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Old 01-16-2010, 12:27 PM
 
6 posts, read 10,562 times
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Hi all,

My husband & I are planning a move to Florida in a little over a year. We have a son, who will be just finishing junior high when we move, so we need information on high schools & places to live.

We were just in the St. Pete/Gulfport area for Christmas, and had some time to really drive around some neighborhoods, and I have to say that I was disappointed because everything seemed so run down and even maybe dangerous. We are moving from Santa Barbara, CA to be closer to family & friends (we are originally from the midwest). SB is a city of about 100,000 people, very safe, very beautiful, and easy to get around.

I know that the Tampa Bay area is huge, so we're going to have a much different experience there, but I just found it weird how you'd basically be in the 'hood' and then it would be nice for a few streets and then back in the hood again. I hadn't noticed that on previous visits, and how run down things looked, and I'm wondering if it's because of the economy or that's just kind of how it is there?

I have a friend in Orlando and one up north towards Gainesville, and she suggested the Tarpon Springs, Dunedin or Palm Harbor areas. We took a quick drive through Tarpon Springs before I had to be at the airport, and it looked like it had potential - there's a house I love on the river on Bayshore Dr. & that seemed like a nice neighborhood.

We're mid-30's, early 40's, like to be social, and want to be somewhere that has a nice community feel, where our son can safely bike over to a friends house, etc. We are more home-bodies than go out & party people, but we do on occasion & don't want to live in a totally sleepy town.

Our son is a big sports player, so a school with an active sports program is important, as well as maybe one with a smaller student-teacher ratio because he has some challenges with academics and I don't want him to get lost in a large school. We would consider private if that would be a better option, and if there weren't the school sports, we're also active in club team type programs - basketball, baseball, and maybe football - this year was his first & we're not sure how much he loved it.

I love the idea of being able to walk/bike places like restaurants,shops & parks & love the idea of the Pinellas Trail for biking, roller blading & walking. We ideally want to be on the water so we can have the boat behind the house with easy access to the gulf, which is also why I am considering those areas.

Which leads me to another question about the homeowners insurance - has that gotten any better or is it still a mess? I think we'll end up paying about the same there that we do here overall (mortgage, insurance & taxes), but we're hoping to buy a less expensive house (Santa Barbara is VERY expensive). The one that I saw on the river in Tarpon Springs that I liked is $765k, for a 4 BR/3 BA on 1/2 acre with a pool, which compared to SB seems like a great price - but I just wonder how awful the insurance would be.

Sorry, this is long, but it seems when people are looking for information everyone asks for more details, so I'm just hoping to get as much back as I can.

People think we're crazy for moving from here to there, but we like the warmer weather & want to be on the water & closer to family and Florida has always been beautiful & fun to me. I never even get in the ocean here b/c it's too cold!!

Thanks so much!
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Old 01-16-2010, 02:33 PM
 
15,845 posts, read 33,199,978 times
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You might give Sarasota a look. It reminds me a lot of Santa Barbara, without the hills and cliffs. Sarasota has a great downtown and is just over the Ringling Bridge to St. Armand's Circle and Lido Beach. Don't know about prices for waterfront properties, but there is plenty of beautiful waterfront in Sarasota. You can also read info in the Sarasota forum here for more particulars. It is about an hour south of Tampa, and maybe 30-40 minutes south of St. Pete.
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Old 01-16-2010, 03:02 PM
 
6 posts, read 10,562 times
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Thank you - we actually did visit Sarasota last year & looked around a bit at the houses - it reminded me of Santa Barbara too, so that is still up for consideration as well. It's funny though, one of the things I don't like about CA & SB in particular is the "snobs" and fake people - our closest big city is L.A. & I can't stand it there! Looking for a little more "down-to-earth" people, so I had kind of shy'ed away from Sarasota b/c it almost reminded me of SB TOO much (although we didn't meet any people, so that was completely based on how it looked). I grew up in Ohio & I miss the midwestern, laid back people.
Thanks again!
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Old 01-16-2010, 03:11 PM
 
Location: East Tennessee
3,927 posts, read 10,643,241 times
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Oh My, what a lot of questions?!? LoL. I'll give you my take on some of these things and hopefully others will reply as well.

Quote:
Originally Posted by candlejen View Post
Hi all,

My husband & I are planning a move to Florida in a little over a year. We have a son, who will be just finishing junior high when we move, so we need information on high schools & places to live.

