7 Tips for Working with Your Realtor on Finding a Luxury Home

If you have made the decision to buy a luxury home, such as the exquisite high rise condos in Bonita Springs like The Colony, it’s time to get started looking at potential properties that could be your next luxury home. Buying a luxury home is an exciting time — you’re about to make your dreams come true! But before you get started looking, read these seven tips for working with your realtor that can make the home-buying process a breeze.

Read on to learn how you can simplify the process and make it as stress free as possible!

1. Know Your Affordability

This might seem like a no-brainer, but it sadly, there are people who just don’t realize that this is the first step in the home buying — and even just looking — process. There’s no sense in getting your heart broken by falling in love with a property that’s outside your budget. There are plenty of luxury homes that can accommodate budgets anywhere from $400,000 to $1,000,000+, so don’t worry that you won’t find a perfect match. However, it’s important to know your limitations. If you’re buying with cash, this should be a no-brainer, but don’t forget to account for closing costs and fees and any minor changes you may want to do to your home, such as getting it painted in the color you like best or upgrading countertops or appliances. If you’ll need a mortgage, get a preapproval letter before you start looking — then you’ll know exactly what you will be approved for. It’s best to have a realistic approach, especially when it comes to major financial purchases.

2. Determine Your Must-Haves

There are some options that will be deal breakers for you, and there will be some things that would be nice, but that you can live without. Create a list of must-haves so your realtor won’t waste any time showing you properties that don’t meet your luxury home-buying criteria. With this list, add things that really matter and aren’t easily changed/upgraded. For example, if having an extra bedroom available for loved ones to stay is critically important to you, put that on your must-have list. Make your must-have list about the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the floorplan, the amenities, and things that can’t easily be changed.  With that said, keep in mind that things like light fixtures, appliances, and countertops can be changed. If you’re not handy, you can hire someone to do these things for you — just be cognizant of that with your budget.

3. Try to Be Realistic

With that said, you may have a list of must-haves to the moon, but that property might not exist. Try to be realistic with your expectations and not include deal-breakers that could be easily added. For example, if you don’t want to have to remodel anything in a home, you might want to still consider a home that has a paint color you don’t care for because that’s an easy fix! Getting your home painted in the colors that fit your personality will likely be something you want to do anyway, and it’s typically not something that will break your home-buying budget. Additionally, if you’re looking at homes that have every high-end option available, expect a high-end price tag. You aren’t going to be able to buy a diamond for the price of a rock.

4. Keep Appointments & Be Punctual

Five minutes late isn’t going to upset your realtor, but not showing up for appointments or expecting a realtor to wait for an hour is unrealistic and isn’t the best way to start your relationship with your realtor. While it’s true that all realtors are in the business of working for their clients, be sure to stay respectful of their time just as they will of yours. I work very hard to meet the needs of my clients, but in order to be respectful of every client’s needs, I have to work on a schedule. This is important for appointments.

5. Know What You Want, Where You Want It

Location! Location! Location! This phrase has been uttered by probably every real estate agent in the country, and the reason is that it’s crucially important. You can change things about your home, but you can’t change the location. So, if you want a highrise condo that overlooks the beach and not a golf course, be sure to communicate this to your realtor. This way you can be sure to only see the luxury homes that meet your needs. Similarly, if you’re looking for a luxury highrise condo and not a villa-style, it’s important to let your realtor know. Keep in mind that if you’ve never been in a highrise home, you may want to check one out. The breathtaking views like the ones The Colony luxury highrise homes have to offer just might captivate you!

6. Understand It’s a Process

Buying a home, whether it’s a luxury home or your first home, is a process! There are a lot of steps, financial documents needed, and paperwork to be completed. Expect that you will need to amass financial records, and get

your hand ready to sign, sign, sign!

7. Don’t Be Off Put by HOAs and Maintenance Fees

Living in a luxury home with amenities is one of the most sought-after life experiences that individuals hope to attain. From talking with my clients, many are retiring to a luxury highrise home to experience the good life. With that said, some clients aren’t aware of the fees that come with owning a luxury home. You’ll have access to excellent health clubs, the golf club, private beaches and more when you buy a luxury home, but it will be something that you pay for outside of your mortgage.

Get Started with Your Luxury Home Search in Bonita Springs: Contact Jill Kushner Today

I hope you’ve learned a lot about the luxury home-buying process — you’ll see it’s not that far off from buying any property, but there’s a lot more at stake. This can make things more stressful, but if you take these tips, you’ll be sure to close on your luxury home without worry and with ease!

