DH and I were talking yesterday about the falling prices of real-estate and Florida keeps coming up in our discussions. Are prices really as bad as the news is letting on in the Ocala area? The last report is that prices have dropped 27% from this time last year and they are expecting another 41% drop by the end of the year. DH and I are not rich, but we've always planned to retire in FL and at those prices, how could we not purchase something?
Please tell me about the horse scene (besides HITS). What are the average temps in winter vs summer? Hay prices? Grain prices? Pasture quality? Shows? Basic cost of living.
I live in Ocala and LOVE it! I can't imagine living anywhere else. Although prices are down some, they were so inflated before the bust that I can't imagine there are too many bargains. However, it is a wonderful place to live. Superb vets, great pasture, lost of shows and other horse people.
I tried to talk my DH into Ocala when we were looking to buy in Florida 2 years ago. However, its all golf all the time for him, and we discovered that the temps in January and part of February were just not to his liking. We ended up in Sarasota instead. I was just on some Ocala farms for sale websites this week, and I wouldn't honestly say there are tons of bargains--the nicest places are still listed in what I would consider a pretty pricey range.
I agree Sparky. I just talked to a realtor yesterday and she said the farms are really the only real estate that have not slid down in their prices. My farm was just appraised for only 5 grand less than what I bought it for 3 years ago. I'm sure though there are deals out there to be had, some people just wanting out.
I just moved down to Ocala last June for my first job out of vet school and I've been a little disappointed with the horse scene. I called barn after barn in the summer, trying to find somewhere to ride. I was repeatedly told "everyone is at xyz horse show up north." It was brutally hot then as well. Finally, late September or so, all the trainers started coming back to town and the weather got a little better.
If you want to feed straight alfalfa hay, you are looking at close to $20/bale-quite a few people feed coastal instead.
Things are hopping more now that people have come down for HITS, but the rest of the year, you are looking at small schooling shows at the Florida Horse Park. The rated selection is pretty slim.
Plusses are a million tack shops, feed stores, and trailer dealerships!
My sister moved to Ocala around '02 and leased a small farm to breed TB's. (No stallions on site, just gestating mares, and foals when they got there. ) She had hoped to buy the property with profits. She quickly got into so much expense that she started looking for a trainer with a few boarders to help make ends meet. The owners had no problems with a sub-lease, but sis could never get it to fly - prospects were few, and nobody ever ended up biting. This doesn't really speak directly to your question, and the economics have shifted by now and I sure can't give you direct numbers on anything that you're asking about. Obviously there could be many reasons why my sis's operation went in the hole, but I got left with 2 strong impressions: Ocala is expensive to operate a horse business in/your profit margin is going to be slim, and associated horse people that you can trade "in kind" with or kind of bootstrap your business with when things get tough just are not abundant to help jumpstart things. All in all she bled out about $30,000 in 6-9 mos. on unintended overhead.
We moved to Ocala from MA 4 years ago and I love it, but it IS more expensive than I thought it would be and we've been struggling to make it here. We did luck out and buy a nice, small farm at under appraisal and at a good price, but we thought that living expenses (for the horses and for us) would be less than they are and less than they were in MA.
We have a small TB breeding operation (thing 3 or 4 mares, usually 2 foals a year) and we have a pony and a couple of riding horses here. Just an idea on cost:
1258lb square bale of alfalfa: $217
73 lb compressed bale of alfalfa: $13 or $14 for a regular non-compressed bale
Hi-Amo sweet feed: 10.90 per bag
Grass grows like crazy here in the summer, but we have to supplement with hay all winter - usually from October to April. We have 10 acres and usually 11 horses on the property. We do have two small paddocks that do not have much grass and are used for the pony who needs dry lot and limited turn out for layups etc.
We have for the first time in 2008 and now 2009 taken in boarders. Commeon board fee for TB farms is $17 or $18 per day.
Groceries aren't cheap and gas etc are the same as anywhere else.
As for horsey stuff, if you are an A circuit only person, I would imagine there is less to do in the summer, but there are a ton of great trails (the Greenway trail actually has it's own horse overpass over I-75!) and a lot of charity rides etc. There are also great driving, eventing, dressage and other events at the Horse Park and else where. There are a ton of schooling show series and I would imagine some rated shows, but I'm not doing that at this point with my guy. We do hunter paces and trails and small shows and hope to do some bigger shows next year (I say that every year lol). The is a great variety - lots of TB functions, mini horse shows, cowboy mounted shooting, western games and shows, lots of gaited and particularly Paso Fino events and I never get bored here.
I guess it depends what you like, but there are many of the smaller trainers (who do well at HITS) that DO stay here all summer. It does get really hot, but I don't mind that a bit. The winters feel really cold - it's a raw cold and our house just does not stay as warm as my little MA house did! It just got cold here last week (had been in the 70's) - gets down to the 20's and 30's at night and 40's/50's during the day. Not cold for folks coming from the snow, but cold for us!
How hot is hot? I mean, everybody keeps saying it gets hot in the summer, and I was just curious what that means, in terms of temperatures. I live in PA and we have had many days in a row of 90 degree temps in the summer so I was just curiuos if FL would be a lot different.
Hot in Ocala (and all of Florida) means temps in the 90s from April through September (and often into October), plus humidity that puts a dew on you as soon as you step outside. Evenings in the summer and early fall often don't fall below the mid-80s, so you never really cool off for months at a time. Daily thunderstorms in the summer months, though they're usually over with quickly. Plenty of bugs to go with the swamps. But November - March is heavenly (and why so many folks who venture down for the circuits often buy real estate, even if they put it back up for sale after their first summer).
I grew up in Fort Lauderdale and went to college in Gainesville then back down to Lauderdale for a couple more years. I've been "up north" for 17 years now and in the last six months I've been pining for FL again... so am planning a trip in July just to remind me why I left in the first place, LOL.
I live in the Gainesville/Ocala area, and couldn't imagine living anywhere else. However, don't expect to get any bargains on property around here. Prices have really not come down at all. It seems that most people are just trying to wait things out, as opposed to selling cheap.
Also, cost of living down here is quite high. Property taxes, particularly in Alachua county, are extremely high. They get a little bit better in Marion County, but not much. Also be aware that hay and grain are very pricey here.
The summers are very hot (think 90-95 degrees at 80% humidity). You've probably experienced temps that high, but its the humidity that makes it bad. However, the beautiful weather for the other three seasons makes the summers bearable.
Fall through late spring offer plenty of rated shows in Ocala, Tampa, and Jax. Summers are quiet, with a few schooling shows, but trust me, you don't want to show in that heat anyway.
All in all, I think the pros out-weigh the cons. You probably have a good list of pros already, just make sure to do your research when making a list of cons.