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Old 01-26-2018, 03:29 PM
 
45 posts, read 57,442 times
Reputation: 31

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Hello everyone, I've read dozens of threads and still need to ask for your kind help. My wife, daughter (17 months now) and I moved to Jax 7 months ago from PA. We are currently renting in the Atlantic Blvd x Kernan area and so far we have had a great experience here (other than meeting people and making friends ). It is time to start thinking about buying a house in the next 5 months or extending our lease by 3-6-9-12 months (all are options).

Our budget is 450-500k but could go a bit further if needed. So far we have looked at PVB - there are some nice and established communities but after paying 500k+ you need to spend a lot more money on remodeling (which is fine), Nocatee, St Augustine, St Johns (the area West of Nocatee), so pretty much everywhere in St Johns. We've looked at new builds, model homes, we configured various floor plans, we understand how CDDs/HOAs work, overall we've done a lot of homework. We prefer not to be more than 20 minutes away from the beach and to buy a house with a pool or room to put one in, plus some more back yard space for a swing set and for the dog. All the amenities that the new developments come with are nice but we wouldn't use them much to be honest with you unless it's to socialize a bit. Also, I currently work from home so the commute is not an issue (could change 5-10-15 years from now, you never know).

So here's the issue that we've hit. In all these brand new communities, the lots are generally small and the spacing between houses is almost non-existent. Most of the bigger lots are taken. I don't love the overall look and feel of these communities but my wife does so that's fine. But I can't deal with my neighbors being so close and the back yard only having enough room for a covered pool...or worse. The few homesites that are generally left that are a bit bigger are generally reserved for much bigger and more expensive homes and even those are in very limited supply. People around here seem to be looking for miniscule lots and no maintenance I guess. So now to my questions:

1. Are there any subdivisions of these new communities with larger lots where the hpuse doesn't need to be 800k+ and 5000sf?

2. Is there anywhere in St Johns where I could find a slightly bigger lot (0.25-0.5ac) for a home in my price range without going too far west towards the river?

3. THE BIG QUESTION: We like where we are now, 5-10 minutes from the beach, close to Neptune/Atlantic/Jax Beach, close to stores and restaurants. There are some new plans with pretty nice homes, much cheaper than where we have looked (I even found the same house from the same builder for 100k less), in many cases with no CDD fees. But it's Duval County Schools and everyone tells me to run. Are there good private school options so that with the $ I'd save on CDDs (~3000/year) plus the savings on the home price, I would pay for private school in 4-5 years? Am I insane to think this way and I'd be better off paying the price for St Johns? Would resale be so much harder in Duval if we even have to sell? What are some of the good plans/developments in Duval closer to the coast that you would recommend?

4. The job market in JAX doesnt seem to be amazing, especially on the tech side, compared to Pitt which is where we came from (I mean no disrespect). Salaries tend to be lower as well. Yet thousands of people seem to afford 500k+ homes and they are selling like hot potatoes, how is this possible? I'm happy to see that Jax is doing so well, but I struggle to connect the dots and understand where all this $ is coming from.

We are not yet working with an agent (should find one soon), we wanted to first do as much as we can on our own before we did that. Thank you in advance for reading my long post and for your help.
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Old 01-27-2018, 12:46 AM
 
