Category Archives: Bonita Springs Florida Lifestyle

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Get Involved: Top Nonprofits in Bonita Springs & Naples

One of the best parts about living in Bonita Springs and Naples is that there are a number

of things to do — whether you want to relax by the beach, play a round of golf, go shopping or eat out at any of the excellent restaurants in the area,

the list is endless. However, when you live a vacation lifestyle, you may develop a desire to do more than just relax. Finding activities in which you can help others can be gratifying and rewarding. This idea is supported by Stephanie Watson, who writes for Harvard Health Publications. She explains that volunteering your time can reward you with both physical and mental health benefits — meaning that individuals who volunteer can experience lower blood pressure and a longer lifespan while thwarting loneliness and depression. It also just feels good to give back!

Here are some options to get involved — the names of each nonprofit link to their volunteer page:

Help People

Literacy Council Gulf Coast

Bonita Springs, FL

If you’d rather not work with animals, the Literacy Council Gulf Coast

is a great option to help adults and children improve their literacy. This nonprofit focuses on helping individuals in the immediate area, and you can volunteer your time by sharing stories, tutoring, or helping out with various other activities for the Council.

Cafe of Life

Bonita Springs, FL

Help out the less fortunate with the Cafe of Life, a nonprofit that focuses on assisting and meeting the needs of people in the community with nutritional and supplemental support. You can volunteer to be a cook or server or you can help deliver/pick up groceries. There are also options to help with administrative support. “Care, Share, and Serve” your fellow man!

Bonita Community Health Center

Bonita Springs, FL

The Bonita Springs Community Health Center is a nonprofit that offers a variety of healthcare services to people in the community. They rely on the help from volunteers to keep day to day operations running and to provide health care services. They try to match volunteers with their greatest interest. Contact them directly for more information on how you can help.

Centers for the Arts

Bonita Springs

The Centers for the Arts in Bonita Springs is an excellent nonprofit organization for you to volunteer your time — no special skills needed! Get immersed in the performing and visual arts environment by helping The Centers for the Arts, a nonprofit that seeks to enrich the lives of people in the community through art education, expression and appreciation. You can participate in special events, greet visitors, serve on committees, answer phones and assist with community outreach programs. Additionally, Centers for the Arts also has opportunities to volunteer that don’t require you to be gregarious and outspoken. You can help out the Centers by making copies, filing and entering data, or completing research.

Join a Cause

Habitat for Humanity – ReStore

Ft. Myers, FL

If you have time to volunteer, Habitat for Humanity ReStore offers a multitude of opportunities for people with a variety of skills. From their website, volunteer opportunities include: Driver Helper, Donation Processing, Handyman, Facilities Maintenance, Dispatcher, Social Media, and Volunteer Coordinator. Contact Habitat for Humanity to learn more and to find out how you can contribute.

SUSAN G. KOMEN SWFL

Bonita Springs, FL

Become an advocate for breast cancer awareness and volunteer with the Susan G. Komen Southwest Florida organization. You can volunteer to help out in the office, health care fairs, and help with marketing or as an organizer. You can also participate in or help out the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Make-a-Wish Foundation Southern Florida

Bonita Springs, FL

The Make-a-Wish Foundation is responsible for orchestrating and making the dreams of children with life-threatening medical conditions come true. Be a part of something special and participate as an airport greeter, office volunteer, speaker, special events volunteer, or wish granter!

Help Animals

Humane Society – Naples

Naples, FL

If you love dogs and/or cats, you can make a difference in their lives by volunteering at the Humane Society in Naples. You can donate your time and help care for the animals who are being housed and cared for at the shelter by helping with daily operations, education and outreach (shelter tours and social enrichment opportunities), or acting as a canine coach or female ambassador (handling animals in the kennels, at events, and at the mall location).  You can also foster dogs or work special events and assist with the mobile adoption bus. There’s plenty of things to do within the shelter and outside that can benefit the animals in its care.

