atlantic Avenue Recreation Center and Fort Clinch State Park.

Amelia Island Plantation

On the South End of the island is the Amelia Island Plantation neighborhood, a master-planned community and resort. It includes nearly 1,400 acres of marshes and maritime forests as well as miles of unspoiled beaches. In this secluded paradise are more than 900 single-family dwellings and 1,200 condominiums. In addition, the neighborhood is the home of the Omni Amelia Island Plantation & Resorts.

Residents in this community have unparalleled opportunities to view wildlife in its native habitat. At the same time, there is ready access to a fitness center, private club, tennis courts and three golf courses. The private club, known as The Amelia Island Club, also includes The Ocean Club located right on the beach and the private golf course at Long Point.

A gated entrance controls access to the neighborhood on a 24/7 basis. Grand, stately homes with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms await families who want to live in an exclusive, upscale community.

Contact Florida’s Choice Realty

If you would like to learn more about these and other desirable communities on Amelia Island, contact Florida’s Choice Realty today. Our expert local Realtors will help you immediately feel at home.

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7 Reasons People are Moving to Gainesville, FL

If you are considering a move to Gainesville, Florida, then you have a lot to look forward to. For instance, did you know that Gainesville is consistently named one of the best places to live in Florida?

What makes Gainesville such a special city? It turns out that it’s a combination of many things. Some new residents are drawn by the University of Florida while others love all the parks and hiking trails. While some people come for the sunny weather, others arrive because they are seeking better economic opportunities. Still others are looking for a city that successfully combines affordability, great real estate and safe streets.

What are your reasons for moving to Gainesville? Perhaps you’ll find them in the list below along with a few new reasons why Gainesville is such an exceptional place to live.

The University of Florida

No doubt about it, Gainesville is a college town. Founded in 1853 and operating on its current site since 1906, the University of Florida is Gainesville’s biggest employer as well as being a social and cultural center. With 16 academic colleges in addition to 150 research institutes, something innovative and interesting is always happening on the UF campus.

Plus, UF athletics are a huge part of the fabric of life in Gainesville. The most popular sports are football and basketball, and many people move here so they can cheer on the Gators from the home stadium.

The campus also is recognized for its museums, including the Florida Museum of Natural History and the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art. Several performing arts venues are located on campus as well, making UF a great place to treat yourself to a music, dance or theatrical performance.

Whether you are employed by UF, enroll as a student, attend sporting events or are a patron of the arts, the college can be a huge part of your life in Gainesville.

The Cost of Living Is Affordable

This active and bustling college town has a great deal going for it, but that doesn’t mean that it costs a fortune to live here. In fact, the cost of living in Gainesville is impressively affordable, with experts determining that it is approximately 8.7 percent cheaper to live in Gainesville than it is to live elsewhere in America. People earning an average income of $58,000 per year may expect to live quite comfortably, and the absence of state income tax is a huge bonus.

Nonetheless, keep in mind that Gainesville does have a sales tax rate of seven percent, and your homeowner’s insurance may be slightly higher here than it is in your current location.

State-of-the-Art Healthcare

Partially thanks to the presence of the UF Health Shands Hospital, you can rest assured that your health and wellness are in good hands when you choose real estate in Gainesville. UF Health Shands Hospital is placed among the country’s 50 best hospitals and is considered the state’s top hospital. In areas such as colon cancer surgery, hip replacement, heart failure and lung cancer surgery, this healthcare center outperforms most others.

The other major hospital in the city is North Florida Regional Medical Center. Specializing in cardiovascular care, orthopedics, women’s health, neuroscience, senior care and more, this hospital is a top-rated facility.

Parks and Recreation

Gainesville real estate is an excellent choice for people who want to get outside and be active. The city is bursting with gorgeous parks like the Kanapaha Botanical Garden, which features 68 acres of gorgeous plants, trees and herbs. Head to Paynes Prairie Preserve State Park to explore eight diverse trails and take advantage of opportunities to view bison and wild horses. You can even see the largest live oak tree in Florida with a visit to Cellon Oak Park.

Whether you want to hike, bike, play games with your family or view wildlife, Gainesville definitely has a park for you.

The Real Estate

Are you looking for an impressive property to call home? Chances are good that you’ll find it in Gainesville. The market here is absolutely booming with most properties only staying on the market for about two weeks. Prices are rising, and properties are moving fast.

Single-family homes, condos and townhouses all are widely available in Gainesville. To make certain that you have the best opportunity to find the home of your dreams at the right price point, work with an experienced Realtor who truly understands the local market.

An Expanding Job Market

Are you looking for a place to live that also provides you with opportunities for economic growth? Look no further than Gainesville.

Growing at an average rate of three percent per year, the job market in Gainesville is increasing all the time. Most people look for work in the booming education and healthcare industries. A wide selection of service-sector jobs regularly is available as well.

With its growing population and economy, Gainesville also is a spectacular place to consider starting a business. Your dreams can come true when you choose real estate in Gainesville.