We were just in the St. Pete/Gulfport area for Christmas, and had some time to really drive around some neighborhoods, and I have to say that I was disappointed because everything seemed so run down and even maybe dangerous. We are moving from Santa Barbara, CA to be closer to family & friends (we are originally from the midwest). SB is a city of about 100,000 people, very safe, very beautiful, and easy to get around.

Did you look at the Pasadena Yacht & Country Club area in Gulfport or around the Coffee Pot Bayou in St. Pete? Both very nice places.

I know that the Tampa Bay area is huge, so we're going to have a much different experience there, but I just found it weird how you'd basically be in the 'hood' and then it would be nice for a few streets and then back in the hood again. I hadn't noticed that on previous visits, and how run down things looked, and I'm wondering if it's because of the economy or that's just kind of how it is there?

That's how it is. Most of the entire Pinellas County peninsula was completely built out by the early 80s. So now, the new construction is either re-build or in-fill. Same applies to most of the coastal areas.

I have a friend in Orlando and one up north towards Gainesville, and she suggested the Tarpon Springs, Dunedin or Palm Harbor areas. We took a quick drive through Tarpon Springs before I had to be at the airport, and it looked like it had potential - there's a house I love on the river on Bayshore Dr. & that seemed like a nice neighborhood.

Tarpon Springs is a beautiful area. Personally, I prefer Tarpon over Palm Harbor or Dunedin. But you must research as much as possible about the property you choose. You're looking at it from a much higher price point area. Look up the property address on the Property Appraiser and the seller on the Clerk's website(s). Florida is a disclosure state so getting information is easy.

The City of Tarpon Springs has a spiffy website --> City of Tarpon Springs, FL Government Web Site / 324 E. Pine Street, Tarpon Springs, FL 34689.

We're mid-30's, early 40's, like to be social, and want to be somewhere that has a nice community feel, where our son can safely bike over to a friends house, etc. We are more home-bodies than go out & party people, but we do on occasion & don't want to live in a totally sleepy town.

According to my demographics file, the median age in Tarpon Springs is 46. However, if you want to do the concerts, professional sports, etc. thing, expect a haul from Tarpon Springs. You would be very close to Anclote Key, Honeymoon Island and Fred Howard Park.

Our son is a big sports player, so a school with an active sports program is important, as well as maybe one with a smaller student-teacher ratio because he has some challenges with academics and I don't want him to get lost in a large school. We would consider private if that would be a better option, and if there weren't the school sports, we're also active in club team type programs - basketball, baseball, and maybe football - this year was his first & we're not sure how much he loved it.

The schools in Tarpon Springs are very good by Florida standards. You can read about the public schools here--> Pinellas County Schools; and how the schools rated within the state here --> Florida's Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT). The public schools are large, but there are limits to the number of students in each classroom (Grades K-3 = 20, Grades 4-8 = 21, and Grades 9-12 = 25).

I love the idea of being able to walk/bike places like restaurants,shops & parks & love the idea of the Pinellas Trail for biking, roller blading & walking. We ideally want to be on the water so we can have the boat behind the house with easy access to the gulf, which is also why I am considering those areas.

Which leads me to another question about the homeowners insurance - has that gotten any better or is it still a mess? I think we'll end up paying about the same there that we do here overall (mortgage, insurance & taxes), but we're hoping to buy a less expensive house (Santa Barbara is VERY expensive). The one that I saw on the river in Tarpon Springs that I liked is $765k, for a 4 BR/3 BA on 1/2 acre with a pool, which compared to SB seems like a great price - but I just wonder how awful the insurance would be.

Florida homeowner's insurance has been difficult since Hurricane Andrew, but it's not impossible. The entire Tarpon Springs area is in a flood zone, unless an individual has a written exception from FEMA. The City of Tarpon Springs has negotiated rates with FEMA that are better than some others. Many factors go into insurance premiums, e.g., your credit score, property location, square footage, replacement value, condition, type of construction, upgrades, wind mitigation and probably a bunch of others I'm missing.

Sorry, this is long, but it seems when people are looking for information everyone asks for more details, so I'm just hoping to get as much back as I can.

People think we're crazy for moving from here to there, but we like the warmer weather & want to be on the water & closer to family and Florida has always been beautiful & fun to me. I never even get in the ocean here b/c it's too cold!!

Thanks so much!
Hope this helps...whew!