Naples Equestrian Challenge

Naples, FL

Naples Equestrian Challenge is a nonprofit organization that offers therapeutic horseback riding to adults and children with disabilities of Collier County. You don’t have to be a seasoned equestrian to volunteer your time, but if you have a love of horses, this is the place to be! If you don’t, all you need is a desire to be compassionate and give reliable support. The volunteer opportunities include side walking, leading, grooming, tacking, participation in fundraising activities, serving on the board or committee, and more. Volunteers do go through a training session prior to helping out.

Bird Gardens of Naples

Naples, FL

If large animals aren’t your thing, you can always work with the stunningly beautiful tropical parrots who live at

the Bird Gardens sanctuary. This nonprofit focuses on caring for parrots

in captivity, which come to the sanctuary from occasions of neglect, abuse, or abandonment. The Bird Gardens provides a beautiful home for the intelligent parrots and further gives back to the community by giving educational tours to the community. There are a multitude of volunteer options — when you visit the web page, scroll all the way to the bottom to reach out and express your desire to help.

Volunteer Today!

Volunteering at a local nonprofit is a fantastic way to help out the community and feel good about yourself. The

above is a list of some of the nearby nonprofit organizations. If you have a desire to help, there’s someone out there who needs you. So, get out there and do some good!


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7 Tips for Taxes and Luxury Real Estate Investments

When you’re ready to move forward with your next luxury real estate investment, it’s important to be armed with as much information as possible before you take action.  Choosing your next luxury home purchase can be intimidating because they often come with hefty taxes and rules that may seem complicated if you’re not a tax professional. Despite the fact that Florida does not have a state income tax, there are still real estate taxes that must be considered when moving forward with making a luxury real estate investment.  In order to help you make the best, informed decision, I’ve assembled seven tips that will make dealing with taxes a breeze.

1.Estimate Your Taxes

Planning ahead is the best thing that you can do when preparing to make a large financial investment. The Estero Fire Department created an excellent handout that explains how taxes work in Florida. Here’s the formula that they provide for estimating your real estate taxes:

Just Value (market value) – Assessment Limitations (e.g. Save Our Homes) = “Assessed Value” Assessed Value – Applicable Exemptions (e.g. Homestead) = “Taxable Value”

Taxable Value X Millage Rate = Total Tax Liability

It may be wise to estimate your market value (aka just value) on the higher end of the spectrum so that you are financially prepared to invest in your next luxury home.

2. Homestead Exemptions

Florida is unique because it offers the “Save Our Homes” assessment limitation, which means that taxes on your primary residence (homestead) cannot increase by more than 3% or the percent change of the Consumer Price Index (whichever is less). Essentially, the assessment limitations prevent your taxes from increasing in the event that your assessed value increases to more than the just value of your home. It’s important to note that if you’re moving within the state of Florida, you may be able to transfer your existing homestead exemption to your new home. The portability forms can be conveniently completed online through the tax assessor’s website.

However, keep in mind that in the event that you don’t plan on your next luxury home purchase to be your primary residence, or if you intend to rent out your home seasonally, you may risk your homestead exemption. Past court cases have shown that merely having a couple locked closets will not negate the “abandonment through rental” clause, which eliminates the homestead exemption. Be sure to consult your attorney and/or real estate professional if you intend to pursue the homestead exemption on a property you may rent out, as you may lose your homestead exemption. The good thing is that if you lose your homestead exemption, taxes in Florida for non-homestead properties are still capped at 10%.

3. Get an Appraisal & a Home Inspection

Because the property assessor’s office doesn’t always complete individual appraisals, you would be wise to get an appraisal to see the true value of your home. Assessors combine the value of comparable properties, consideration of costs (e.g. how much it would cost to replace your property), and potential income of the property to determine the market value. The market value is not always the true 100% value of your property, so keep this in mind when estimating your taxes. Furthermore, if you have proof to show that what the property you’re interested doesn’t match the assessor’s appraisal, you may be able to contest the assessed value. You should also make sure that you get a full home inspection. Just because your next home or real estate investment may be part of a highrise or within a community does not mean it is exempt from problems. Protect

yourself and your finances.

