Wednesday 20 July 2005



It’s House Hunting Day!


I made sure that my butt was out of bed in a timely fashion, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast downstairs at the free breakfast buffet.  Plenty of yogurt and fresh fruit was available, as well as a nifty little box of cheerios to munch on.  They also had biscuits, pastries, bacon, sausage, eggs, and a variety of fruit juices, and of course, plenty of coffee.  There was some sort of business meeting going on at the next table, and a little kid was riding a tricycle around in circles in the children’s play area, ringing the bell on the handlebars incessantly.


After breakfast, I sat down on a comfy sofa in the lobby to read the news, and it wasn’t long before Charlie, my buyer’s agent, strolled in.  He’d emailed me a picture of himself, so I recognized him right away.  We sat down in the dining area and talked a while, and he spread out a file full of real estate listings he’d printed, along with a timed schedule of site and home visits, and a map plotting our course around Fort Myers.  Extremely organized and efficient – this is my kind of guy!  However, I hadn’t realized that he was going to take me to a bazillion different places all in one day.  Had I known that, I would have booked only a couple of nights in Fort Myers, and found somewhere to stay on the island the rest of the time, saving myself all those $6 journeys across the bridge, and the inconvenience of not having the beach in my backyard.  Oh well, I did save a bundle staying off-island, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.


It wasn’t long before we were off and running to our first destination, a resale a the Gardens at Beachwalk condos, just down Summerlin a bit, towards the causeway.  The unit I looked at was vacant and had two bedrooms and a balcony, which the MLS listing called a “solarium”.  These realtors crack me up sometimes – it’s a freakin’ BALCONY.  LOL!  Anyway, one of the things I noticed right away about all the town homes and condos is that because most of them are attached on two sides (except for the coveted corner units), they are dark inside.  Also, the rooms seemed pretty small.  At this particular site, a garage is extra – otherwise, you park out in the parking lot.  In addition, it was very close to the causeway, which is good, until you start to think about the cost of homeowner’s and flood insurance.  Finally, it only had two bedrooms.  I need three – one for me, one for my office, one for guests.  Guest overflow will consist of a convertible sofa in the office.  We moved on.


The next one was a community called Calusa Palms, also a resale.  It, too, was vacant.  Charlie explained to me that people are buying pre-construction, and then selling at a profit, without ever having moved in!  This one was on a lake, and I liked the “bounce” of sound inside – it had an open floor plan, tiled floors all the way through the foyer, kitchen, and dining/living areas, and a vaulted ceiling.  Alas, it also had only two bedrooms, plus the condo fee was $310/month – that’s on top of a mortgage at the very top limit of my budget.  I started thinking about all the stuff that comes along with a condo community, and whether or not I would actually use things like the community clubhouse, the pool, the tennis courts, workout facility…well, definitely the workout facility, but probably little else.  Let’s go see the next one.


We arrived at Willow Brook at Parker Lakes, which is off Gladiolus, and I immediately liked the look of the place.  Very interesting, the homes are arranged on courts, and the garages are out front, lining the court, with extra parking spaces mapped out in front of them.  You go through the garage, or around it, and up some stairs to the front door of your unit.  In between is all nicely landscaped.  We let ourselves in, and went up a flight of stairs.  This one was one of the “coveted corner units” and had been billed as “2+ Den”.  Indeed, the screened balcony was large and had a full table and chairs on it with plenty of room to move around, and it overlooked a lake.  In the kitchen, there was a sunny nook on the side with a tiny table and chairs.  And then I saw what the “den” consisted of – it was actually the dining area at the front of the house, outfitted with a desk and computer instead of a dining table, with a loverly view of the garage roof!.  I guess they eat outside when they have company.  The two bedrooms were ok sizes, as were the closets and the bath.  The taxes on this unit were about $2600, and then there’s the community maintenance fee of $260/month.  Small place to pay so much a year, in addition to the mortgage.  Regarding the community itself, again, I wasn’t sure I’d use the community room, hobby room (whatever that is) or the clubhouse, pool, etc., but I would definitely use the workout room and the bike/jog paths.  It wasn’t ideal, but I dragged out the camera anyway and took some shots of the place.  There was something quirky about it that I liked, and it did have more light in it than your average townhouse/condo.