Last edited by TampaKaren; 01-16-2010 at 03:22 PM..
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Old 01-16-2010, 03:41 PM
 
6 posts, read 10,562 times
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Wow - thank you - that was helpful! We did look around the Coffee Pot Bayou (beautiful homes!) but it still seemed like you didn't have to go very far & it was really run-down. I know I am spoiled b/c SB has so many building codes and requirements that everything looks really nice - we don't have those pockets like that.

It also seemed like downtown St. Pete had lost a lot of businesses or something - we walked around a little & were wondering where all the cute shops/restaurants were, but maybe we were just on the wrong block.

One other question on the insurance, the listing for that house I liked (in Tarpon Srpings) states that it's 14' above sea level - is there a reason they are stating that?

You said that it would be a haul for sporting events/concerts, which may or may not be an issue, not sure yet, but do you know if there are any small venues for music in the Tarpon Springs area? Just wondering - I like where you can go have a drink & listen to someone play acoustic.

Thanks again for all of the info - I will check out some of the links!
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Old 01-16-2010, 04:27 PM
 
Location: East Tennessee
3,927 posts, read 10,643,241 times
Reputation: 5235
There are about 25 different municipalities in Pinellas County. Getting them each to agree on anything is futile. Florida has building codes, but enforced on new construction and/or renovations based on a dollar amount I cannot remember. Part of the eclectic charm, ahem...

Baywalk in downtown St. Pete has encountered difficult economic times. Many of the businesses had to leave. But, IMO, it's such a charming and beautiful area, it will endure and recover with time. Long media coverage article follows. You could also do a net search on Baywalk St. Petersburg. Baywalk and other urban venues face complex problems - St. Petersburg Times.

OK, I'm no contractor, but in my own words, the 14' above sea level has to do with BFE (base flood elevation) measured in feet above mean sea level and building codes. BFE is one of the reasons those sleepy trailer parks next to the coast line cannot be replaced ever. There are modular homes on stilts around; funny site if you've ever seen them.

For entertainment, there are lots of small venues along gulf-side that have regular music. In my earlier note, I was referring to major entertainers in large venues. Search here --> http://tampabay.metromix.com/. I think that the best places will be private recommendations for places off the beaten path.

Last edited by TampaKaren; 01-16-2010 at 04:38 PM..
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Old 01-16-2010, 05:26 PM
 
6 posts, read 10,562 times
Reputation: 14
TampaKaren,

Thanks so much - great info. & although the eclectic charm, ahem, is not what we're used to here, it might actually be nice to not have to wait a year for approval on your mailbox, ahem..........

I think Baywalk was where we were, and I'll just have to hope that it comes back. We have lost businesses here in SB as well, but our downtown is beautiful & I was just surprised b/c I thought St. Pete would be similar (but even better b/c it's right by the water!).

So on the BFE, in your opinion, is that 14' above sea level some sort of selling point for insurance purposes? It seems like it if they mention it...........?

I did take what you said about the 'haul' for being the larger venues & sports events, which we'd actually really like b/c SB is so small that we don't have that here, but it might not be so bad to go stay at the Hard Rock Tampa for a night to go do those things.........not sure yet. Because SB has no major sports teams, there isn't really an affinity here for anyone except the L.A. Lakers, but to go to a game is a major task as it is 2 hours away. It'd be nice to be part of the Tampa "experience" just by living in/near a city with some major sports (not so much for me, but definitely my husband & son).

One thing that people probably don't know about Santa Barbara or California in general, IMO, is that, except for maybe San Diego, CA is lacking in that "beach feeling" - probably b/c once the sun goes down, it's not very warm. We don't have "beach" bars/restaurants of any kind (there are a couple - but it's not the same). It's weird, b/c moving here from the midwest, I totally thought that it would be like Florida, but it isn't at all - and that's one of the reasons that I really want to move to Florida - that always felt good to me - even in the summer months (although I was on vacation & didn't have to put on work clothes or makeup).

I just think that the boating life down there would be so much fun - there isn't really anywhere to go here. The only islands are the Channel Islands which are hard to get to if the surf is rough, and there is nothing there except hiking. I don't even fully comprehend the whole boating thing here b/c there is nowhere to go, really. And the ocean is COLD - my son always wants to go to the beach and I'm like, why? We're going to sit there & sweat & not want to get in the water! (Although he's young & doesn't care so much - I'm a wimp & much prefer the Carribean).

Anyway, I really appreciate your input & great information - you must be good at your job (although I'm sure it's a bit rough right now)!
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