4. Don’t Overspend

When you’re looking at making a luxury real estate investment, it can be tempting to pull out the stops. After all, your intention is to get luxury, so why would you hold back? One answer is simple: you can’t afford it. While it can be tempting to get every upgrade imaginable or engage in a bidding war (where it is very easy to lose sight of the initial financial plan you made), you don’t want to get yourself in a situation where you’re in over your head. The higher the value of a property, the higher the taxes will be. Establish a financial plan and follow it. You’ll be happier in the long run.

5. Be Prepared: Anonymity Might Be a Thing of the Past

Many wealthy individuals who are able to pay cash for a home — even a luxury home — prefer to do so to maintain their privacy. You may have even considered buying the home under a corporation or business venture’s name. However, due to the influx of shady real estate transactions over the last few years, specifically in Miami-Dade County, the federal government has imposed new policies to combat the issue. According to a recent article in The Miami-Herald, “The new policy will require title insurance companies to identify the true owners of shell companies that pay $1 million or more in cash for homes in Miami-Dade and $3 million or more for homes in New York City. Insurers will then have to report the names of the buyers to the U.S. Treasury Department.” Although this new policy relates specifically to homes in Miami-Dade and New York City, it’s important to stay abreast of changing policies that could potentially proliferate into surrounding areas of luxury real estate in south Florida.

6. Capital Gain is Your Gain

Whether you’re buying a vacation home or downsizing, if you’ve sold a property in order to invest in luxury real estate, you may end up with a profit. If you do, be aware that you are not required to pay capital gains tax for the first $250,000 in profit for single individuals and $500,000 in profit for married couples who will file a joint tax return. Keep in mind, it is required that you lived in that home for two years in order to bypass the tax. With that said, you may end up with a decent amount of money available to put towards your next real estate investment.

7. Get Qualified Help

Taxes aren’t always that easy to understand. Do your research when hiring a tax professional/accountant to help you create your financial plan to make sure that they are licensed professionals. And when you’re ready, make sure you hire a real estate agent you can trust. You need them to be upfront, honest, and in it for your best interests — not just the commission. If you need a professional accountant or consultant to assist, as a realtor in The Colony, I have the connections and recommendations to do just that.

The Colony in Bonita Springs: Your Next Luxury Residences

As a realtor and resident of The Colony in Bonita Springs, Florida, I can confidently say that an investment in a residence here is a wise decision. The Colony offers an array of amenities, including a kayak/canoe park, state-of-the-art fitness center, championship golf course, and more. When you purchase a residence here, you will have more than just a luxury home; you will have a lifestyle some only dream of.

To learn more about available homes in The Colony, contact Jill Kushner today at (239) 691-5505 or click here.


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7 Luxurious Additions to Make to Your Colony Home

When you live in one of the gorgeous Colony homes, you’ve got the best of the best. Colony homes in Bonita Springs offer exceptional amenities and options for every taste. However, making your home truly yours is something every homeowner seeks. Putting your personal touch on your space can make your condo go from a Colony model to your home.

We have a list of seven luxurious additions that can accommodate your needs and really make your home a reflection of you. Read on to discover what luxurious additions you can add!

1. Wine Closet

Who doesn’t love a glass of wine?! After all, indulging in a glass of red wine daily can provide a number of health benefits. If you’re a wine connoisseur, keep your wine at your fingertips and stored properly in a custom wine closet. To create a true wine closet, you’ll want to make sure that you can control the temperature and humidity, as well as storing it away from UV light (this is what makes converting a closet an ideal location). You can create this yourself or hire a contractor to make your vision a reality. Houzz offers step-by-step instructions and images of some spectacular in-home wine closets that would be a perfect fit inside any Colony home. If wine isn’t your thing, there are number of other luxury options you can add to your home, so keep reading!

