Florida Land Search

Episode 1

Recently I went to Florida in search of land and houses, so I could get out of this huge walk-in freezer known as Michigan. The area of concentration is Polk County in Central Florida.

Of course, when I saw a place called CJ's Realty I stopped there first! No kidding, that's the name of the place! Here's the sign on some of the land they have for sale:

Gate to land sold by CJ's Realty, showing CJ's sign


Don't let that BIG GATE fool you--just offscreen is the rest of the story...a couple of lines of thin barbed wire! Not exactly the "gated community" this image suggests! But I wanted the CJ name visible and it wouldn't have been if I had backed up more.

Here's a view of the land in question:

Land sold by CJ's Realty

Beautiful-looking piece, huh? 5 acres! But...it has ponds on it. That sounded super-cool, but when I went to the County Offices I was informed that no development could happen within 75 feet of a pond. (I suppose if I jumped through a bunch of "wetlands impact" hoops it could be done, but that can get quite expensive from what I've read...) AND there was a "flood zone" ending about 75 feet from one of the 2 blank spaces. So that left this tiny spot a house could actually go up on. No thanks...

So I drove around some more and finally found another piece of land. This piece had originally been listed by Coldwell Banker, but the owner fired them and now it's a FSBO (for sale by owner). That is, IF the owner ever sends the contract up here into the freezer!! Otherwise it'll be a "for tax write-off by owner"--in other words, he may not really want to sell it!

Other land for sale

It's that treed part on the other side of the street. The house on the right is for sale, but I want a NEW house. On this land is a piece of CEMENT from God-knows-what. I mean a BIG piece!! From the arial view at the County, it looks like someone built a foundation and then went away. Hopefully they just went broke and there isn't some big glitch here...

I was actually wanting land further out into the "sticks" but when I looked for it, the only places for sale wanted to sell TONS of acreage or were zoned Commercial (with the exception of CJ's wetland zone). But none of the land I looked at was "in the city" either, so that's some consolation.

Then it was on to checking out house builders. They are TERRIBLE at SEO (when they have a site at all) so here's some links to help 'em out--they need it!! Of course, their non-SEO'd status made it darn near impossible to find them. If it wasn't for a magazine sent by the Chamber of Commerce, they would have been doomed to obscurity. Darned Luddite "old-style" industries!!! Weird thing is, the more MONEY something is likely to cost, the BIGGER the chance of them not being "with it" in the technological sense. Grrrr! If they only knew what I am willing to "Click Here" to buy!

One stop looking for FLORIDA HOME BUILDERS was Southern Homes. These houses cost about 1/2 as much as a similarly-sized one would here. That is F'd up! HERE, you freeze your butt off half the year, and can only plant for 1/4 of it, but they charge an arm and a leg for a place worth having. THERE, the weather is nice all year (assuming you love the heat) and the houses actually look different than the rest of the United States, but they charge 1/2 as much. Check out the Williamsburg Model, that's only $109,000 (base price) on your lot. But if you build in their sub, add another $49k-69k to that for land [depends on what lot you pick] (yeah, the land in their subs is a bit marked up IMO).

Then there's a place called Valentine Homes (Florida Houses--this poor site isn't even listed in Google under their own name at the time of this writing). Get how their windows are touching the ground!! Cockeyed looking if you ask me, so I didn't stop there. They say they'll do custom work, too, but I don't know if they could stand to actually put the windows in the right spot... Other than that, they look pretty good, although the areas I saw these in didn't seem to have much money so it made me wonder if they're 2nd-tier in some nonobvious way...

There's also Highland Homes. They don't even have a site! Their places are a little better than Southern Homes and a tad cheaper, too. Problem is, you have to build in one of their cookie-cutter subdivisions. No thanks! Too bad, though, one of theirs on a lot outside their sub would be nice...

Oddly, the backs of all these places are flat. That's a lot different than here! Here, there's usually a back porch, or a deck, or picture windows...but the backs of these houses tend to look more like the backs of factories. Unless, of course, there's a POOLHOUSE out there!

Pools are where Floridian builders make up for the cheapness of the houses. Talk about an arm & a leg: $25,000 for a pool with screenhouse! This screenhouse is attached to the house--the ones I saw looked like the wall of the house makes up one side. It's got to be a huge markup--I mean really, what's it take to bulldoze out a big hole, line it with waterproof concrete, and then put up a simple 3-sided screen "house" around it?!?!? Dayum!!! No wonder most people there don't have one! But to me, going to FL and NOT having a pool would be just awful. So that's an unexpectely huge fee that'll be added to whatever I build...

As for the general area, unfortunately I didn't take any pictures but I'll try to describe it. It's a hodgepodge of varying levels of housing, from manors to old singlewide mobile homes! What's so surprising about this is that often you'll find those ultra-different socio-economic levels right next to each other in the same subdivision! I mean literally: Big house, trailer, midsized house, old, new...it's like people just slap whatever, on whatever piece of dirt they can. Then there is the occasional sub that's all about the same level--either all standard houses or all mobile homes. The worst thing about the all-mobile subs is the LACK OF LAND those "parks" have. Geez! If a person trips coming out their door in one of those places, they'll hit their head on the neighbor's house... Then there was one area of all manors. Niccceee, that's more like it (even though my place probably won't be near as big, I know NICE when I see it!)!! One was set up to look just like a FL movie mansion, big gate, long driveway, The Works. Servants' house on the side. Cool cool cool! Someday I want one similar. Similar?? Yeah, more LAND for me please and about 2 stories taller. :-D

But first things first.