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.
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.
When is the Anna Maria Island High Season? That depends on who you ask. For the rental industry, most tourists come in winter, between Thanksgiving and Easter. Rates go up towards the end of November and down about the beginning of May.
But times are changing and the “shoulder” seasons are extending into all of November and after April. Summer is also the busiest time for day visitors, who escape the inland heat for the cooler beaches and water activities and bring their kids who are out of school. Longer daylight hours attract after-work beachgoers. However, these visitors don’t have an impact on the rental real estate market as much as they do on the restaurant and bar trade.
As a year-round resident, who endures the high humidity and storms of summer, my respect for the wisdom of the snowbirds grows every year. From October through May, there are many days that are just about perfect. The people who come here during that period avoid a lot of discomfort and worry. They don’t have to worry about whether they are in a structure that will withstand the high winds of summer hurricanes. They don’t have to postpone a walk for fear of being struck by lightning, as often is the case in summer. The good news for those of us who stay here year-round is that high tourist season does not fill the entire period from October through May, so we get to enjoy many days that are near perfect, without crowds.
The busiest time of year seems to be around Presidents’ Day, the third Monday in February. Schools are on break and warmer weather brings out the winter hibernators. Travel can be brought to a standstill for hours as cars search for parking spots and bridge openings stop traffic flowing. Congestion is increasing each year as more people discover Anna Maria Island and try to squeeze onto a finite space.
The National Association of Realtors has just released its Profile of International Home Buying Activity, relaying information about foreign national buying practices in the 12-month period between May 2007 and May 2008. Although the survey of 4,000 realtors across the nation indicates that buying was widespread and spanned almost every state (the most popular states being Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, New York, Washington and Nevada), the report also shows that foreign buyers purchased less property during the period than they did a year earlier. The decline in reported transactions can be attributed to the general downturn in the U.S. housing market. In fact, it appears, according to the report, that foreign buyers, like U.S. buyers, may be reticent to invest in U.S. property until they are assured that the investment will “pay off.”