The Sun

Have we mentioned that Gainesville’s weather is amazing? Situated in northern Florida, Gainesville’s climate is described as humid subtropical. This means that summers are long, humid and warm while the winters are dry and short. On average, July is the hottest month with average high temperatures of 90 degrees. By contrast, January normally is the coldest month with average high temperatures a relatively balmy 64 degrees.

It doesn’t snow in Gainesville, and temperatures lower than 44 degrees are rare even in January. It may rain approximately 50 inches a year, but most residents don’t let that get them down. Gainesville is in a low-risk zone for hurricanes, so there’s little reason to worry about major storms.

Ready to Make a Move to Gainesville?

This list of seven reasons people are moving to Gainesville is just the beginning. From a bustling nightlife and sensational restaurants to quaint shops and water sports, Gainesville has something for everyone.

If you are considering a move to Gainesville, make a call to Florida’s Choice Realty your first step. Our local real estate experts will guide your home search so that you find the property of your dreams.

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6 Things to Know Before Buying a Rural Property

Have you ever thought about buying a rural property?

Country living isn’t for everyone, but if you think it might be perfect for your family, then there are definitely some things that you should know.

If you’re ready to get serious about your search for a home in Florida’s countryside, contact Florida’s Choice Realty today.

In the meantime, take a look at the following tips to make finding a rural home much easier and more rewarding.

1. Work with a Realtor Who’s Knowledgeable About Rural Property

Most Realtors excel at helping their clients buy and sell property. However, only a smaller number of them understand the heightened complexities that may come with buying a rural property. This is why it’s sensible for people who want to buy a country house to work with a Realtor who has experience with these transactions.

Buying a rural property can come with extra rules, regulations and paperwork that just don’t apply to homes that are purchased in a suburban or urban setting. Moreover, it can be really helpful to have a professional at your side who has already participated in dozens of similar transactions. They will be able to answer your questions and help you to avoid many of the most common pitfalls that are associated with buying a rural property.

2. Get Guidance from a Local Mortgage Lender

Did you know that when you buy a property in the country, you may have additional financing options that are not available to urban and suburban properties?

For example, the United States Department of Agriculture, or the USDA, actually provides financing for families who want to live in the country. USDA home loans do have some eligibility guidelines of which it’s helpful to be aware, but an experienced lender who frequently deals with this type of loan will be able to provide the guidance you need.

As a matter of fact, USDA home loans are incredibly popular for people who want to buy rural property. However, there are other options available to you. If you want to ensure that you get the mortgage that is best for you, then it’s wise to consult with a local mortgage lender who can lay out all of your choices for you.

3. How Much Property Is Enough?

Before they begin taking a closer look at the marketplace, many people who are interested in rural properties think that all parcels in the country must come with acres upon acres of land. This might even deter some people who think that country living is right for them because they just don’t want a parcel with 15 acres of land.

The reality is that there is a great deal more choices than you might realize. Some country properties have quite small parcels of land, just enough to give you a large yard compared to what you’d have in a suburban setting. On the other hand, you could opt for a property that has two or three acres or one that has 20 or more acres. The choice is really up to you.

How much land is enough for you? It really just depends on what you want to do with that land. If you’re looking to keep your neighbors at a good distance from you, even a small parcel could be perfect. Those of you who are considering options for development or other land use will want to do some additional research. How much “usable land” comes with the acreage that you’ve got your eye on? Land that is completely undeveloped takes a great deal of time and money to turn into something, so it’s wise to know what you’re getting into before making the leap.

4. Consider the Utilities

When you purchase a home in the city, you don’t have to think too much about utilities. Most of the time, everything is hooked up and more or less ready to go. You’ve got city or county water and sewer connections as well as electricity.

The country can be different. Many of these homes have a septic system rather than being connected to a commercial sewer. Having a septic system can save you money on property taxes, but it could potentially cost you more if it needs to be maintained or replaced. Before buying a property with a septic system, have it inspected by a professional to determine its age and condition.

It’s also possible that a rural home will have a well water system instead of being connected to public water. The water in the well is free, but the well does need to be maintained. Once again, it’s smart to have a well system inspected before you buy the property.

The same is true if you are contemplating buying a home with an oil or propane heating system. Weigh the cost of fuel and maintenance, and be certain to have a thorough inspection performed before you close the deal.

5. Location, Location, Location

Not all rural properties are surrounded by farmland. Some are located in wooded areas. Some don’t have a farm for miles around. You might find a piece of land with a lake or a pond.

Additionally, you don’t always have to go that far outside of the city to find a beautiful piece of property that feels like it’s way out in the sticks. Staying close into town means more convenient access to stores, gas stations and other services. On the other hand, maybe you want to be far removed from larger communities. That is certainly an option as well.

Before buying a parcel of land, thoroughly explore the surrounding countryside and determine how long it will take to reach ordinary destinations like grocery stores and your doctor’s office. How far are you willing to drive? Everyone’s answer will be different, but this is critical to helping you find a home that you’ll love.

6. Zoning

  • What are you wanting to do with the property?
  • Does the current zoning allow for those activities?
  • Can you get a variance to conduct those activities on the property?

These are all very important questions to understand because even as something a simple as building a home on a piece of land could be against current zoning for many different reasons.

