What do I need to buy a villa in Florida?

What to do to purchase a holiday home in the sunshine state

So, as I sit here after a freezing cold bike ride home from the station, I am thinking to myself “who else wants to invest in a house or villa in the USA, it’s nice and toasty warm out there?”.  But how do you go about such an investment and how easy is it in reality to buy a villa abroad?


Buy a villa in Florida….

Questions questions questions

It’s pretty simple actually.  You just need to think about what you want to budget and what’s important to you.

  • Do you intend to short term rent the villa, or just let out to friends and family?
  • What style do you want?  Condo, single family home?
  • How big do you want the villa – large villas tend to attract more wear and tear
  • What location works best for rentals?
  • How will you buy?  Do you intend to finance the villa through cash or a US mortgage, or a UK re-mortgage?
  • Are you going to list the villa and do all of the bookings yourself?  Where are you going to advertise?
  • Who will you use to manage the villa when you are away?
  • Will you use a home warranty or take the risk?
  • Which communities do you like in Florida and what sort of maintenance fee for the association are you looking for?
  • Do you want a gated community and the extra expense?
  • Where are you going to find research material before you take the plunge?
  • Who will do the book-keeping?


Next is the realtor. A good realtor will be happy to take your money (well, it’s usually the seller’s money) in exchange for a top quality service.  Donna and I found a realtor through a holiday homes show in the UK, then arranged to visit them in a few months once we were ready for our trip to Orlando.  When we arrived in Orlando we then spent three days looking at communities and villas for sale and gleaming any advice we could get.

We learned a lot from our realtor and subsequent experience, especially to choose:

  • South facing pool
  • Large pool and deck
  • Spa
  • Turn-key condition
  • Wide plots with quiet neighborhood
  • Good home owners association
  • Single storey (our preferred choice)
  • Community with high occupancy and repeat rentals (Tuscan Ridge)
  • Recently replaced appliances including air con and pool heater

What else do I do to buy a villa?

All we needed to do on top of the realtor service was to:

  • Decide on the questions above
  • Decide on the right house, then put in an offer
  • Once the offer is accepted it is legally binding for the seller
  • Get a US bank account, we chose SunTrust but their international wire rates are high, so there may be other options such as Citibank.  All we needed was a British passport and $100
  • Get our passport verified by the British consulate in Orlando (South Orange Avenue), at a cost of $50 per person
  • Arrange for a limited power of attorney so our management company could arrange utility bills on our behalf
  • Fill out an International Tax Payers Number (ITIN) so the USA can take back what is owed to them after our expenses are deducted

And that was it!  The rest is taken care of by the realtor and then the management company.  Once you’ve decided on a property then a couple more things are needed:

  • Deposit (we transferred via TransferWise straight to the closing company)
  • House survey at a cost of $550 for wind, woodworm, and a basic survey
  • We would recommend a full survey in hindsight

Then (of course) the big transfer of the rest of the money before closing….. see this link.

Feel free to contact us if you need any more advice.


Disney Springs has Sprung!

The new look Disney Springs


Disney Springs, Orlando

Previously known as Down town Disney, Orlando.

Over the last couple of years we have seen huge developments around one of our favourite places to hang out – Disney Springs, Orlando.

The Walt Disney World resort offers plenty to do with the family with a pinch of Disney fairy dust, just so you don’t forget where you are!  With over 180 waterside places to eat, shopping and entertainment you can easily fill a day here or spend just a few hours to get your retail fix on your days off away from the parks, not forgetting the all year long Christmas store in the Marketplace.

From fine dining to prehistoric entertainment in the T-Rex dinosaur-themed café, face painting for the kids (any age!) or a dockside margarita there is really is something for everyone!


T-Rex Cafe at Disney Springs

There is a huge amount of new parking facilities or simply catch one of the Walt Disney World complimentary buses or boats.

If you have a free day in your Orlando holiday, this really is a great place to visit if you are looking for an exciting and busy atmosphere. We’d highly recommend booking a table before hand if you are limited to time or be aware it can get busy and you may have to wait for something to eat – more so if you wanting to eat at a particular place but you can check in and be sent away with a time slot or buzzer when your table is ready. There are plenty of places to pick up snacks, coffees and ice cream as you go… Did i mention the margaritas ;0)

If not a great day with the weather or you fancy staying out into the night, you could watch a movie and have a bite to eat at the same time in the 24 dine-in theatres. A great way to entertain the teens in your group, along with the new NBA Experience that has just replaced the DisneyQuest with hands-on activities and interactive experiences.