In-Home Theatre

An in-home theatre is a perfect addition to take advantage of rainy days or when you just need a time-out from the sun. Cuddling up on theatre style seating complete with top of the line audio and video can take simply watching a movie to a supreme theatre experience. This addition is also great for a night in with friends — catch up on the latest blockbuster hits, watch the classics, or even relive a time in your past by watching a home movie with the best quality sound and video. Nothing quite matches the rumble as you feel part of the action in your favorite action flick. You can create an in-home theatre environment by including video projection, premium sound, dimming lights, and the theatre seating of your choice. If you’re making it an entertainment space, elevate the back row for a true in-home movie-going experience!

Heated Floors

All Floridians know that the winter in Florida can still put a chill in the air. Despite the normally warm climate, rainy days in January can still make you close up the lanai and crank up the heat. And nothing beats getting out of a shower or bath and stepping out onto a warm floor! Whether you choose to install heated flooring in just your bathroom or throughout your Colony home, heating flooring is beneficial not just from a luxury standpoint — it also can help you feel comfortable and warm. Living in comfort is certainly a must-have!

Towel Warmer

Speaking of comfort, adding a towel warmer will give you that warm, just out of the dryer feeling every time you step out of the shower or bath. Pamper yourself with a towel warmer that reflects your personality — there are a variety of styles to choose from. You can have a free-standing towel warmer, one hardwired and installed in the wall, or you can even have a tucked away towel warming drawer. For open towel warmers, you can add in a modern flair or keep it classic looking. There really is an option for everyone!

Kitchen Improvements

From upgrading your entire kitchen to a chef’s kitchen or adding in simple luxuries, kitchen upgrades are sure to please everyone. Gourmet kitchens are an excellent option for those who enjoy cooking, but if you don’t plan on cooking large meals regularly, these features will surely be a waste of money. Opt for the upgrades you know you’ll use, like a touchless water faucet or flush countertop steamer. Your kitchen is also an excellent place to display your natural side. Install eco-friendly features like bamboo flooring or countertops or cork flooring and help out the environment while making a statement. If you don’t want to scream green, you can still upgrade your appliances (if they aren’t energy efficient already) or add in a recycling center conveniently into your existing cabinets.

Wireless Home Automation

Wireless home automation might be an improvement for the tech-savvy homeowners, but it really can be a benefit for everyone. Most of these systems are quite user-friendly, so even the technically challenged can find it’s a breeze to use. Wireless home automation allows you to control everything in your home from a smartphone or tablet. This is a phenomenal feature, especially for Colony residents who like to travel and want to check in on their home while they’re away. You can also just install the parts that matter most, like smart thermostats, and reap in the benefits of being energy efficient, or you can make your outlets and switches wirelessly controlled. The options are really endless, and this is also a great feature to add to your home theatre.

Details! Feature Lighting & Hardware

Your hardware and lighting choices are simple details that are often overlooked. You can really show off your personality in a subtle way by incorporating lighting fixtures and hardware that echo your sense of style. For example, the kitchen is an excellent place to install feature lighting to show off your dishes or illuminate your latest cooking creation. Additionally, knobs, pulls, and handles are everywhere in your home and offer the perfect opportunity for you to incorporate a touch of you. Selecting high-end, yet classic hardware can show a refined taste. Or, if you’re more whimsical, splurge on exciting or fun pulls, like silverware in the kitchen, etc. This is your chance to show off your style, whether it’s modern, traditional, luxe, or minimal! You’ll be amazed at what a big difference such a small touch can do!

Make a House a Home

At the end of the day, your home in the Colony should be just that — your home.  Make additions to your home to personalize it, increase comfort, and make you happy. By adding luxurious items like the above, we hope you’ll find that your home is your happy place. After all, nothing beats easy living! Which items will you be adding?


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Lee County Property Tax Guide for Luxury Living

If you’ve bought or are thinking about buying a luxury home at The Colony or within Lee County, it’s important to stay up to speed with the current property taxes in the county because once you close on a property, you’re responsible for the taxes. Although there are no income, inheritance or luxury taxes in Florida, you are required to pay your property tax. Whether you decide to pay your taxes independently or have them escrowed in with your mortgage, the following information can help you stay informed and ensure you’re taking advantage of tax breaks and not overpaying your taxes.