Calling the local zoning office can start the process of getting the answers you need to make sure the property you want is the property where your vision can come to reality.

Ask Florida’s Choice Realty First

Are you considering buying a rural home in Florida? If so, then speak with the real estate experts at Florida’s Choice Realty. With our experience dealing directly with rural properties, we’ll be able to answer your questions and help you find the new home of your dreams.

Need help with Rural Property?

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Best Areas to Live in St Augustine

On Florida’s northeast coast, you’ll find the ancient and fascinating city of St. Augustine. With plenty of Spanish colonial architecture along with beaches on the Atlantic and the freshening breezes to go with them, St. Augustine is a wonderful place to live.

As in any other city, St. Augustine boasts numerous neighborhoods. Which one offers the best location and amenities for your family? The answer certainly will vary depending upon your individual needs.

However, the following are some of the most coveted neighborhoods in St. Augustine.

Old Town

This may be the city’s most famous neighborhood. Of course, most people know this district because of its many tourist attractions like the Fountain of Youth, Castillo de San Marco and St. George Street. However, Old Town is a whole lot more than just a tourist trap.

This also is the neighborhood to be in if you want to have excellent food practically on your doorstep. The sheer density of restaurants and bars is stunning, and you can find something to satisfy every palate. You’ll also find numerous art galleries and shops. This is even a great place to raise a family since young kids will be attending the respected Ketterlinus Elementary School. Additionally, it’s worth keeping in mind that the beach is only a brief 10-minutes away.

Most properties in Old Town are single-family dwellings, though you will find a condominium here and there. Prices tend to be higher in this district, but with cobbled streets and tons of charm, most people don’t mind paying a little extra.

Anastasia Island

Just on the other side of the Matanzas River lies Anastasia Island. You can reach it by crossing the Bridge of Lions. Lined with gorgeous beaches as well as sand dunes and marshes, this is a remarkably beautiful place to live. Anastasia State Park is on the island as is the famed St. Augustine Lighthouse. There’s even an alligator farm thrown in for good measure.

Much of the acreage on the island is set aside as nature preserve, making this a quiet and idyllic place to call home. Nonetheless, several residential communities can be found here. Some of the most popular include Davis Shores, Sea Colony, St. Augustine Beach and Sunset Point. Many of the homes found in these developments boast spectacular views and immediate access to beaches, trails and marshes. If you love the outdoors, this may be the perfect place for you.

A wide range of price points may be encountered on Anastasia Island. With some houses going at surprisingly affordable prices and other selling in the millions. Clearly, this is one of St. Augustine’s most desirable areas.

Atlantic Beach

This area seems tailor-made for people who want to live close to the ocean. You’ll find Atlantic Beach immediately off of Highway A1A. From many of the homes, you can hear the sound of the waves and smell the sea salt in the air. People choose to live here when they place a high value on being able to escape to the beach immediately from their front door.

It’s helpful to know that Beach Boulevard features some of the city’s best shopping and dining opportunities and that Anastasia State Park is within easy reach. Other nearby attractions include the Farmers Market, fishing pier and St. Augustine Beach. The well-regarded schools in the neighborhood include R.B. Hunt Elementary School, Sebastian Middle School and Pedro Menendez High, so this is a good choice for growing families.

Like Anastasia Island, you may find a surprising variety of price points in Atlantic Beach. Whether the sky is your limit or you’re on a budget, you may find your new home in this neighborhood.

World Golf Village

Some people move to Florida just for the weather. Often, they are drawn by their favorite sport, too. Maybe that’s why World Golf Village is such a popular place for families and retirees. This sprawling complex encompasses 6,300 acres on which are situated two golf courses with clubhouses, dining rooms, bars, outdoor patios, locker rooms and pro shops.

Nearly 3,000 acres of the property is set aside as preservation lands, and residents may enjoy viewing the wildlife and ancient oaks. Also in the neighborhood are an IMAX Theater, the World Golf Hall of Fame, a swim and tennis center and a spa.

Residential neighborhoods within the World Golf Village are vast. The choices include upscale condominiums as well as estate-level homes. Accordingly, you could find prices as low as $100,000 and upwards of several million.

Vilano Beach

Immediately to the north of Anastasia Island you’ll find Vilano Beach. This coastal community is quiet and secluded, yet you’ll still find a good variety of restaurants and shops along with a marina. The Vilano Beach Nature Boardwalk is a particularly popular place to enjoy a stroll or a jog.

This casual but close-knit community is perfect for laid-back folks. You have your choice of single-family dwellings and condos, but Vilano Beach also features many lots of land for sale on which you could build your dream home.

Talk to a Realtor Today

If you are interested in learning more about St. Augustine and its many charming neighborhoods, then call a Realtor today. With expert guidance, you can find the perfect property at the right price for your family to call home.

4 Must Know Horse Property Ownership Tips

If you own a horse and are thinking about buying a property that would allow you to give up rented stable space, then it is critical for you to choose your new property carefully.

Of course, buying real estate always requires time and careful reflection. It is important to consider the condition of the house, its location, how much storage space it has and even the suitability of its kitchen.