1,070 posts, read 2,473,771 times
Reputation: 612
If you have a small child and have the ability to move to St. Johns County Schools, I would strongly suggest that you do so. In addition to the schools issue, there's the quality of life issue. In my opinion, the quality of life in St. Johns County is far superior to that in Duval. If you work from home, you have the huge advantage of the commute from St. Johns to Duval not dragging down your quality of life. I believe the answer to your question about how families can afford to live in expensive homes, is that there are two wage earners. You say you work from home and commuting is not a factor, so I assume that your wife is not employed. The housing price range you mention seems very doable, but your desire for a large lot and a newer home at that price point probably won't happen. Builders need to maximize their profits as it is becoming very expensive to purchase large tracts of land and pay the impact fees required to build in St. Johns County. Profits are maximized by building on the smallest lot size allowed. The two wage earners purchasing really don't want to spend their free time taking care of a large lot or their own pool. Instead they want a Disney-like amenities center to enjoy with their families that serves as a conduit for meeting and socializing with neighbors. You've indicated that this is not the lifestyle that you want, but perhaps your wife does. I can well understand your quandary. Another factor for your home that you need to think about is the quality of construction. We're in a huge building boom in St. Johns County. The large, nationwide and regional mass builders (D.R. Horton, etc) are throwing up houses quickly and complaints of shoddy construction are prevalent. I would suggest that you seriously think about purchasing a home that is 10 - 20 yrs old and concrete block, if possible. Stay west of the Intercoastal Waterway. The 2 recent hurricanes have proven that our barrier islands are no longer immune to significant damages from storms. Have you looked on the south side of St. Augustine? Here are 3 neighborhoods I would suggest that have nice large lots and well constructed homes located within 20 min of the beach. If you're interested in taking a look at homes such as this; Go to Zillow and in the search box type Sea Pines, 32086 or Moses Creek, 32086 or Oakbrook, 32086. I hope you find what you are looking for and can purchase a home where you will be happy.
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Old 01-27-2018, 02:42 PM
 
Location: Shenandoah Valley, VA
96 posts, read 81,626 times
Reputation: 160
Tech,

Lots to think about for sure.
I agree with staying west of the intercoastal - for a number of reasons. St. Johns County has a lot to offer and the schools are rated highly. However, the county is changing and expanding at an almost unbelievable rate. It will affect schools, crime, taxes and traffic and property values.

Jax has some interesting areas close to the intercoastal, especially along the San Pablo corridor. Alimacani school is highly regarded and there are several private schools in the area that are very good. We live in one of the established communities here and really like it.

If your job commute would not be adversely impacted, have you given any thought to Fernandina? Just a thought. Nice downtown area, Baptist hospital there is expanding, plenty of established neighborhoods and many existing homes that could be remodeled well within your stated budget. And, not likely to be overdeveloped.
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Old 01-27-2018, 08:16 PM
 
45 posts, read 57,442 times
Reputation: 31
I cannot thank you enough for your detailed replies. Staying West of the intercoastal is sound advice. I assume that flood insurance tends to be high, especially after looking at the flood zones in Duval and St Johns. I have already Googled the 3 neighborhoods in 32086 that @ssclulow mentioned and I will definitely go for a drive there. I am pretty familiar with the neighborhoods along San Pablo and Alimacani school, I drive by there each day to take my kid to daycare. Those were actually some of the neighborhoods I was referring to when I was asking about staying in Duval.

@BGCTFL, you mentioned Fernandina - the thought had crossed my mind. I've only gone in that direction twice, to Peters Point Park to fish and enjoy the beach, but I am not familiar with the area (which I can fix). Are there communities there for younger families where we'd have an opportunity to make friends? A quick Zillow search introduced me to Yulee or O'Neil as communities with quite a few options for homes and closer to I95 or 17. So is there enough there in Nassau County compared to St Johns and should we spend any time looking in that direction?

Lastly, @ssclulow, I appreciate the answer about so many families affording the 500k+ homes - 2 incomes. I am of the mindset that even with 2 incomes, we should be able to fully sustain ourselves on 1 income without changing the quality of our lives as a family. That's so if at any given time the 2nd income is lost, we're not struggling, life continues as before and the only thing that suffers is how much we can save and such. This limits our buying power as a family but creates a lot more peace of mind which I value greatly. That personal choice sometimes makes me forget that people make different choices and have different life styles, which is absolutely fine, it just made my view on this narrow. So thank you for explaining.
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Old 01-27-2018, 09:05 PM
 
Location: Shenandoah Valley, VA
96 posts, read 81,626 times
Reputation: 160
Fernandina is lovely. Lots of outdoor activities for the family and plenty of shopping both for day to day needs and for antiquing, girls day out, etc. The downtown is always fun and we go up there several times per month. It's a very active and culturally minded community - without being stuffy. There is a little cruise boat that leaves from the downtown dock that goes to Cumberland Island - sightseeing only , St. Marys has the boat that will drop you off.

There are several neighborhoods within walking /biking distance to downtown that are very affordable. Older homes, solidly built, are ideal for updating.

For day excursions you are only a hop skip and jump to St. Marys and Jekyll Island and St. Simon and it's easy driving to Savannah.

