Many who have stayed for years at island resorts for their annual vacations eventually think about buying property in their favorite place. Anna Maria Island is that favorite place for a wide range of people who have one thing in common: they love the simple, Old Florida beauty here. Although Anna Maria Island lodging offers a wide range of comfortable places to stay, there is something special about having one’s own island home.
Since many people thinking of making the move are from places very different from this tropical island paradise, here is a list of things to watch out for as one selects one’s new island home:
1. Neighborhood flooding can come from high tides, storm surges or just heavy rainfall. Just one or two inches of elevation can make the difference between whether a particular home or yard is often standing in water, or not. Ideally, the potential home buyer should be sure to visit the island during the rainy season, staying at one of the island resorts, in order to drive around after heavy rain and see which properties are standing in water. It’s very hard to predict which properties will be dry and which will be flooded just by looking at them. At the very least, try to talk to others in the neighborhood and ask how often the street is closed due to high rainfall, or whether they have seen standing water at the property in which you are interested.
2. Anna Maria Island rentals are often interspersed among second homes that are not rented. Anyone who depends on peace and quiet should take a careful look at whether there are a lot of island rentals signs in the yards on the street where they are considering buying. Usually, there are more island rentals close to the beach, and this is one reason it’s not necessarily ideal to own a home right at the beach, unless, of course, you plan to rent it. If that’s the case, it’s good to keep in mind that rental properties with swimming pools are much easier to rent.
Exploring the wide variety of neighborhoods on beautiful Anna Maria Island is easy and fun. Depending on how much time you have, you can take a quick car tour, or a leisurely stroll. And there are many other options in between.
In addition to all the fine shops and restaurants that attract many visitors, the neighborhoods, themselves, are an attraction. The charming old houses and dense vegetation that characterize “Old Florida” offer endless interesting details and variety to be enjoyed by the curious visitor or local.
One way to get an even more intimate look at the lovely neighborhoods of Anna Maria Island is to tour around it on weekends, in order to drop in at yard sales and real estate open houses. It’s a sure way to make friends and see how other people have chosen to live on an island.
The island’s free trolley makes it very easy to travel any part of the island on foot, since you can always hop on for a ride if you get tired or short on time. This brings up a great way to start a walk from a variety of points around the island. It also makes it easy to take long walks in one direction without having to backtrack to get home.
Another fun way to wind up and down the streets to look at the vegetation and architecture is from the other side … the water. The island is ideal for very pleasant kayaking. The canals off of Bimini Bay are quite sheltered, offering smooth conditions even on breezy days. In addition to seeing interesting trees, flowers, decks and docks, one may be greeted by a manatee, a dolphin or a duck. And it’s not unusual to see a variety of herons, ospreys, and egrets perching and staring at you as you go by.
It has been a difficult few years for anyone wanting to sell a home on Anna Maria Island. Having been part of Florida’s spectacular growth, prices on island homes had risen tremendously since the 1990’s, and therefore were subject to the same kind of fall that all popular markets experienced starting a little over three years ago. But at least there always is something about a beautiful island that sets its properties apart from the larger inventories on the mainland. There is only a finite number of island homes, and people will always want to live on an island. So there is reason to believe properties on Anna Maria will be in demand again sooner than the general market.
The question is whether the nation is beginning to see a general upturn in housing sales and prices yet. There have been articles in highly regarded publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, indicating this may be the case. In a recent article in the Anna Maria Island Sun, Louise Bolger points out that Maureen Maitland, vice president for index services at Standard & Poor’s, has speculated that we may look back on April, 2009, as the trough in home prices.
Speaking of speculation, that would mean this could be a very good time to buy an investment home in Anna Maria Island … if you can afford the high property taxes. At least there is the possibility of covering some of those taxes and carrying costs through rental. And rumor has it that if the house has a swimming pool, it is much easier to rent. Of course this all is speculation, and speculation is largely responsible for the bubble and its bursting that put the market where it is today.
Sometimes at this time of year, the residents of Anna Maria Island begin to feel as if they are operating bed and breakfasts. One set of guests leaves and there is barely time to wash and dry the sheets before the next visitors arrive. It is no wonder friends and family from up North want to visit paradise at this time of year but, while the guests are reveling in paradise, their hosts can start to feel as if it’s “paradise lost.” A constant stream of even the most considerate visitors can hinder residents from focusing on their own favorite island activities. Before they know it, the best season is over and it’s time to turn on the air conditioning and retreat inside.
There are many ways to cope with living in a place everyone else wants to visit. One Islander, formerly of Chicago, sent a card to all his friends when he moved here, announcing that they were welcomed to visit in Anna Maria Island, but only if they had previously visited him in Chicago. This was the acid test to prove that the guests were not just using the friendship as an excuse to have free accommodations in paradise. If they really were visiting for reasons of friendship, they would have visited in Chicago, too.
Another way to cope with having too much company is to not have a guest room. Silly as this may sound, it seems to be a possibility that many islanders have seriously considered. They talk openly about it. In fact, in early years, when researching accommodations for guests at the island information center, I explained to the sweet ladies working there that I had no extra room for guests, but that we were planning to build an addition for this purpose. I was surprised to be sternly advised by one of the ladies not to add a room for guests, or I’d be sorry. Maybe she was just trying to promote more business for the island hotels and motels. But I had the feeling she was giving me a sincere warning.
Why buy when you can settle into a charming island rental as if it were your own home? People love to spend part of winter on Anna Maria Island. Many who fall in love with this beautiful island immediately buy one of the small homes, fix it up, then spend part of the year here when it gets cold everywhere else. But in the current economic conditions, it could make a lot more sense to take a close look at staying in one of the island rental properties that are available and postpone buying anything.
An island rental is often just a home somebody else bought when they fell in love with Anna Maria Island. Maybe they bought it a little too quickly. Then rising property taxes, or financial problems from other sources led the owner to need to rent the property to help defray the cost. Many of the island rental properties have been beautifully improved, with all the amenities of a tropical retreat. A spacious interior with nice finishes and tropical furnishings often opens out to a private swimming pool and beautiful island landscaping. It doesn’t take long to settle into such a place and feel at home.