Like most things in America, Disney Springs is on the large scale so don’t be fooled into thinking you’ve seen it all! There are pathways and bridges between the 3 areas and you can even catch a ferry across the lake from one end to the other.

  • The Marketplace is the main shopping area with stores like World of Disney and The LEGO Store.
  • What was previously known as Pleasure Island is now where restaurants and shops largely operate, and is located in the middle. Have you got space in your suitcases for all your shopping! www.disneysprings.com/shops
  • The West Side is on the far side of Disney Springs, and is where more of the third party entertainment, shopping, and dining options are at.

We have been here many times when our little boy was too young to appreciate the parks but we all felt like we had a fix of Disney!

So who is off to Disney Spring this year? Check it out… www.disneysprings.com



No escape from Disney!


Finding a cheap Orlando flight

Struggling to find a cheap Orlando flight that won’t break the bank?

cheap orlando flight

Up up and away!

People plan their holiday in different ways.  Some will find their villa first, some may look for certain dates, and some may simply try to find the best deal on flights and then search for everything else afterwards with fingers crossed!  Whatever your approach, a cheap Orlando flight for your family usually a big factor in booking your next big holiday, so we’ve put together some tips to help you find the best deal.  It’s something we’re often asked as villa owners, but it’s important to realise it’s not an exact science and may take patience.

Flights vary in price. A lot.


Flight prices depend on supply and demand

All airlines try to fill their planes for the maximum price and profit.  This leads to fluctuation in prices.  Typically, a last minute deal for a long-haul flight just doesn’t exist any more and you’ll find that booking a few months in advance is the best bet for getting a cheap Orlando flight.  For USA flights Skyscanner suggest about 18 weeks in advance.  A good article examining short-haul flight prices is here.

The time of year you are shopping makes a difference.  When tickets aren’t selling, typically just before Christmas, sales appear and prices can drop.  We bought our last tickets to Tampa just 3 days before Christmas.

Do some research a year beforehand if you can – know what price to “buy” at, as if you were trading stocks.  For example if the UK to Orlando is ever close to £400 to £450 per person (prices as of 2016) then we buy.

Be flexible with dates

If you don’t really care when you travel, which is rare, then be flexible.  Search for entire months of flights.  Use skyscanner.  Then check the airline sites directly.  Watch out for indirect flights because they just aren’t worth the hassle and you’ll run the danger of ruining your holiday.  Also try to book to fly out on a weekday and avoid weekends when you can.

Try fly-drive

For our last 5 holidays, 4 have been fly-drive and only one was cheaper to book flights and a car separately – and it was a cheap car as well.  We have never found a nice car and separate flight for cheaper than a fly-drive.

Watch out for hidden costs


Hidden costs can be a pain

One example is Virgin fly-drive.  Their basic insurance package doesn’t include collision damage waiver (CDW).  British Airways’ does.  We ended up forking out another £70 on CDW on one trip when we got to Orlando airport and realised.  A tip for this is to opt for the daily CDW ($20) then book your own CDW through a 3rd party site (we used www.icarhireinsurance.com) and cancel the airport CDW within 24 hours.

Check other things such as the baggage allowance, and optional extras that you might otherwise have to buy separately.

Change your destination!

No, we don’t mean fly to Scunthorpe, we mean fly to Tampa, Miami, or Orlando.  Have a road trip.  Our next holiday will fly into Tampa instead of Orlando and was £200 cheaper.  It’s about 20 minutes longer to drive to from our villa on Tuscan Ridge, but it’s a quicker airport to get through and quick to get a hire car too.

Free cash through cashback


Theres no such thing as a free gift

Cashback is always worth a shot.  For every trip we’ve booked, the flights were through quidco.  Here’s a link for £1 off your next quidco purchase!  You can do the same with insurance, car hire, and pretty much anything.


Last but not least, don’t rush into anything – do some research, ask friends, or send us an email to get some cheap Orlando flight advice.  Good luck in finding flights for your next holiday to our villa.


Disney Springs opening 2015 & 2016

Disney Springs opening finishes in Spring 2016

Disney Springs opening 2015

The BOATHOUSE at Disney Springs opening in 2015

Walt Disney World announced Disney Springs in March 2014 – a thorough renovation of Downtown Disney that is opening across 2015 and 2016 in phases.

