Sunday, 14 March 2010

Brits in Florida going through tough times

This week's Guardian featured an article on Brits who own a property in Florida - whether an actual home or merely a holiday home - and the rather serious problems that some of them are facing.

Florida is of course a major destination for Brits, whether it's to holiday in or to live; the article states that around 400,000 Brits live in the state, whilst 1.5 million visit annually. But like their American counterparts, British property owners will also have suffered with the recent property collapse in the US which has seen the value of houses and condos plummet. From 2006 to 2009, the Florida Association of Realtors states that the average price of a property in the Sunshine State has fallen by 43% - from $248,300 to $142,000.

The biggest issue is for those that took out mortgages to fund their purchases. Having once acquired loans easily from banks such as Lloyds TSB or Bank of America (back in the good - or bad - old days when they were much easier to come by and at more than favourable rates), some owners are now finding that their mortgages are far higher than the value of their property.

This is even leaving some to completely abandon their property and head back home, despite owning money. As Patricia Kawaja, founder of the Florida Association of British Businessess says "there's no extradition treaty for people unable to pay their mortgages" so it's the best option for some.

So, what's the good news? Well, for those looking to buy at the moment, low prices (and a glut of foreclosed homes) means there's plenty of bargains out there for all types of properties - one Orlando agent mentioned in the article has a 5-bedroom house on offer for just $118,000. There's understandably less demand, so any potential purchasers have less competition from other buyers.

And, once again, the new Harry Potter theme park in Orlando is mentioned as an additional draw. Sure, it may bring back more visitors but I'm still doubtful on the connection with the property market!

Article: Hard times for British expats in the Florida sun (8th March 2010, The Guardian)