To understand how and what you will pay for taxes, we’ve amassed information from several sources, including the Lee County Tax Collector and Property Appraiser’s offices, to give you a one-stop tax guide for luxury living in Lee County.

Dealing with Taxes: Distinguishing Between the Offices

Property Tax Collector’s Office

Essentially, this office is in charge of mailing, receiving, and processing all of the paperwork and tax bills within Lee County. The Tax Collector’s

office can also handle questions regarding payments. If you’ve just purchased a home in Lee County, you may want to check out their new property owner’s guide, which is available online.

Property Appraiser’s Office

This office sets the property values based on current market value. They deal with exemptions, as well as any contentions regarding property value. This office is also responsible for mailing out notices of TRIM (proposed property taxes).

Important Terms to Know

When navigating the sea of legal-ese with regard to tax talk, there are several terms of which you must be familiar in order to understand what you need to take care of when it comes to your property tax. Some of the common, important terms you need to know include:

Ad valorem

This is a Latin term that means “according to worth,” and it is the way in which Lee County (and the rest of Florida) determines property taxes. You are able to calculate your property tax amount by taking the non-exempt value of your home (excluding exemptions such as the Save Our Homes exemption) and multiplying it by the rate of taxation (millage rate).

Millage Rate

The millage rate is essentially the rate of taxation broken down into dollars of tax per thousand dollars of taxable equity.

You’ll see this term used when calculating and estimating your taxes.

TRIM

This is a shortened term to refer to Truth in Millage, which equates to the proposed taxes for the upcoming year. It is merely an estimate and is meant to help homeowners navigate the complex world of taxing authorities and what

the expectations are for the upcoming year. The 2015 TRIM Guide is available online, which may help you understand what goes into calculating your taxes for the future. It considers the taxes needed by various taxing authorities based upon their budgets, and it explains how you might be affected.

Estimate Your Taxes

The Lee County Property Appraiser’s office allows you to estimate your taxes using an easy online calculator. You’ll need to know the sale price (or estimated sale price), Save Our Homes benefit information (if you’re transferring a benefit – you’ll need the old assessed value and the old market value from the previous home). The calculator will provide you with the millage rate, estimated assessed value, estimated taxes and estimated taxes with the homestead exemption.

Exemptions

Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of a tax exemption?! The following list of exemptions are options that you can take to reduce the amount of taxes you pay. Below are two of the most common exemptions that occur for people living in luxury homes. There are also exemptions for veterans and those with disabilities, so be sure to check out the full list on the Property Appraiser’s website.

Homestead Exemption

Within the state of Florida and within Lee County, residents are able to file for a homestead exemption. This is a tax exemption gives you a deduction of up to $50,000 from the assessed value of your property. You’ll need proof of ownership (the deed to the home) in addition to other identification documents, which are listed on the County Website. You can file online, by mail, or in person.

Thinking of renting your luxury home? Keep in mind that you must reside in your home for at least two years, and you cannot rent it out (it constitutes abandonment and you may lose the designation of a homestead). You’ll need to contact the Lee County Appraiser’s office to determine whether or not you’ll be excluded from this exemption if you will be renting out your

home.

Senior Exemptions

Since many seniors opt to retire and live in a luxury home like The Colony in Bonita Springs, it’s important to know that seniors also qualify for an additional exemption. The Senior Exemption is available to senior citizens aged 65 and older and whose income does not exceed the set limitation. More information is available on the County Appraiser’s website.

The benefits do vary depending on where your home is located. For those who reside in Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, and Bonita Springs, the exemption benefit is $25,000. Cape Coral is $50,000 and in all Lee County Millages, $50,000 and up to $250,000.

Tax Limitations in Florida

Save Our Homes

The Save Our Homes tax benefit limits the annual assessment increases on homestead-exempt property by 3%. This benefit can never be greater than market value, and you can transfer it should you move within the state of Florida.

Florida is a Great State!

Overall, Florida is attractive to people looking for luxury homes because of its excellent tax benefits, warm weather, and beautiful views. If you’re thinking about moving to The Colony and taking advantage of all Lee County has to offer, contact me today!