However, if you are considering keeping a horse in Ocala, or even several horses, then there are even more factors to consider. When you are ready to become a horse property owner, contact Florida’s Choice Realty first. In our expert Realtors, you will find knowledgeable guidance and advice that will help you locate the perfect equestrian community and property.

Consider the Type of Barn

Many horse properties already have a barn on site. This can be a huge advantage because it saves you the trouble of having a barn built. Many horse owners recommend wooden barns because these are more convenient to insulate. You also may encounter a property with a metal barn. These can be quite practical, durable and easy to maintain. However, metal barns also can be very loud, especially during thunderstorms, and you’ll want to consider this before you buy.

While you’re checking out the barn, take some time to count the number of stalls so you can be certain that all of your horses will have a place to call home. Check to see if there is a loft where hay can be stored. If so, how many bales can fit into the space at once? Is there other storage available for all of the miscellaneous equipment that goes with horse ownership?

Just like the house, the age and condition of the barn are crucial considerations. Be certain to ask the Realtor how old the barn and stalls are, as this may help to indicate when they may need to be repaired or replaced. Also, be certain to ask about and review any drainage systems and waste management systems. Have an inspector look at these and other factors before making a purchase decision.

Land Type

When it comes to land, you probably need to look for some specific attributes for your equestrian property. If the acreage is quite extensive, then chances are good that some of it is wooded and some of it is pastureland. Make certain that there are no steep slopes where you will be keeping your horses as constant time on a pitching slope can be damaging to tendons and ligaments. It also is helpful if there is plenty of land that’s not covered in dense vegetation as this protects both the horse’s hooves and his eyes from tree branches. Accordingly, your horses will have plenty of room to roam without fear of hurting themselves.

You’ll also want to be aware of any marshy areas on the acres where the soil doesn’t drain well as this similarly is not conducive to the health and safety of your animals. Areas with standing water are mosquito breeding grounds, and these pests can spread diseases that are harmful to horses. Spend some time examining how rocky the soil is too. Severely rocky soil can hurt the soles of the horse’s feet, which can be surprisingly tender.

Another critical consideration is water supply. Keep in mind that horses drink between five and ten gallons of water every day so it is helpful if the property has a deep, reliable well that can easily meet these needs.

Check the Perimeter

Next to the barn and the type of land, a perimeter check is an equally critical factor to consider. What kind of fence surrounds the property? Has it been well maintained? Will you need to replace it or perform extensive repairs on it within the first two years?

Why is this so important? The health and safety, perhaps even the life, of your horse depend upon it. More than one horse owner has had a nightmare experience when a horse is injured or killed after escaping through a poorly maintained fence. Breaking a leg in a ditch and being hit by a passing car are just two of the possible scenarios.

Because you want to avoid this, you have to ensure that your property’s fence is well-maintained at all times. If you see barbed wire fence anywhere on the property, bear in mind that you will have to remove it and replace it before your horse moves there. Many horses are severely injured after becoming entangled in this dangerous type of fencing material.

You want to ensure that the fences on your property are highly visible so that your horses can easily see them. Resilience is another critical characteristic. This refers to the fence’s ability to properly react to the impact of a horse running into it. Will the fence have a little bit of give but not shatter into sharp splinters that may cause further injury?

Ask lots of questions about the maintenance requirements for the existing fence. Some really high-quality fences that cost a great deal at installation require very little hands-on care. Other fencing material may be cheaper to install but requires constant vigilance to ensure that it’s still functional and safe. Which kind does your horse property have?

Also, take a look at how tall the fences are. Most equine experts recommend perimeter fences that are at least five feet tall. It is possible for some horses to jump a fence of this height, so if you have a particularly athletic animal, then you may want to opt for a fence that is even higher.

Storage

A great deal of equipment is needed to provide proper care to your horses. Does the prospective property that you are considering have adequate storage space? For instance, you’ll need a tack room where you can keep all of your equestrian gear. You also might need a separate feed room. This is a horse-proof area where you can store your horse’s grain so that she cannot break in and overfeed herself. Further, consider whether or not you need a designated area to keep a manure spreader, horse trailer, tractor or arena equipment. Does the property have enough storage space for all of that equipment, or will you have to add more outbuildings?

Remember, horses need plenty of space, and so does the equipment that goes with them.

Join the Equestrian Life in Ocala

Ocala is widely recognized as an excellent place to live if you love horse culture. If you feel that the time is right for your family to bring your horses home, then talk to Florida’s Choice Realty today. The guidance of an experienced Realtor is just what you need when you are considering the purchase of a horse property.

9 best neighborhoods in Gainesville

Gainesville is one of Florida’s best cities, offering an excellent standard of living in stunning natural surroundings. It’s also the home of the University of Florida, making it a vibrant and bustling community. Nonetheless, there are some quieter suburban neighborhoods that help residents feel like the city is miles away.

Which Gainesville neighborhood is right for your family? Keep reading to learn more about the nine best neighborhoods in Gainesville.

