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FLORIDA? One couple didn’t even wait for retirement

By on April 22, 2019 in Uncategorized with 0 Comments
Sarah and Larry Cramer on the pier at Clearwater Beach with a new friend, he actually let Sarah pet him… a little. (See the video at https://www.facebook.com/lawrence.cramer/videos/10209185543780828/)

By Larry Cramer

After nearly 20 years of talking about it and dreaming of it, we finally did it. We moved to Florida!

First a little backstory, it was late October 2001, I was scheduled to speak at an Adobe web developers conference in Orlando. 

As you can imagine, being barely a month after the 9/11 attack, my wife and I weren’t even sure we would be able to make it to Florida and were less sure the conference wouldn’t be canceled. 

As things turned out we made it. The conference was pretty much a bust but we were able to spend nearly three weeks in Florida and since the hotels were, for the most part, empty we were able to find cheap accommodations everywhere we went. 

We headed west to the Gulf in the Tampa area, worked our way south all the way to Key West to the “Southern Most Point Monument” and then north up the east coast, then back to Orlando. 

By the time we were done, we had put 2,800 miles on our rental car — thank goodness for unlimited mileage. 

By the end of our trip, I was totally hooked. I had an unshakable case of “Florida Fever.” I knew I had to live here.

Fast forward 2013, at my 40th high school reunion I reconnected with an old schoolmate of mine and found she lived in Tampa. I was telling her how envious I was and that I would love to move there, to which she said, “We have a little guest house, come on down anytime.” 

Sarah and I went down and spent two weeks scoping out the gulf coast of Florida and decided that the Tampa Bay area was our destination.

After this trip we decided, if not now, when?

We finally decided to take a leap of faith and just do it. Why wait until retirement? Why not now and have more years to enjoy our adventure. 

We sold our house, turned in notice at our jobs and began to prepare for the move. The good news was our oldest daughter and grandson decided that they wanted to go with us, so it became a family adventure.

Moving day finally came. We loaded up the U-Haul and the caravan — a truck towing a car and our SUV towing another car — pulled out of the driveway of our home of 25 years in East Wenatchee. 

Six days and 3,000 miles later we were pulling into the driveway of the townhouse we had rented.

Florida isn’t just beaches, the parks with the old oak groves make for cool strolls.

So? Was it a good decision? Did things turn out the way we expected?

Well yes and no. 

Reality seldom matches the vision you paint in your mind, but it was a very good decision and after some adjustments of plans and expectations it has turned out to be a very good move.

Things we did right: Coming down and really checking things out in person, ahead of time, turned out to be a very good thing. We were able to get a clear picture of where we wanted to live, which turned out to be in the Tampa area. We are actually in Largo just across the bay from Tampa, instead of some of the other areas that we were considering. 

Rent before you buy. We chose to rent a townhouse for the first 10 months while I secured a job and chose the best place to buy. This turned out to be a very good choice. 

We had the idea of living near the beach or one of the many lakes or inlets in the area, however a turn of events quickly changed our minds. 

About six weeks after we got here, along came Hurricane Irma, although Tampa didn’t take a direct hit — in fact, that’s one of the reasons we chose Tampa. It hasn’t seen a direct hit in over 90 years. But it was close enough that we decided we did not want to be anywhere near water. 

The house we finally did buy is in a no-flood zone. It’s a single story concrete-block construction ranch style, has roll-down hurricane shutters and passed all wind mitigation tests. All this adds up to a safe place to hunker down and significantly lower insurance rates. 

We like our little safe house and we are still only 20 minutes away from putting our toes in the sand and the surf.

What we didn’t expect. Insurance is outrageously high here. Florida drivers are absolutely insane. You have to ratchet up the aggression several notches to be able to survive out there. No kidding, it’s crazy! 

You will finally acclimate to the daily participation in the statewide demolition derby that is Florida driving, but it will take some getting used to. 

Electricity is way more. This was not a total surprise, after all the Wenatchee area is ridiculously spoiled when it comes to power rates, but it still sets you back when you get your first couple of bills. 

Cost of living wise, everything else is about the same, so you just need to prepare yourself for the insurance and utilities.

Summing things up, what do we like about our new home. Pretty much all the things you’d expect when moving to a tropical location are yours to enjoy just out your front door. Sun, surf, palm trees, abundant bird and wildlife that you never see in Eastern Washington. It’s all here. 

You will also find great job opportunities, higher average wages and lower housing prices. We were able to buy a small, 1,100-square-foot, three bedroom, two bath home with a fully screened in pool/patio in a nice established neighborhood for under 200k. 

Yes, all this makes us feel pretty good about our decision.

What do we miss most about the Wenatchee area? The people. We had some good friends who we really do miss. 

We also miss Wenatchee in the spring and in the fall, but we enjoyed the valley for the last 20 years. The new wonders and beauty Florida offers add an exciting new chapter to our lives. 

We love it here and encourage anyone thinking of checking moving to Florida off your bucket list to just do it. Make your plan, then work your plan. 

If not now, when?

To see more on Larry’s Florida life, see https://www.facebook.com/lawrence.cramer.

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