If you’ve met us or have followed our blog posts, you may know we have always maintained there is no way that we would ever buy a site at a Class A resort. I mean why the heck would anyone do that? At least not at this stage in our lives, as we still want to explore this great country of ours. And motor homes after all are for motoring, not being parked for months at a time!
Well, I guess the moral of this story is to never say never! As mentioned in a recent post, after a lot of discussion, deliberation and decision making, we did pull the trigger back in December of 2014 and put down a deposit on a resale lot. As of April 15, 2015 we now own a very teeny weeny (5300 sf) piece of property in Florida! Hard to believe that we actually did it!
So why did we change our minds? Well it was a combination of things, some personal, some financial and some a sense that the time might be right from an investment standpoint:
- We had been looking to upgrade our boat (our summer residence) but ultimately decided that would be a poor investment financially so that opened up some previously reserved funding. Buying an RV lot at Riverbend would be significantly less costly than buying the type of boat we were thinking of.
- We had been watching the RV market explode in terms of production and sales over the past two years as the economy strengthened and more and more baby boomers were drawn to the lifestyle. Supply and demand would dictate that this trend is likely to create future campground shortages and drive up costs.
- We have in fact personally experienced more difficulty obtaining reservations on short notice in south Florida the past couple of years (at least with state and federal parks), with this year being the most difficult. It will be nice to have someplace to go that we fully control.
- We had been watching the real estate market in Florida and sensed in many areas it had bottomed out and was beginning to rebound. An analysis of the past couple of years sales at Riverbend indicated the tide had turned here too. With property values increasing it seemed that a cash property investment would probably see a greater annual gain than we were likely to see in a conservative savings or investment account.
- We reviewed the annual ownership costs for Riverbend (taxes and fees) and determined that, if we desired, we could cover all our expenses for the year by renting it for only 2-3 months.
- We had been to Riverbend for short stays three years in a row and each time found we liked it even better than the last time. Whereas, at other ownership resorts we’ve tried, the second or third visit was disappointing. There is something good going on at Riverbend and for whatever reason, we just like it here.
- We recognized that as full timers a time may (or will) come where we just need a place to stay for a while without worries. Perhaps an illness or something more catastrophic. It is comforting to know we have a place to go and a community to support us or even just a place to park the RV long term.
- They have “free” boat slips here directly on the Intracoastal Waterway. Also boat and trailer storage for a nominal fee.
So on Wednesday, the 15th, we met with our realtor, the closing attorney and the sellers at the attorney’s office in Labelle to sign all the paperwork. Happy to report that everything went very smoothly – in less than 1/2 hour it was a done deal. After the closing we drove back to Riverbend where we were scheduled for a new owner orientation with Barbara in the office to go over all the ownership details. We picked up a copy of the rules and regulations, the keys to our mailbox and a “clicker” to open the entry gate. Then we signed more paperwork for owners name tags, a house account, etc., etc. Whew, lots of stuff to absorb, learn and think about!
After all that was done, we drove to our new home (in the van – the coach was still at Ortona plugged in so the kitties would stay cool in this stifling heat) and cruised around the park in our new (to us) golf cart which was part of the deal (not to worry, I’m not going to become a golf cart couch potato, I’ll still be walking). Ah, yes just as nice as we remembered it!
Not much going on this time of year – we were told that the park started to empty out shortly after Easter as the snowbirds began their migration to cooler temps. The restaurant closed as of April 1st, the Breakfast Boys cooked their last breakfast on the 4th, the engineers have put all their trains and associated paraphernalia away, the same with the sailboats and the race cars…all is said and done until next winter! That’s okay as we have a few things to accomplish before we leave here and all that could be a distraction.
Reluctantly that afternoon we returned back to Ortona to spend our last night there, then on Thursday morning, we drove the 20 minutes to Riverbend, stopping on the way to fuel up in Labelle. Very cool just pressing a button and having the gate open and not needing to check in. All we had to do was to drive into the staging area to unhitch the toad, then make our way to our new home. I didn’t think it would feel different parking on a site as an owner instead of a transient but for whatever reason it did. It was a good feeling. Felt even better that night sitting outside relaxing, enjoying the splash of the water from the fountains in the lake as we watched the sunset. Yes, life is good!
Why? Well, during our orientation, we found out that they have added December to the “Peak Season” (formerly January – March), added a new intermediate “Off-Peak” rate for the shoulder months of November and April and therefore shortened the “Summer Rate” period which is now May – October (was April – December).
The summer rates have not increased but the Peak Season rates have gone up by 20% or more. Good news for us as owners, since we will likely rent our lot for at least two peak months which will mostly cover our expenses for the year. And it’s a good thing we bought – going forward it would have been a budget buster for us to rent in December like we did this past year. We also found that sales at Riverbend have risen dramatically over the winter and the average sale price has moved solidly upward so that was even more good investment oriented news!
We have a fairly well foliated site with 5 or 6 varieties of palms and assorted other plants that we know nothing about so we want to meet with a landscaper and maybe make a few changes or additions. We also want to shop for a new patio set as well as other things, so we plan on staying here until early in May. We have a service appointment for the coach on May 5 to resolve a problem with our dash air conditioner that we want to get fixed before heading back to RI. We’ll keep you posted on our activities!
Oh, and in case you’re wondering (you are, aren’t you?) recent sales (Jan-March 2015) at Riverbend have been as low as $35,000 and as high as $217,000 with the vast majority selling well below the average of $95,000 for that period. And while we too beat that average by a very substantial margin, going forward we expect it will become much more difficult to score a lot here for under $50K due to rising demand.