1. Flint Rock

Have you heard about one of the city’s newest neighborhoods? Actually, the developers bill it as an “Agrihood” because it’s unlike any of the other surrounding areas. Flint Rock recently donated an easement to the Alachua Conservation Trust as part of its development. This, combined with more than 100 acres of dedicated common areas and green spaces, means that 63 percent of the development’s 400 acres will be maintained as natural or wild.

Some of that green space will be a wildlife corridor, making this an exceptional place to live. Along with all of that natural beauty are three small subdivisions, each of which is designed to promote wellness and healthy lifestyles. Neighborhood amenities include mile after mile of walking trails, many of which go through forests of fruit trees, a farmhouse and event barn for hosting parties, numerous fire pit areas and hanging bench swings.

Located conveniently close to I-75, these new, single-family luxury homes are ideal for commuters and families who want to enjoy a little bit of the country in the midst of a well-developed area.

2. University Park

This is one of Gainesville’s most bustling neighborhoods as it sits immediately to the north of the campus of the University of Florida. Accordingly, residents will find all sorts of casual eating options as well as bars and nightclubs. The presence of the university also means that there are many opportunities for employment, education, shopping and obtaining outstanding medical care within the neighborhood.

If your family is really into college sports, especially football, then this may be the perfect neighborhood for you. Although this is a centrally located spot in a well-developed area, there are still opportunities to enjoy the outdoors at attractions such as the Paynes Prairie Reserve and the Kanapaha Botanical Gardens.

Many top attractions and activities in this neighborhood are within easy walking distance. The nearby college campus includes the Florida Museum of Natural History, a golf course, Lake Alice and much more.

As you might expect with a university neighborhood, there are many apartments in the area. However, you’ll also find plenty of condos and single-family dwellings. A good mix of old and new construction is found in the neighborhood.

university park gainesville map

3. Westmoreland

Located in northwest Gainesville, this is another bustling neighborhood that boasts convenient access to all sorts of restaurants and local amenities. A mall and major big box stores are in the area as are plenty of gyms and churches. Outdoor recreation possibilities may be explored at spots such as the Split Rock Conservation Area with its pedestrian and bicycle trails and the Clear Lake Nature Park with its ancient oak trees.

Westmoreland mainly features single-family homes. While some date back to the 1950s, many of them were constructed in the 1980s. This means that you could find a charming bungalow, a sprawling ranch or a newly renovated home with all of the modern amenities.

4. Duckpond

If you prefer homes with an historic flair, then you’ve got to check out the real estate in the Duckpond neighborhood. Wandering here is a wonderful way to get a sense of what Gainesville was like before everything got modernized.

Located adjacent to downtown, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for dining, shopping and entertainment when you live in Duckpond. However, the neighborhood itself is quiet and tranquil with lots of mature landscaping and old trees.

Single-family dwellings abound in the neighborhood, but you also may see some available townhouses. This is the community to choose if you’ve always wanted to live in a home that was built around the turn of the last century. Many properties were built between the 1910s and the 1950s, and you might even spot a listing or two for homes dating from the 19th century. Limited newer construction homes may be found as well.

5. Sugarfoot

Parents who are looking for a great place to raise kids will fall in love with Sugarfoot. Frequently described as friendly and quiet, this is one of Gainesville’s safest neighborhoods while still being incredibly convenient thanks to the proximity of both I-75 and State Route 121.

Sugarfoot abuts the Clear Lake Nature Park on the west, providing wonderful opportunities for outdoor adventures. Good schools and low crime rates make this one of Gainesville’s most desirable neighborhoods. However, this is a small area, which means that it’s necessary to act fast if you find the perfect single-family home.

6. Highland Court Manor

Located close to the Gainesville Regional Airport, the Ironwood Golf Club and the Flatwoods Conservation Area, this large neighborhood is convenient and well-situated. It’s also quite affordable, so if you don’t want to break your budget but still want a nice home, this may be the best place to live in Gainesville.

You’ll find plenty of shopping and dining options in the neighborhood as well as single-family homes with mature landscaping and large, shady trees. Many of the homes were built in the 1960s and 1970s and they may provide new owners with an opportunity to renovate.

7. Pleasant Street Historic District

Recognized as the first residential district for Black families in Gainesville, this neighborhood was founded at the conclusion of the Civil War. Today, this is a United States historic district containing more than 250 historic buildings, many of which are open to the public. A wealth of banks, churches, restaurants, shops and green spaces are found in the Pleasant Street Historic District.

A few high-rise condominium properties are located in the neighborhood, but most of the available real estate is charming single-family homes. Many vintage dwellings are found in this district, but you’ll also find some gorgeous new construction and residential land lots that are just waiting for the right family to build a home.

8. Hazel Heights

With an excellent balance of convenience and affordability, Hazel Heights allows wonderful opportunities for outdoor recreation thanks to its proximity to Greentree Park and Hogtown Creek Headwaters Nature Park. The southern border of the neighborhood is alive with restaurants and retail shops, ranging from familiar chains to unique local spots.

Although the area mainly includes single-family homes, a few townhouses are scattered across the neighborhood. This tends to be an affordable place where many families buy their first home. You’ll find a little bit of everything here, with some homes dating to the turn of the last century and others being new construction.