Due to complete in Spring 2016, the final results will be more shopping, bigger and better dining and entertainment, and a fantastic open air experience with promenades, springs and waterfront features.  The theme of Disney Springs will focus on four areas, the Town Center, Landing, Marketplace, and West Side.

Disney Springs will see the following features now confirmed from our previous post:

  • An expansion of shops and dining from 75 to 150 locations
  • Town Center mix of dining and shopping with relaxing spaces for all the family
  • Landing dining experiences accompanied with waterfront views
  • Marketplace commercial area, with shops such as the CO-OP
  • West Side entertainment for all ages
  • Confirmed places to eat are STK Orlando, Morimoto Asia and THE BOATHOUSE
  • The Landing has already opened Apex by Sunglass Hut and Chapel Hats on January 30th 2015
  • Other confirmed retailers are Art of Shaving (grooming), Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC, Havaianas (create your own), Sanuk footwear, and Sound Lion music products

More here: source.  And connecting it all up here.

There’s already a lot of changes present, including a complicated mix of parking that will eventually result in a huge multi-storey car park.  So if you are planning to visit Downtown Disney or Disney Springs opening make sure you leave a little extra time in your schedule.

Disney Springs Parking

Parking at Disney Springs

We already recommend that every Orlando family holiday has a day at Downtown Disney, so this will be just another reason to make it happen, even if all you want is a Mickey Mouse Christmas bauble!


Orlando alternative days out

Fun for under $25?

It’s not difficult to get Orlando alternative days out for your family and our latest blog post tells you how.

Its not all about Mickey Mouse and fairy dust with an expensive park entrance fee in Orlando, here are our top ten attractions and activities to do for less than $25 per person! Starting with number one, and in no particular order….

1. Boat tours

Winter Park Boat Tours. Located on Lake Osceola in the quiet suburb less than 10 minutes from downtown Orlando, the boat tour offers hour-long, guided cruises through three of the seven lakes and two, narrow man-made canals on the tranquil Winter Park chain.

2. West Orange Bike Trails

Located directly on the West Orange Trail. Rentals start at Mile Marker 0 of this beautiful trail, which now stretches 22 miles along the edge of Lake Apopka and through the quaint downtown of Winter Garden. Some of the best rides on this trail are broken up by lunch or Ice Cream from one of the downtown shops.


West Orange Bike Trail Map

3. Florida Zoo

Besides seeing over 400 animals (that doesn’t even include the bugs in the Massey Services Insect Zoo), you can take to the sky and enjoy our aerial adventure course, ZOOm Air Adventure Park or bring your flip-flops and swimsuit to cool-off in the Wharton-Smith Tropical Splash Ground. – See more at: http://www.centralfloridazoo.org/visit#sthash.xAscSNpq.dpuf

4. Orlando Science Center

The Orlando Science Center has been a place that inspires curiosity and exploration. Truly one of the great activities for Orlando families, the Science Center encourages learning in a fun way.

5. Kings Bowling Orlando

Bowling should always be on the list for Orlando alternative days out (or nights).  Fun for all the family to eat, bowl and just chill out any time of the day or night.

kings bowling

Kings Bowling Orlando

6. Pirate Cove Adventure Golf

Not one but two 18-hole miniature golf courses in a pirate-themed setting (locations in the Lake Buena Vista and International Drive areas).

7. ACM Dine in Theatre

One of our favourite places to visit, not only does Downtown Disney offer various shops and places to eat, you can combine dinner and a movie with seat-side service.

8. Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Amazing Exhibits, Unusual Art, Unbelievable & Genuine Artifacts from Around the Globe! The Orlando location of Ripley’s is a good way to spend half a day on a budget.  Although it is not for the faint hearted – you have been warned!

9. Co Co Key Water Resort

Escape for the day and purchase Orlando water park tickets for CoCo Key Water Resort, where kids can play on our 14 slides and rides and parents can relax under the Florida sunshine. Our day passes are available for purchase 7 days a week and children less than 3 feet tall are free. Non-Resident Pass: $22.95 per person per day

10. Harry P. Leu Gardens

Explore an amazing 50-acre botanical oasis minutes from downtown Orlando.  One of the more relaxing days out in Florida for when you want to take it easy and lower the pace.

We hope this gives you some great ideas for Orlando alternative days out, no more expensive family tickets every day of your holiday!