After the last two hurricanes it seemed most damage was heaviest around the direct beach areas and the downtown dock areas. So, overall, it fared pretty well.
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Old 01-27-2018, 09:07 PM
 
Location: Shenandoah Valley, VA
96 posts, read 81,626 times
Reputation: 160
Tech,
I believe Yulee and O'Neil are a considerably more "country" than Fernandina and intracoastal Jax.
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Old 01-28-2018, 04:56 AM
 
Location: Amelia Island
3,107 posts, read 4,174,883 times
Reputation: 3267
In regards to Fernandina Beach, the median age as well as the median income on island is continuing to climb. Some neighborhoods on island have a mix of children some not many.

Off island is expanding rapidly with neighborhoods and I don't think we are handling it well compared to Saint John's County.

Schools are great here but overcrowding is going to be the elephant in the room here in the very near future with so much building off island.

We love it here but like so many who have lived in Saint John's County since the late eighties and early nineties we are experienceing extremely rapid growth!

Good luck!
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Old 01-29-2018, 06:17 AM
 
4,929 posts, read 3,490,388 times
Reputation: 9043
You're going to need to find a good realtor to find you the bigger lots. In our community a large majority of the original builds back up to either preserve or retention ponds, so you don't feel quite so claustrophobic. A good realtor can run MLS searches that specify "corner lot" or that whittle down lots by size so that you aren't wasting your time looking at smaller lots. The new builds that are coming in are cracker jack boxes that back up right to one another. For the life of me I can't understand why why anyone who spends $300K+ on a brand new home would willingly choose to have your back yard literally feet away from your neighbor's back yard sandwiched between two other homes.....yuck.

As you'll quickly find out, the further inland you go, the more house/yard your dollar will stretch. So a $400,000 home in PVB may be an older, fixer with a tiny yard. But if you go west of 210 a $400K home might be a custom home with a large lot that backs to preserve. So there is some give and take. You have to decide for yourselves which is more important......location or house/yard.

I ask myself the same question all the time......where are all these people getting their money to afford the big houses and expensive cars they drive. Dual income helps but a lot of people fall bass ackwards into money and are in debt up to their eyeballs so a big house/car doesn't always equate to true wealth.

In terms of jobs, I have read that many financial firms are moving headquarters (or large, satellite offices) to the Jacksonville area to reap the tax benefits. These financial firms are always looking for good tech people so possibly start there. Everbank was recently acquired by TIAA and TIAA has good, flexible work from home arrangements for most employees, look them up.
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Old 01-29-2018, 06:38 AM
 
2 posts, read 3,879 times
Reputation: 10
I live in Yulee just west of I-95. Yulee is growing rapidly but not at the same rate as St Johns. My personal belief is Nassau county is handling the growth better then St Johns. Many of the students that live in the fastest growing sections of St Johns have been forced to change school several times in there elementary years due to the constant rezoning. The biggest headache in Nassau County is the revamping of A1A. The contractor has been doing a very poor job. The newest addition to Nassau County is Wildlight. Wildlight will be very similar to Nocatee when completed. However, Wildlight already has Rayonier Corporate as well as Florida Power and Light coming in this summer. St Johns gets all the attention but I believe we are the better deal. Our school district is A rated, we are not far form the airport, the beach is close and real estate off Island is cheaper overall then St Johns. This is just my 2 cents off course.
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Old 01-29-2018, 11:59 AM
 
2,053 posts, read 3,116,055 times
Reputation: 2905
Quote:
Originally Posted by tech13579 View Post
Hello everyone, I've read dozens of threads and still need to ask for your kind help. My wife, daughter (17 months now) and I moved to Jax 7 months ago from PA. We are currently renting in the Atlantic Blvd x Kernan area and so far we have had a great experience here (other than meeting people and making friends ). It is time to start thinking about buying a house in the next 5 months or extending our lease by 3-6-9-12 months (all are options).