9. Suburban Heights

This neighborhood is for families who want true suburban surroundings while still being close to everything. Suburban Heights is loaded with botanical gardens and nature preserves. Cofrin Nature Park is next door, and there is an abundance of restaurants, shops and even a hospital. Commuters love the proximity to I-75.

First developed in the late 1960s, Suburban Heights features large lots and spacious homes. Many of the properties date from this era or slightly later. Nonetheless, it may be possible to find some real estate of a much more recent vintage.

Contact Florida’s Choice Realty

If you are interested in these or other desirable Gainesville neighborhoods, give Florida’s Choice Realty a call at 352-857-9748 or fill the form below.

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6 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home with VA Loans

Buying a property with a VA loan is one of the smartest decisions qualified veterans can make. While the process works fairly similar to conventional mortgages, there are a few things that make using VA loans slightly different.

The Department of Veteran Affairs backs VA loans, which allow veterans to not pay a deposit on a property. This can be an excellent way into the property market but there are still ways it can go wrong.

To ensure you’re approaching the situation the relevant caution, here are 6 mistakes to avoid when buying a home using VA loans.

1. Not using a knowledgeable real estate agent

VA loans have numerous property restrictions that provide the Department of Veteran Affairs with confidence in the sale. It would be wrong to expect you to know these by heart, so rely on your real estate agent instead.

They should know the process intimately and should only show you properties that fit the criteria.

2. Buying above your means

Not needing to put down a deposit is great, right? Surely it means you have more money to spend on the property? Not necessarily. You’ll still need to make monthly payments to your lender on time regardless of your current financial situation.

Therefore, you should keep your budget well within your financial means and not overspend.

3. Don’t forget property is an investment

Just because you have access to a very competitive mortgage scheme doesn’t mean your property shouldn’t be a good one. Property is one of the most secure forms of financial investment and you should still shop around for an attractive home in a good area.

This way, when it comes time to sell you’ll get a much greater return on your investment.

4. Still monitor your credit score

Your credit score matters less for VA loans but it does still matter. While you’ll likely still qualify for a mortgage even if your score is bad, your interest rates will be higher.

If you’re not in a rush, consider working on your credit score before investigating your options.

5. Don’t forget to shop around

VA loans are a competitive market, just like standard home loans. You’ll find varying interest rates, some of which are more attractive than others. It pays to shop around to try and minimize your monthly repayments and interest rates.

You can find an evaluation of 9 of the top VA loan lenders here.

6. Don’t forget about the extra fees

Buying a home comes with lots of extra fees that aren’t included in the asking price. Regardless of the type of loan you take out, these often catch people out when it comes time to close.

Things like an inspection and appraisal cost, as do real estate fees. You should set aside as much as 10% of what the deposit would have been if using a standard loan provider.

7. Don’t overlook an inspection

Inspections aren’t required but they’re very useful. Learning about possible repairs before closing can help to adjust the price. Alternatively, you can get the seller to make the repairs before they leave. Either way, it’s useful to know about these issues before you move in.

If you get made aware of any repairs, ensure it’s written into the contract that they’ll either be sorted before you close or that the seller will reduce the asking price accordingly.

Conclusion

Using VA loans to buy a home can be an easier way into the property market for veterans. Even so, it’s worth treating the process as if your money was on the line because this will make you more cautious.

The most important advice is to find a real estate agent and a lender that works with your interests, as this will make the purchase much smoother.

Contact Florida’s Choice Realty

It is understandable to have additional questions and need further guidance. If so, give Florida’s Choice Realty a call. We can help you find the condo, townhouse or single-family dwelling of your dreams.

Begin your search for real estate in Jacksonville by working with a trusted Realtor from Florida’s Choice Realty. We’ll make your dream of home ownership a reality.

6 Best Neighborhoods in Jacksonville

Jacksonville encompasses a huge swath of land in northern Florida. Located on the Atlantic Ocean and with the St. Johns River running through it, Jacksonville is the perfect place to live for people who love to play on, in or next to the water.

Visitors come here to tour the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens, the Museum of Contemporary Art and MOSH. Residents visit these attractions too, but they have discovered that Jacksonville is much more than a nice place to visit.

In fact, it’s an incredible place to live. Industry abounds here, and with excellent schools, large parks and beaches everywhere, this is a wonderful place to raise a family.

Jacksonville is huge, which makes it critical for people considering a move to rely on an experienced local Realtor. Let’s take a look at some of Jacksonville’s best neighborhoods.

Downtown Jax

If you want to live in the center of the action, then you’ve got to take a look at Downtown. Of course, this serves as the city’s central business district, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t spectacular real estate options.

Downtown actually is a peaceful area on the St. Johns River. Delectable dining options abound here, mainly focusing on fresh seafood, and there are a number of upscale pubs with river views.

Most of the real estate in Downtown consists of condominiums and townhouses. Despite being centrally located and perhaps boasting views of the river, many of the options here are surprisingly affordable. If you’re interested in living in a neighborhood with a great nightlife scene and plenty of shopping and dining, then Downtown is perfect.