As a realtor and resident of The Colony in Bonita Springs for several years, I know all the residences in and out. I am passionate about helping my clients find the perfect luxury home and would love to help you get started. Contact me today by calling (239) 691-5505 or by clicking here.

Are You Retiring? Consider Downsizing Your Home

Retirement is an exciting time, and if you’re at that point in your life, it’s time to examine your current situation, financially and in terms of real estate, to determine how you want to spend your golden years. When you’re ready to retire, downsizing from a single family home to a highrise condo can be an attractive option— after all, it’s finally time to relax! Read on to find out how downsizing may be the right move for you!

Downsizing Doesn’t Mean Downgrading!

When you’ve invested in a single family home, you’ve got a lot of things. You might have an in-home office, a garage, a yard. When you trade all of that in for a highrise condo, the tradeoff has to be worth it. Luxury highrise condos are the way to go. Maintenance free, chock full of amenities, upgrades galore, and exquisite design details; your condo could be what you’ve always dreamed of having. Add in a gorgeous view, and you’re living in paradise! Why vacation? It’s time to live the good life every day.

Two Words: Liquid Assets

If you’re nearing retirement age, you may be in a situation where you have paid for most of your current home (if not paid it off entirely). Selling your home for a condo may leave you with a decent amount of funds that can be used as you wish. Maybe you’ll invest that money, add it to your retirement income, or make your monthly payment on your condo lower. Of course, every situation is independent to the individual, but it might be something to consider if you’re in that position.

Declutter and Live Freely!

Don’t think of downsizing as a negative thing. Think of it as finding the size that fits your current needs and an opportunity to leave a cleaner, less cluttered life. Downsizing can mean getting rid of junk! You have it, I have it, we all have it. But why should you surround yourself with things that just take up space? Live with what you need and live well. Donate items to charity and feel good about the positive impact you’re making. Yes, downsizing means that you will have less space. However, you are perfectly capable of living a happy life — if not happier, more relaxed life — in a highrise condo.

Less Work, More Reward

Highrise condos provide you with easy living! No more mowing and watering the grass, taking care of landscaping gardens, or cleaning the gutters! When you downsize to a condo, you’re rewarding yourself with, to put it simply, less work! Not only will you not have to go to your job, but you won’t have to do work around the house and handle general maintenance. And that means you’ll have more time to enjoy the things you love, like golfing, hanging by the pool, shopping, and eating out. The great news about living in The Colony in Bonita Springs is that you will never run out of things to do. We offer golf, kayaking/canoeing, fitness, a butterfly garden, and more.

You’re Retired – Enjoy It!

Luxury highrise condos are typically surrounded by things to do! You’ve been working your whole life, and it’s finally time to take time out for yourself. Highrise condos offer a ton of amenities within the building, like fitness centers, pool and barbecue areas, private golf courses, and some even have spas. Picture it now: you’ll be looking forward to Monday morning because you can go golfing, hit the beach, lay out by the pool or do exactly what you want to do. These are all things that highrise condos, like The Colony, offer. That’s what retirement is supposed to be all about, right?

Freedom to Travel

When you own a single family home, the thought of leaving it can be daunting — what if something goes wrong, and no one is there to tend to it? What if someone breaks in? Who will cut the grass? The list of worries could go on. When you downsize to a highrise condo, you won’t have to worry about who will take care of your home because your association will take care of it for you. And as an added bonus, most luxury highrise condos offer excellent security as part of the amenities they offer.

Safety First!

Speaking of security, not only will you not have to worry if you want to pack your bags and travel, but when you’re at home, your mind will be at ease knowing you’re living within a safe community that has its own private security. Solicitors won’t be able to bother you, and scam artists posing as solicitors won’t make it past the front gates. You’ll have peace of mind knowing that there’s surveillance in the unlikely event something might go wrong (after all, we do not live in a perfect world — but highrise condo living might be as close as you can get!). Security can get expensive in a single family home because you have to pay for the installation as well as monthly fees to keep it running, and even if you already invest in a security system, you likely don’t have actual security guards manning the entrance. Security won’t be free in a highrise condo, but it will wrapped up in a nominal HOA/condo fee.

Community Living

If you’re like many folks who have retired, you may have children who have grown up or perhaps moved away to attend college. Even if you’re married or have a significant other, living by yourself can get lonely. Highrise condos are an ideal situation for retired individuals because there’s a lot to do, and a lot of people around you who are at similar points in their lives and who likely share common interests. You can make new friends and enjoy spending time with the friends you’ve had for years. Individuals who invest in luxury highrise condos for their retirement years are looking for the same things you are because if they weren’t, they wouldn’t be there.