Our budget is 450-500k but could go a bit further if needed. So far we have looked at PVB - there are some nice and established communities but after paying 500k+ you need to spend a lot more money on remodeling (which is fine), Nocatee, St Augustine, St Johns (the area West of Nocatee), so pretty much everywhere in St Johns. We've looked at new builds, model homes, we configured various floor plans, we understand how CDDs/HOAs work, overall we've done a lot of homework. We prefer not to be more than 20 minutes away from the beach and to buy a house with a pool or room to put one in, plus some more back yard space for a swing set and for the dog. All the amenities that the new developments come with are nice but we wouldn't use them much to be honest with you unless it's to socialize a bit. Also, I currently work from home so the commute is not an issue (could change 5-10-15 years from now, you never know).

So here's the issue that we've hit. In all these brand new communities, the lots are generally small and the spacing between houses is almost non-existent. Most of the bigger lots are taken. I don't love the overall look and feel of these communities but my wife does so that's fine. But I can't deal with my neighbors being so close and the back yard only having enough room for a covered pool...or worse. The few homesites that are generally left that are a bit bigger are generally reserved for much bigger and more expensive homes and even those are in very limited supply. People around here seem to be looking for miniscule lots and no maintenance I guess. So now to my questions:

1. Are there any subdivisions of these new communities with larger lots where the hpuse doesn't need to be 800k+ and 5000sf?

2. Is there anywhere in St Johns where I could find a slightly bigger lot (0.25-0.5ac) for a home in my price range without going too far west towards the river?

3. THE BIG QUESTION: We like where we are now, 5-10 minutes from the beach, close to Neptune/Atlantic/Jax Beach, close to stores and restaurants. There are some new plans with pretty nice homes, much cheaper than where we have looked (I even found the same house from the same builder for 100k less), in many cases with no CDD fees. But it's Duval County Schools and everyone tells me to run. Are there good private school options so that with the $ I'd save on CDDs (~3000/year) plus the savings on the home price, I would pay for private school in 4-5 years? Am I insane to think this way and I'd be better off paying the price for St Johns? Would resale be so much harder in Duval if we even have to sell? What are some of the good plans/developments in Duval closer to the coast that you would recommend?

4. The job market in JAX doesnt seem to be amazing, especially on the tech side, compared to Pitt which is where we came from (I mean no disrespect). Salaries tend to be lower as well. Yet thousands of people seem to afford 500k+ homes and they are selling like hot potatoes, how is this possible? I'm happy to see that Jax is doing so well, but I struggle to connect the dots and understand where all this $ is coming from.

We are not yet working with an agent (should find one soon), we wanted to first do as much as we can on our own before we did that. Thank you in advance for reading my long post and for your help.
Couple points I'd like to make:

1. St. Johns schools are somewhat overrated. There are plenty of great magnet schools in Duval county, some that are rated higher than the St. Johns county schools. Most parents however, are too lazy, to uninformed or to intimated to seek these magnet schools out and push their children in that direction. Some just don't have the time to research it. Some of these schools are Jax Beach Elementary, Kirby Smith Middle School, Paxon School for Advanced Studies, and although Fletcher is not known for it's high level of academics, the AICE program is a collection of outstanding young minds. As long as you and your wife are willing to put in a little research and do a little extra work with your kids, you can have them in a great school in Duval, so I wouldn't even make that a consideration. Use other priorities as a guideline.

2. That being said, Beacon Lakes off of 210 is brand new and Dream Finders Homes might possibly have what you are looking for in there. It's Nocatee, but it's not, if that makes sense. There are a plethora of new communities coming up. There are going to be beautiful Courtyard Homes being built by David Weekley Homes around the St. Johns Town Center/Gate Parkway area starting in the spring, which would keep you in a great location with quick access to the beach.

If I think if any other new communities that might suit your needs I'll post them, but take your time, visit the builders websites and look for the Upcoming Communities sections. I recommend Dostie, Riverside Homes, David Weekley and Dream Finders homes for single family units. Pulte and DelWebb for multifamily, but I don't think you want that. Bear in mind I make my recommendations based on the quality of the builder as well, since I am in the construction industry and am intimately aware of the level of quality of most builders in NE Florida. You don't want a good deal on a home only to have a falling apart from moisture related issues as is the case with one poster who has been communicating with me privately. Research and choose your builder carefully. I'm free to answer any questions you might have.

In any case, welcome and good luck!

SS

Last edited by ShakenStirred; 01-29-2018 at 12:03 PM.. Reason: Added info
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