Willow Brook at Parker Lake

Here's the lanai of the townhouse I saw at Willow Brook at Parker Lake, a "coveted corner unit".

Breakfast Nook

Sunny little niche for breakfast

The (ahem) Den

It's actually the dining area, photographed from the kitchen. Check out the loverly view of the garage roof!



We then made a pit-stop at a preconstruction site called Reflection Key, just to make an introduction at the sales office.  Charlie wanted me to meet the locals who worked in the sales office, sort of a self-promotional activity.  This is an Engle Homes builder site, and they have lots of other sites in the area that are about to be built, one of which I’m pretty interested in.  That one is Reflection Isles, and is surrounded by conservation area, including a slough with a one-mile boardwalk trail going through it.  The right kind of area for a “nature girl”.  However, that one is about a year out, and I have the offer to allow me to move out of New York NOW, but just in case, it was good to stop by the sales office and get the low down.  I could always be like one of those folks who sells at a profit and buys something else.


The next stop was a resale in a community called Lakewood Village, and I don’t actually remember much of it, except that as we were leaving, another realtor was arriving to show it to someone.  Also remember thinking that if you and your neighbor were both standing in front of your garage in your respective driveways, you would know it if he passed wind.  It didn’t impress me much.


Following that, we went to one of the finished Engle sites called Reflection Lakes.  This was a town home that was a bit too near the highway for my liking.  There were about five homes attached to it on the right side, then a wall about 5 feet high, and then the highway.  I don’t want that kind of noise in my life!  Still, we went in and looked.  It was very, very dark in there, and the rooms were small.  For the money they wanted for it, I was extremely underwhelmed. 


At this point, we took a break for lunch, stopping at a deli type place with cafeteria seating and a great salad bar.  Properly sustained, Charlie and I forged onward.


I have to interject here that, having managed to live to the ripe old age of (muffle, muffle) years without ever having purchased anything larger than a Toyota RAV-4, I was chock full of questions about the whole mortgage-legal-contracts-and-relocating-to-a-foreign-land process, and Charlie was more than eager to put up with my chatter in the car between prospects.  He is really very knowledgeable about the whole thing, and he’s a transplant from the Northeast himself, so he’s practically an encyclopedia on the subject.  Add to that the fact that he’s a BUYER’S agent, and I’m glad that I surfed over to and sent an inquiry one night, because he was on the phone to me the very next day!


So now we are looking at another rather quirky place, an oddly-laid out single family home, this one built in 1990.  I have to say that was a bit off-putting.  I’ve heard a lot about some very recent improvements in the building code in Florida, due to Charlie (no, not MY Charlie, the Hurricane!) and his wicked step-siblings having blown in last year, so I’m not very keen on buying something that old.  This was another 2 BR + den, and the “den” sort of looked like an afterthought.  I could not quite make out why it was laid out the way it was.  The dining area was humongous, out-of-scale with the rest of the rooms.  But quirky has always had an appeal for me…still, it is way old, let’s go see the next one.


We then visited the Beazer sales office at Danforth Lakes, so I could get introduced to the folks there, be personable, make an impression, make them like me, remember me, and favor me when it came to “the list”, just like we had earlier in the day at the Reflection Key site.  Charlie had prepped me for this, and since this is the sort of thing I do all the time with vendors at my job, I had no problem with puttin’ on da schmooze for a bit.  Unfortunately, the office was closed, so we hopped into the car and went up the road to one of their other sites, Sherwood at the Crossings.