Retire in Style! Consider The Colony in Bonita Springs Today

If you’re in the beginning stages of planning your move to a highrise condo, I strongly urge you to consider The Colony in Bonita Springs, Florida.

We’re located in the quiet heart of Southwest Florida, with close proximity to beautiful beaches, high-end shopping, amazing dining, and more. Additionally, The Colony offers highrise condos with an abundance of amenities: kayaking, canoeing, a state-of-the-art fitness center, a butterfly garden, and more.

To learn more about luxury, highrise condos in The Colony, contact Jill Kushner, a real estate specialist and resident of The Colony. Simply call (239) 691-5505 or click here.

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!

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.

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?

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!

10 Reasons to Invest in a Highrise Home in Bonita Springs

Making the decision to invest in a highrise home is one that many individuals may consider due to their personal preferences, lifestyles, and financial means. If you’re looking in Southwest Florida, you should consider buying that highrise home in Bonita Springs, but not just because it’s pretty. Read on to learn 10 reasons why you should make Bonita Springs the choice for your highrise home purchase:

#1: Excellent Resale Value

No one wants to make a bad real estate investment.  The U.S. has seen an 8.4% increase in home values, and Bonita Springs is not an exception to that rule with an increase of 11.4% from last year. Market trends show that the median property value is on the rise in Bonita Springs, and in January 2016, it reached the highest values it’s been in the last five years with no signs of slowing down. Prior to that, Bonita Springs has enjoyed steady growth — proving that it’s likely you won’t just break even, you may be able to make money on your investment if you decide to sell.

#2: Bonita Springs Brings Options

Currently, Bonita Springs is in a neutral market, meaning that there are options, but you won’t get stuck in a bidding war due to low inventory. Similarly, you also aren’t going to lose money investing in Bonita Springs because of too high inventory. A neutral market is ideal for both the seller and the buyer because it’s not a high pressure environment for either party. And who wants to make a massive investment with added stress? I can’t think of anyone!

#3: Potential for Growth

Much of southwest Florida real estate market has been in a period of stabilization. The great part about that is now that the market has had a chance to relax, it’s in a prime position to grow. Zillow projects home values will continue to increase by 3.6% within the next year.

#4: The View

Situated right off of Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, Bonita Springs is home to unspoiled, jaw-dropping, beautiful beaches, like Barefoot Beach and Lover’s Key — and what better way to take in those gorgeous sunsets than from the lanai of your own highrise home? Highrise homes offer spectacular views that you just can’t get when you’re on the ground. You won’t need to escape to paradise when you own a highrise home in Bonita Springs. You will live there.

#5: Low Inventory of Foreclosures

As the US has continued to recover from the market crash, foreclosed homes have become a more common part of a home search. The good thing is that the streets around town aren’t plagued by unsightly foreclosures — Bonita Springs has relatively few foreclosure listings. Market trends show that both foreclosures and bank owned properties have decreased over the last year. Although you may still be able to find a bargain with a foreclosed home, you won’t be driving past a slew of dilapidated homes in Bonita Springs.

#6: Easy Living

Obviously, whether or not a highrise condo is for you is based on personal preference. However, part of what makes owning a highrise home an attractive option is that they provide you with easy living — no need for lawn maintenance in a highrise! The grounds are typically well manicured and taken care of with a nominal maintenance fee. You will only need to worry about putting your personal touch on the interior of your home.

#7: Amenities Galore

Many highrise homes, such as Florencia in The Colony, include excellent amenities: a fitness center, pools, security, golf courses, and more. And it’s not just luxury highrise homes that offer these amenities. There are a number of affordable highrise options on the market right now that still provide convenient amenities to its residents.  It’s worth mentioning that highrise homes that offer security really offer an additional value as they are great not just for personal safety, but for the safety of your home and belongings should you choose to travel. Beyond that, Bonita Springs is also a great social community, with restaurants, shopping and, of course, the beach!

#8: Affordability

Homes in Bonita Springs, and especially highrise homes, are quite affordable, especially in comparison to nearby Miromar Lakes or Ft. Myers Beach. With a several highrise homes in the $100,000 range, Bonita Springs definitely offers budget-friendly options. However, if it’s luxury that you’re after, Bonita Springs has supreme choices with a plethora of options ranging anywhere from the $500,000 to multi-million dollar highrise luxury homes. The sky (and your budget) is the limit!

