Susan Halverson

Real Estate updates on Clermont FL Properties


Choosing whether to build a new home or buy an older resale home is a common dilemma for potential homebuyers. A sparkling new construction may be eye-catching when visiting active adult communities, but it isn’t always the best choice for everyone. Before making the decision, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of buying an older home, especially when it’s in an active adult community.

When it comes to house hunting, resale homes can be a great value. This is especially true when they have after-market upgrades like granite countertops, hardwood or tile flooring, updated kitchens or have installed window shades and treatments.

These types of upgrades are also available on new construction homes, but the choices are limited to whichever features the builder is offering at the time the home is built. For example, options may only include a few specific brands and models of appliances or light fixtures. Also, the same upgrades on a new construction typically raise the home’s price more than they do when they are an existing part of a resale home.

Many people prefer older homes because they have more mature landscaping, including lush plantings and larger trees. They may have more character, with backyard plantings or unique touches which were added by the homeowners. In general, older homes feel more established than newly built homes which often have small seedlings and yet-to-be-sodded yards.

Homeowners who have purchased new construction homes before know that minor settlement cracks, nail pops and other issues frequently show up during the first year. While most problems are covered under a warranty, and builders will usually fix them with no charge, some homebuyers prefer to skip this by purchasing a slightly older home which is already settled.

Of course, an older home can have more problems than simple first-year settlement. Every home, no matter how well built, will reach a point when its basic systems need to be repaired or replaced. This means an important part of the buying decision depends on two questions: “Just how old is this older home?” and “How well was it maintained?”

A home that is more than twenty years old, but has been well-maintained, can be a better investment than a ten year old home which has been neglected. This is particularly true if that older home has passed the point when its original systems gave out, and the homeowners opted for high-quality, energy-efficient replacements.

The layout of new construction homes will likely reflect the current design trends, such as open floor plans and functional loft space. But some homebuyers prefer the design of older homes. An older layout might have features that are harder to find today, such as a variety of cozy rooms instead of an open design, or perhaps a breakfast nook instead of a sunroom.

When looking at active adult communities, homebuyers can also find benefits in a more established community. The clubhouse or amenity center may not be quite as state-of-the-art, but it is nice to have facilities which are already open for business, instead of waiting for the plans to be constructed. If the community is completed, homeowners also won’t have to put up with construction equipment constantly passing through.

Just as they prefer a variety of recreations, active adults have different priorities when it comes to buying a home. There are pros and cons to buying both new construction homes and older resale homes. Some retirees are happiest choosing every element of their new home, and others find that the benefits of older homes outweigh their minor drawbacks.


55+ Communities have the town centers concept, this is taking the clubhouse facilities one step further. July 22, 2011

For most homebuyers, “community” is the most desirable part of active adult communities. Social clubs, classes, events and amenities are strong selling points, and that often means choosing a community with a large central clubhouse. However, several developers are taking the clubhouse concept one step further with the evolution of community town centers.

In many ways, town centers in 55+ communities are quite similar to community clubhouses. Town centers generally house central amenities, such as fitness centers, swimming pools, hobby and game rooms and large multipurpose rooms. Like clubhouses, they may contain restaurants, golf or tennis pro shops, spas and learning centers.

In addition to their resort-style amenities, town centers may also include a variety of daily services. They often are comprised of multiple buildings, and feature necessities like banks, post offices, gas stations and even retail stores. In essence, they help a residential community become more of a small town.

Many 55+ communities have also added town centers which combine recreational facilities with retail stores and professional services. As 55+ communities continue to evolve, builders are finding more ways to support active adult lifestyles. Spacious clubhouses provide a wide range of recreational amenities and social activities. Town centers take the idea further by bringing retail stores and professional services even closer to home.

Call Susan for information on Arlington Ridge, 407-376-6120 or email



As home values have fallen, most homeowners think that they will be paying less on property taxes. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In fact, some homeowners have found that their property tax rates have gone up, despite the fact that their homes are worth less. How does this happen, and is there anything homeowners can do about it?

In most states, funds from property taxes are mainly given to local governments. They are then used to pay for schools, roads, police departments, fire departments and other community services. Local governments depend on the revenue from property taxes to fund many programs, and their financial needs are not reduced when the housing market takes a hit.

In order to make up the needed revenue when home values fall, some local governments pass measures to raise property tax rates. By increasing tax rates, they can offset the decline of a weakened housing market and still bring in the money they need to run community programs. This is frustrating for homeowners, and can be a problem for retirees on a fixed income.