When I had seen this site on the map during our initial meeting that morning, I had to refrain from scoffing.  Why, it looked SO far from the beaches, and it’s practically damned near in Lehigh Acres!  Heck, if you go to the Beazer web site, you get a hit for this place when you type in “Fort Myers”, but there in black and white, they freely ADMIT to a Lehigh Acres address!  It’s probably closer to the airport than it is to the beaches.  I could not understand why Charlie wanted me to see this one.


WELL!  Now I understand.  The floor plan of the model he showed me is pretty much exactly the right amount of space for me.  There are two guest bedrooms with their own dedicated bathroom, a master suite with walk in closet and full bath, and the rest of the house is open floor plan, including foyer, kitchen, dining area, and “great room”.  There are doors to the lanai from both the great room and the master bedroom.  A two car garage and small laundry room are included.  The view out the lanai doors is of a lake.  There’s an option for a pool – although I’d not be likely to use a community pool, I’d definitely use one out my own back door.  With a large lanai (whole width of house) and pool, all screened in, on a lake lot, this house is STILL a comfortable price for me.  There are none of those community amenities that I probably would not use, so no fees.


Out came the camera.  We spent almost an hour in this house, examining every little thing.


Sherwood at the Crossroads

This model is the Catalina. That's a non-standard front door. Everything is the same in standard, except for the oval glass window inside the door itself.

Long View

This was taken from the front door, looking at the French doors that lead from the great room to the lanai.

Front Guest Room

To the right of the front door, there's the front guest room. Note, out the window, you can see the people next door are moving in - there's the moving van!

Guest Bath

A full bath lies between the two guest rooms.

The Rear Guest Room

Out the window, you can see how close the next house is - something that I'll have to get used to (or else, plant bushes!)

The Garage

To the left of the front door, there is a door leading into the garage. 2 cars, comes with the automatic door :-)

Laundry Room

Here's the little laundry room - actually, it's really just a closet that's big enough for a washer and dryer.

Kitchen and Dining areas

That window is in the next picture too, just to give you a "landmark"

Lanai Doors, Off Great Room

See, I told you that window was in this picture too! The tile isn't standard for the great room.

More Kitchen

Yes, that's a pantry behind that door. Yes, all the appliances are standard.

More Dining Area

Not sure I like that fixture, hope it isn't standard!

Yet More Kitchen

Because twice was not enough!

Master Bedroom

Has it's own access to the lanai. French doors arent' standard, but I don't like sliders.

Master WIC

yes, I can fill that, no problem!

Master Bath

Shower stall is standard; not sure one could fit the average length bathtub in it's place.

More Master Bedroom

Standing in the corner, those three doors from L to R are: door to great room, door to WIC, door to bath.

Standing on the Lanai

The far doors are to the great room, the near ones lead into the master suite.



I’d seen enough.  The last two locations were condo/townhomes, and I elected to skip seeing them.  I already knew the drill – they are dark, and the rooms are tiny.  Charlie suggested we time the drive back to the Hampton Inn, and it came in just under half an hour, which means the Sherwood site is just about a half hour to the causeway.  During the drive, he told me that he’d already put my name on the list for a Catalina at Sherwood, and he’d just have to speak to the woman he knew in the office tomorrow and add that a lake view lot would be needed.  Charlie’s a smart guy!


I was pretty amazed, I have to tell you.  Just looking at the map, I never would have considered looking in that general area.  It just seems too far from the beaches, but I find the time to the causeway acceptable.  Considering that our drive started at about 4:00 PM, that’s pretty good – rush hour traffic, such as it is down there, had already begun. 


That it is out of the higher insurance zone is a plus.  And it is a stand-alone, single family home, with room for my office, and room for guests (already thinking about the first time one of my brothers comes to visit with their families).  It will appreciate in value from the moment I sign the contract.


I bounced happily back to the room to change my clothes.  Low tide was approaching, and I had a date with the beach!


To be continued……




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