Mandarin

Named for the Mandarin orange, this neighborhood is characterized by massive oak trees that drip with Spanish moss. That’s appropriate, because this is one area where history and nature live side by side. Nonetheless, this is a residential area with a few points of interest thrown in for good measure.

Mandarin is found to the south of San Marco on the St. Johns River. Residents will want to spend some time at the Mandarin Museum and Walter Jones Historical Park. It’s located right on the river and is probably the best way to get a taste of old Florida.

Opportunities to own single-family dwellings abound in this quiet neighborhood. You’ll find plenty of shopping and services along with churches and parks. Access to the St. Johns River is convenient, and many of the homes here offer spectacular riverfront views.

Baymeadows

Widely considered to be one of the best neighborhoods in Jacksonville, Baymeadows is a great place for young professionals and their families. While most people rent here, there are single-family homes for sale in this safe and quiet neighborhood.

This is a really walkable neighborhood that boasts plenty of restaurants and grocery stores. Sidewalks are everywhere, and so are dogs. This is considered to be one of Jacksonville’s most dog-friendly neighborhoods.

Orange Park

In this heavily residential neighborhood, which is a suburb of Jacksonville, most families own their homes. Retirees and young professionals live in Orange Park, and the public schools are outstanding.

With many shops and family-owned businesses, this is a great place to live. Everything from grocery stores to doctor’s offices are nearby. Many parks are found here, including a skateboard park.

Families who are seeking a home on a quiet street may find just what they are looking for here. The neighborhood features a good mix of older and new construction homes, and the price range is wide, so this is a suitable area for almost any budget.

The Beaches

Who doesn’t dream of living right on the beach? It’s why many people move to Jacksonville. The most desirable neighborhoods are called Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and Atlantic Beach.

In The Beaches, First Street is the primary thoroughfare. It runs through all three neighborhoods, connecting them and making it easy to access businesses and services in each. Jacksonville Beach is the furthest to the south, with Neptune Beach immediately to its north and Atlantic Beach north of that.

In Jacksonville Beach, you’ll find the Beaches Museum, a popular wedding venue that also displays exhibits highlighting the region’s past. Cradle Creek Preserve and the Jacksonville Beach Golf Club also are located here.

Neptune Beach may be small, but it nonetheless boasts lovely Jarboe Park and numerous grocery stores, restaurants and excellent public schools. Atlantic Beach is slightly larger. With many parks, a country club and dozens of unique shops, this is a fun place to call home.

In general, The Beaches is an upscale area where people may pay a premium for having an ocean view. While most of the real estate here consists of single-family dwellings, condominiums and townhomes also are available. Expect to find a good mix of older homes as well as new construction. If you’re looking for a large lot with plenty of greenery and a large house with a wealth of square footage, this is where you’re likely to find it.

San Marco

With a hip, bohemian vibe, San Marco appeals to people who appreciate a laid-back and eclectic lifestyle. If you live here, you’ll have many opportunities to shop at fashionable clothing boutiques and browse the offerings at art galleries. The dining here is not to be missed, and Theatre Jacksonville, which is the country’s oldest community theater, is found here. Plus, there’s the San Marco Theatre to admire for its art deco façade. This theater shows a mix of new releases and art-house films.

Graceful mansions dot the riverfront in San Marco, and you’ll find plenty of quiet and quaint streets to explore. Accordingly, you’ll discover a fascinating mix of properties. Explore a 1928 gem of a bungalow on one street and a practically new Italianate mansion on the next. San Marco’s real estate prices tend toward the high side, but residents in general feel that the coveted lifestyle makes the prices worthwhile.

Contact Florida’s Choice Realty

If you are interested in these or other great neighborhoods in Jacksonville, then give Florida’s Choice Realty a call. We can help you find the condo, townhouse or single-family dwelling of your dreams.

Begin your search for real estate in Jacksonville by working with a trusted Realtor from Florida’s Choice Realty. We’ll make your dream of home ownership a reality.

6 Must-Visit Natural Springs In and Around Ocala

The things you can do at the Springs

What’s the best thing about living in Ocala? Some people say that it’s natural beauty around every corner and some say it’s the abundance of natural springs.

These warm, clear, pristine waterways offer idyllic settings for swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. Paddlers love them too because they provide the perfect opportunities for getting out on the water.

Even if you prefer to stay dry, you might find a glass bottom boat cruise, a hike, bird watching, interpretive sites and picnic areas. Simply put, Ocala’s natural springs have something for everyone.

Keep reading to discover the must-visit natural springs in the Ocala area.

1. Silver Springs State Park

  • Park Hours: Seven days a week, 8:00 am to sundown
  • Address: 5656 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, FL 34488
  • Phone Number: 352-261-5840
  • Admission: $2 for adults; children five and younger free
  • Website: https://silversprings.com/

This deservedly popular park has all sorts of attractions to delight the whole family. Glass bottom boats were invented here, and they remain a favorite for park goers. Since the 1870s, visitors have boarded the boats to gain an uncommon view of Mammoth Spring, which is the head spring of the river.