Some states do have property tax limits, which are designed to protect property owners from big increases. These limits may still allow taxes to rise, but more gradually from year to year. The specifics of property tax assessments and limits vary from state to state, and are something active adults should consider before relocating to a new home.

In some cases, property taxes may be based on assessments that do not reflect the current housing market. Property taxes are supposed to be based on a home’s fair market value. However, not all counties make property tax assessments every year. They may use the same assessed home values every other year, or even up to every five years.

In areas where property taxes are only assessed every three, four or five years, the assessment may reflect a home value that is not consistent with the current market. This can be a particular problem if the last assessment was done at the peak of the housing bubble, and a new assessment isn’t scheduled until several years later.

Homeowners who feel that their property tax assessment does not match their home’s fair market value do have the option of appealing the assessment. To see if they may be a good candidate for an appeal, homeowners can start by doing their own assessment of their home by comparing it to recent home sales in the neighborhood, or by checking the value at a website like

When considering an appeal, homeowners should also look for errors on their property tax assessment. It’s important to check the square footage, the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the other specific features listed on the assessment. Errors could lead to a new assessment with a lower tax bill.

While it may seem reasonable to expect that lower home values will equal lower property taxes, that is not always the case. To ensure that you are paying the correct amount of taxes, carefully check over your property tax assessment and don’t be afraid to file an appeal if you find errors or feel that your home has been overassessed.



When it comes to saving money, most retirees understand the benefits of moving to a low tax retirement location. However, some of the most tax-friendly retirement states may not be the best fit when you consider other factors such as climate, culture and proximity to family and friends.

Florida will certainly appeal to select retirees with affordability and a warm climate. The sunshine State offers semi-tropical living and some enticing tax breaks. Florida has no state income tax, and, as of 2007, the state did away with its intangible tax on investment income. When it comes to property taxes, Florida has a homestead exemption of up to $50,000, which applies to homeowners who are permanent residents. Combined state and local sales tax can be high in Florida, but food is exempt, as are both prescription and non-prescription medicines.



1. Set Ground Rules
Although your kids are now adults, they are still living in your home. You have a right to set the rules that make you comfortable with the situation. This might mean restrictions on overnight guests, alcohol in the house or the use of shared computers, televisions or telephones. It can also mean requesting regular help around the house or payment for expenses. If your kids want more freedom, that will be incentive for them to find their own homes.

2. Set Expectations for Rent and Expense Sharing
When your adult kids move in with you, it’s often because they are out of work or not making enough money to live on their own. Even though they are building their own savings, it’s generally a good idea for adult kids to contribute as much as they can to the household expenses. This is especially important when you are approaching retirement and need to be aware of your own financial future.

3. Foster a New Adult Relationship
Though adult kids still need their parents’ support, you don’t want to slip back into your earlier roles. When kids are young, they depend on their parents for everything, but good parenting involves helping kids eventually support themselves. Don’t let moving back home undermine your adult kids’ sense of independence. If you want your kids to be responsible adults, you have to treat them that way. That means not doing their laundry or otherwise babying them while they are in your home.

4. Help Design a Move-Out Plan
Whether adult kids are moving back home or have never left, be clear that their time living with you is short-term. It’s best to set a move-out plan from the beginning. Make sure to have clear goals which will help your kids find jobs, build their savings and ultimately find their own homes. Once the plan is set, agree to check in on their progress regularly and make modifications as needed.

5. Make the Job Search a Full-Time Job
It will be difficult for adult kids to move out on their own until they find stable jobs. Yet, finding a well-paying job can be a challenge, especially given the current economic climate. To help adult kids find their way out of the nest, make sure they understand that searching for a job is a full-time job. In addition to posting resumes online, they should be applying for jobs, talking to headhunters or temp agencies, and looking into additional training or certifications.

6. Encourage Confidence; Push When Needed
Instead of letting adult kids become overly reliant on you, make an effort to build their confidence. Adult kids are often demoralized when they have to move back home with their parents, especially when the move comes after losing a job or ending a relationship. Help your kids rebuild their confidence by encouraging them to stay active. If they are having trouble finding a job, they can still take on volunteer work or projects around the house. It may take some pushing and a little “tough love,” but your kids will eventually be grateful to know that you believe they are capable of succeeding.



