Sunshine state beckons

Florida is one of the hottest retirement destinations around – and not just because of the year-round high temperatures

On the basis that every cloud has a silver lining, a positive upside to the US downturn is that Florida is now fantastic value for Britons retiring to the so-called “sunshine state”.

The infrastructure is sophisticated, it’s warm every day of the year and there are dozens of daily flights from several UK airports. Homes are as much as 50 per cent less than five years ago and the exchange rate is good. What’s not to like about a location which is now the third favourite overseas retirement destination for Britons, after France and Spain?

Three questions for those moving there concern location, type of home, and red tape. Let’s start with location.

“While many British travel [inland] to Orlando, after fighting the crowds to see Mickey and Minnie the thrill wears off and they find out why the bulk of Florida’s residents live within 20 miles of the sea,” says Al Horrigan of RSVP Real Estate, based in coastal Sarasota and an associate of the British estate agent Savills.

Most retirees now move to Florida’s west coast in a stretch down from Tampa, where there is a large international airport, to the Everglades National Park, or along the eastern coastline from Miami up to Daytona Beach. In most locations, estate agents report that five years of price falls have finally ended. “The dark night is over at least in the under $400,000 (£250,000) range,” says Horrigan.

There is a fantastic choice of properties. In addition to the mobile homes, villas and houses we know from TV programmes about Florida, there is a range of specialist retirement schemes. Different communities, some with thousands of homes and a wide array of shops and leisure facilities, are aimed at active newly-retireds, older retireds, and those requiring differing levels of medical assistance.

The final major obstacle is the red tape. Unless you have US family or buy a business to run in later life, it is difficult for British retirees to live in the country permanently.

Florida: great properties, beautiful beaches

What many do is keep a British property, then buy their dream home in Florida. They then secure a B-2 tourist visa, which entitles them to spend about six months of the year in the US.

American authorities will normally insist any retiree has evidence of funds to cover a six-month stay. But it is vital to secure appropriate medical insurance – US doctors and hospitals levy premium charges and this can be the largest outgoing for those moving stateside in later life.

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