The Gulf Harbors residential community is a slice of Keywest tropical waterfront living. A large section of it called Floramar is a peninsula that juts out into Gulf of Mexico. It is prominent in the picture above. This provides immediate direct access to the open Gulf in just a few minutes. It is laid out as a comb-like series of quiet cul-de-sac streets alternating with parallel canals averaging 10-30 feet deep. The homes along each side of each street have their backyards lining the canals with their private seawalls, docks and boat lifts.
Gulf Harbors has the highest quality channels and canals --- they are unique and unsurpassed in all of Florida's Gulf or Atlantic coasts. Instead of being dredged out of dirt, they were dynamited out of bedrock limestone. The deep rock bottoms afford continual refreshing exchange of water with the surrounding open Gulf on every change of tide. It's water is Gulf clear, and full of fish, dolphin, and even occasional manatee. Large sailboats can moor even at the very ends of these incredible canals.
The water calmness of the Gulf of Mexico is far superior for the comfort and safety of all boaters. Absent are the ever-present stomache hurling swells of the open Atlantic ocean. Plus the pristine, all natural, uninhabited barrier island keys start right off Gulf Harbors, stringing their way south along the coast past Clearwater, St Pete, Sarasota, Ft Myers and Naples to the FL Keys. Several of these island beaches have been taking turns rated in the top 5 Best Beaches in America for years. Boaters love to explore these islands and anchor off the empty beaches feeling like they could be anywhere in the Caribbean or South Seas experiencing the same beauty and sense of exotic tropical privacy. Yet they got there in a 20-minute boat ride from their own backyard! By the way, fishing is everywhere you go, or right off your dock.
Yet the Gulf Harbors waterfront community is located in coastal New Port Richey - a slice of Old Florida without the overpopulation, heavy congestion, concrete urbanization of major city areas, or teaming tourist zones, but just 20 minutes north of Clearwater, and only 40 minutes north west of downtown Tampa and its International Airport.
Coastal waterfront real estate has become very expensive around the coastline of Florida. From Daytona to Miami on the Atlantic, and Naples to Sarasota to Clearwater Beach on the western Gulf coast, waterfront property values have soared to 2-5 times the expense for the equivalent home's cost in Gulf Harbors.
Waterfront property that provides private backyard yacht mooring, and quick immediate direct access to the open Gulf or ocean, is extremely scarce. In fact, much scarcer than the vast majority of almost retiring baby boomers have any sense of . . . yet. Try this test on your friends -- ask them to describe their mind's concept of the Florida coastline, ie.: the picture they imagine they would see as they pass through each coastal towns' waterfront properties as if they were driving south from Jacksonville to Miami, and up around the Gulf side from Naples north to Clearwater Beach.
Everyone I ask says pretty much the same thing -- that there is coast town after coast town, ringing the entire perimeter of Florida -- one boating canal-marina community after another! I encourage people to actually make that trip. If they do they will be shocked that such a picture simply couldn't be further from reality.
There are extremely few such communities, which is why the existing supply of good quality waterfront homes are so expensive. When most people think of retiring or a 2nd vacation home in Florida, being on the water is foremost in that picture.
Florida's supply of existing waterfront property is as much as it will ever be. A tremendously limited supply as it is, waterfront is already built out. Strict environmental laws enacted in the 1980's thoroughly prohibited any further development of Florida's coastline into canal communities. This insures the scarsity of available waterfront property.
The value of good quality Florida waterfront has only begun to be "valued." Baby boomers are just beginning to retire. After half their lives steeped in rat-race pace and complexity, they'll want what they want when they begin their second life to enjoy the fruits of all that work and sacrifice. They won't be settling for 2 blocks away from the waterfront home and boat behind the backyard pool.
The mental waterfront picture includes more than just great waterfront, boomers also clearly want locations that have reasonable access to larger city amenities and cultural venues too. At the same time they look forward to a more active life with boating, sports and traveling. Retiring has to be budgeted to afford such activities.
Boomers are the most financially well educated and planned-out generation ever, by long margin. Their investment advisors and every mutual fund have provided the retirement spreadsheets lining out their nestegg's income and anticipated lifestyle's expenses. The reigning strategy: carefully limit your fixed costs, to allow for the greater portion of income to be there for the high expense of traveling, restaurants, hotels, and sporting activities.
Of course, the largest fixed cost in the budget is the home. This will lead boomers to search out and buy the highest quality waterfront property value that provides the whole lifestyle package they want to achieve, at the least fixed cost.
Gulf Harbors is sitting directly in the path of this coming invasion of boomers bent on accomplishing the waterfront lifestyle they want. The economic and demographic facts are real: extreme scarcity, no expansion of supply, unprecedented increasing retiree demand to come, location, highest quality, lowest cost, proximity to big city amenities. Right now is the time to acquire ownership of one of these at the great value pricing available in today's market.
Gulf Harbors is not a community prone to suffer from the high foreclosure rate potential of normal inland developments that are over-exposed to sub-prime mortgages. In fact the majority of owners have been retired here for many years, or as 2nd home owners, with relatively small mortgages at low rates, or no mortgage at all. So the current community as a whole is well-heeled to stay here and keep enjoying the tropical lifestyle. The Gulf Harbors inventory is well insulated from being overwhelmed with foreclosures, and the general prices will not have that prolonging pressure.
The concerns over further potential price decline in general residential real estate are creating an excellent temporary window for Gulf Harbors waterfront buyers who recognize the very favorable economic factors discussed above, and take action to buy now. Buyers today have their best choice of the properties in superior location and condition. And right now buyers can get very advantageous price and terms from the subset of sellers who are motivated to sell now.
However, ***HEADS UP*** a University of Florida (UF) study reports:
“The question on everyone’s mind is how we are going to get out of this slow economy,” McCarty says. “The answer is probably time. Median house prices have been falling here in Florida since late 2006, and we expect prices to bottom out in much of Florida by July.” says Chris McCarty, director of UF’s Survey Research Center at the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
Pricing of Gulf Harbors waterfront homes has been at a steady "bottom” throughout 2010-2011. This stability is expected to draw increasing numbers of backlogged buyers back into the waterfront retirement and 2nd home market here – as the “signal” is sounded by more economists, writers, business leaders and reporters. Plus, mortgage rates may stay incredibly low through this coming year, adding to the influx and transactions of buyers eager to get on our excellent Gulf waterfront.
Buyers are realizing that these low prices and low rates will have only a limited time to run before expected more buyers appear, and later, inflation begins gearing rates and prices higher.
The Europeans, Canadians and many other internationals are hearing this signal as well. They have a penchant for Florida's waterfront, and enjoy very significant exchange rate purchasing power leverage over our dollars in making offers for the best quality properties.
There is still a window of excellent opportunity to buy at these currently low asking prices and mortgage rates. But it's not clear how long it may remain open.