When it comes to new construction homes, many buyers think that they can save some money by not using a real estate agent and, instead, buying directly from the builder’s sales agent. This is a myth, and one that can lead to costly mistakes.

If you are planning on buying a new construction home, do not talk to a builder’s sales agent—or sign anything!—until you have considered the following reasons for being represented by a Realtor:

1. The builder’s sales agents represent the builder, not you.
The sales agents who work for home builders can be very pleasant, friendly people. They are happy to show you the community’s selling points and each home’s fabulous upgrade options. However, at the end of the day, a sales agent’s job is to make sales and watch out for the builder’s interests.

2. A Realtor represents you—for free.
While it’s true that Realtors do not work for free, this is a situation where you will not be paying their fees. Production builders understand that they will be paying for the homebuyers’ real estate agent fees. They anticipate this cost and factor it into the price of the new home, whether you use a Realtor or not.

3. A Realtor understands the community.
A real estate agent who is familiar with buying and selling in a given community will have the expertise to help you make better decisions when choosing your lot, your floor plan and any optional upgrades. If you are looking for advice, real estate agents who are experienced with particular active adult communities can be found on each of the community listings.

4. A Realtor can negotiate to get you a better deal.
While you may consider yourself to be a savvy negotiator, Realtors have specific experience within a community which gives them an edge. They know what promotions may be coming up, and understand the community’s recent sales record. This is especially helpful when you are buying a home in another state, where you know less about the area.

5. A Realtor will consider your investment and the home’s resale potential.
Builder’s sales agents are primarily focused on the sale at hand. A good Realtor will have a more long-term interest in your investment. They will want to help you buy a home that will have a strong resale value down the line, especially because he might be the one you call to help sell that home someday.

6. A Realtor can explain all of your options.
Sales agents can tell you all of the options that are available for new home constructions in their communities. Once your Realtor knows what you want, they can help you find it—even if that means expanding the search to a resale home, or to neighboring communities.

7. A Realtor will help you understand the contract.
Even if you’ve bought and sold real estate before, the sales contract is likely to have some confusing wording. Misunderstanding the legalese can lead to some expensive mistakes, particularly if there are problems during construction. A Realtor can help you fully understand everything in your agreement before you sign it.

8. A Realtor can watch over your home during construction.
When you are buying a new construction home, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the progress while it is being built. This is easier said than done if you are relocating to the area and currently live far away. Fortunately, many Realtors are happy to watch over your new home, make sure upgrades are on track, and even send you progress reports.

Call Susan when you need help buying NEW or resale. 407-376-6120



While there are rules and restrictions within any planned community (age-restricted or otherwise), many homeowners find that the rules are very reasonable. They are designed to enhance the community, not make it overly-restrictive. Rules are often put into place to minimize neighborhood disputes and help protect the rights of every resident.

The basic rules and restrictions will vary from one community to another, but it’s easy to see that many community rules are created to maintain property values. Communities frequently have rules about keeping up with exterior home or yard maintenance. They often have restrictions on making drastic aesthetic exterior changes without prior approval, or on certain behaviors which could upset neighbors and scare off potential homebuyers.

Community rules may prevent homeowners from leaving rusted cars on blocks in their front yard or from having loud parties that last late into the night. Yes, the rules may limit some of the things that you can do on your property. But, they also limit your neighbors from making choices that would upset you or affect the value of your home.

Before buying into any planned community, homebuyers should have an opportunity to review the community’s rules and regulations. This is particularly important for homebuyers considering an active adult community, as there will be rules for conduct and usage of the community amenities.

Living in a 55+ community does not necessarily mean that everyone in the family has to be over the age of 55. Each age-restricted community has its own policy when it comes to eligible residents. In many communities, only one member of the family has to be over the minimum age of 55. Younger spouses or other members of the household may be allowed, as long as they are over the age of 19 (or whatever minimum age is set in the community policy).

Similarly, the rules for visiting children may be less restrictive than potential residents realize. Most age-restricted communities are happy to have children visit. There may even be playgrounds or other special amenities for young visitors. There are likely to be restrictions on the length of extended visits to respect the rights of other homeowners.

Active adult communities are created to foster a supportive, social lifestyle. While some rules and restrictions are necessary, they are designed to improve the community, not repress individual freedom. Before buying a home, make sure that the rules of the community fit your lifestyle. If they do, the restrictions will only help to protect your investment and support your retirement vision.