Silver Springs also is a wonderful place to enjoy paddling with canoes, kayaks and stand-up paddleboards all available for rent. Hiking is popular too, with most of the trails being relatively short and level so the whole family can enjoy them.

You may want to reserve a campsite so that you can make the most out of viewing the native wildlife and touring the Silver River Museum where you can learn about local history, archaeology, paleontology and much more. Be certain to set aside time to visit the recreated 19th-century Cracker Village and to have a delicious meal at the restaurant.

2. Alexander Springs

  • Park Hours: Seven days a week 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Address: Ocala National Forest, 49525 County Road 445
  • Phone Number: 352-669-3522
  • Admission: $7 per person weekdays; $10 per person weekends; $70 plus tax for annual day use pass
  • Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ocala/recarea/?recid=32209

The Alexander Springs Recreation Area has plenty of options for relaxation and fun. Kayaks and canoes are available for rent at this portion of the Ocala National Forest. The gently sloped spring pool remains a constant 72 degrees throughout the year with crystal-clear water.

Anglers love dipping a line in the water here, while hikers could spend days exploring the trails. Bicycling, picnicking, wildlife viewing, boating and swimming are available all year. In addition, this is the only place in the national forest where scuba diving is permitted. It costs just $6.50 per person to participate.

3. Silver Glen Springs

  • Park Hours: Seven days a week 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Address: Ocala National Forest, 5271 State Road 19, Salt Springs
  • Phone Number: 352-669-3522
  • Admission: $7 per person weekdays; $10 per person weekends; $70 plus tax for annual day use pass
  • Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ocala/recarea/?recid=37199

Also part of the Ocala National Forest, the Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area sits on the edge of the Big Scrub. One of the things that makes this area particularly fascinating is that it contains important archaeological findings. Once the site of an ancient village, today the area is home to all sorts of archeological diggings. Interpretive signs provide an interesting and informative adventure.

Hikers enjoy Silver Glen Springs because of the three-mile Lake George Trail and the Spring Boils Trail, which is a convenient three-quarters of a mile long.

Of course, water activities are the highlight for most visitors. Non-motorized boating is always popular. Kayaks and canoes are available for rent, allowing everyone to enjoy a close up view of manatees in the water while eagles soar overhead. With the clear waters always a lovely 73 degrees, swimming is popular all year. Be certain to bring your snorkeling equipment to get a closer look at the fish.

4. Juniper Springs

  • Park Hours: Seven days a week 8:00 am to 8:00 pm
  • Address: Ocala National Forest, 26695 E. State Road 40, Silver Springs
  • Phone Number: 352-669-3522
  • Admission: $7 per person weekdays; $10 per person weekends; $70 plus tax for annual day use pass
  • Website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/ocala/recarea/?recid=34064

This is another pick that’s conveniently located in the Ocala National Forest. Constructed during the Great Depression by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the complex today includes a campground, trails, picnic areas and swimming holes.

A general store, which sells ice and firewood along with other necessities, is on site, and shuttle services are available during the busiest seasons. Canoe rentals are available with prices starting at $20 for two hours, or you can launch your own kayak or canoe for a nominal fee.

A self-guided, barrier-free interpretive trail is available for the enjoyment of all visitors. Stop for a tour of the Old Mill House to learn more about the Civilian Conservation Corps and how the complex at Juniper Springs was built. Snorkelers and swimmers are always welcome in the water. Be on the lookout for the elusive American eel.

5. Paradise Springs

  • Park Hours: Wednesday through Sunday 8:00 am to 5:00 pm; open Monday and Tuesday by appointment for groups of five or larger; closed Christmas Day
  • Address: 4040 SE 84th Lane Road, Ocala, Florida
  • Phone Number: 352-368-5746
  • Admission: $30 per diver, per day
  • Website: https://www.ocalamarion.com/directory/paradise-springs/

If you are a scuba diver, then visiting Paradise Springs on a regular basis is a must. This is your opportunity to experience a spectacular cavern dive right in your own backyard.

One of the things that makes this such a special spot for diving is the prehistoric fossils that are embedded in the walls of the cave. With 72-degree water all year long, you’ll want to explore this underwater cave in every season. That’s good news because it would take a lifetime to see all that there is to discover.

6. Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs is a particularly well-known place for tubing. The activity closes down for the winter from October through March, but you can expect pretty heavy usage for the rest of the year. If you go for the tubing, understand that there is a designated entrance for this activity. A shuttle service is provided for a small fee, and tubes are available for rent.

In addition to campgrounds and a concession stand, the park also boasts gardens, an interpretive exhibit, playgrounds and picnic facilities.

Other popular activities include fishing, geocaching, hiking, paddling, snorkeling and swimming, providing something for every visitor.

Call Florida’s Choice Realty First

Do you want to find your home in Ocala? When you do, you’ll be able to visit these and other natural springs in the region on a regular basis. Don’t miss your opportunity to enjoy adventures in warm, crystal-clear waters every weekend.

With Florida’s Choice Realty, you’ll find local real estate experts who really know the market and can ensure that you find the home of your dreams.