#9: Low Crime

As I mentioned previously, most highrise homes offer security, which provides peace of mind and comfort in your home. While no community is exempt from crime, Bonita Springs enjoys a relatively low crime rate. Trulia reports the crime risk is relatively low, with most of the police activity being community policing (simple area checks/patrol) and traffic violations.

#10: Shhh…Quiet!

Because highrise living involves living very closely to your neighbors, many condos promise inhabitants the ability to enjoy their space in peace and quiet. People are respectful of these bylaws not simply because they are required to abide by them, but also because highrise living is community living. You will run into your neighbors at the pool, on the golf course, or in the fitness center. And with all of the activities that Bonita Springs has to offer, you will likely see your neighbors in the hallways or in the elevators, and because of that, it’s important to keep the peace and maintain the neighborhood community-feeling of the highrise.

Choose a Highrise in Bonita Springs

Whether you choose to invest in a highrise home in Bonita Springs for yourself — or simply as a way to make money, it’s certainly an attractive option. Now you don’t have to wonder why you should buy a highrise home in this exceptional community.

The Colony in Bonita Springs has plenty of high-rise options available. Take a look at all the high-rise communities in The Colony – click here! To start your search for the perfect high-rise in Bonita Springs, contact me today.

March 2016 Housing Market Update: Can We Expect the Housing Bubble to Burst?

The real estate market in southwest Florida is definitely one to watch — after all, Florida was severely hit when the housing bubble exploded from 2006-2013, leaving millions with underwater mortgages or facing foreclosure. However, the coastal communities like Bonita Springs and Naples are resilient, and thankfully, the market has improved considerably and shows no signs of relapsing into what was a dark time in Florida real estate. Although some naysayers believe that the housing bubble is back, there isn’t enough evidence to support that theory.

With that said, when you’re considering buying a luxury home, like The Colony in Bonita Springs, you need to have an understanding of why the current bloom in real estate isn’t a bubble that’s going to burst any time soon. Rest assured with your decision to choose a luxury home in Bonita Springs — read on to learn why.

What Caused the Bubble to Burst?

Before we give you all the facts showing why there isn’t a bubble that’s about to burst, it’s important to know what causes devastating real estate crashes. According to Investopedia, the factors that cause a bubble to burst relies on the laws of supply and demand, and specifically include (1) an increase in interest rates, which adds to supply (2) a downturn in general economic activity, which decreases the demand for housing, (3) an increase in supply, as a result in exhausted demand and individuals losing their homes due to depreciation. Essentially, when you have no demand and too large of a supply, you’re headed for trouble. Mix that in with unscrupulous lending practices, and you have the exact recipe for what was perhaps the greatest housing crash to date.

Moving in the Right Direction

The good thing is that none of that is happening — interest rates can be capped due to the Save Our Homes initiative and also transferred, thanks to the 2008 Amendment that allows for portability of the Save Our Homes assessment cap. Additionally, the economy in southwest Florida, specifically in Collier and Lee Counties, is flourishing. In fact, the two counties are leading the state in economic growth, as recently reported in the Naples News. And as far as an exhausted demand — well, that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon as both county’s populations are growing as well. Things are good, but not too good to be true. The growth is apparent, but steady. The S&P/Case-Shiller reports that at the time this was written, the National Home Price Index is up by 5.42%. Just this past summer, Zillow’s Chief Economist Stan Humphries was quoted in a Forbes article asserting that the market is returning to normal: “New and existing home sales are both up, and home price growth continues to slow down. The fact that these indicators are moving in opposite directions actually means the market overall is moving in the right direction – back to normal.” Things are indeed moving in the right direction.

Returning to Normalcy

Last month, NBC-2 News of southwest Florida reported that there are a million fewer underwater homes than last quarter. This means that home values are continuing to increase in value — something that needed to happen after home values hit rock bottom when the last bubble burst. That’s a part of the recovery process. The home values are not anywhere near the over-inflated values of the past, but they are returning to a healthy, more stable value. Specifically, in Bonita Springs, home values have “returned to pre-recession norms” after experiencing a large jump.

Fair Mortgages

Furthermore, the past risky and shady behaviors of the banks, which significantly contributed to the last bubble burst, have been exponentially regulated. People can’t just get a mortgage for anything — they have to prove that they can afford it, which is a good thing. It means that people will not be able to purchase a home that is beyond their means. And that means that your neighbors in your luxury highrise condo won’t be freeloading, waiting for the foreclosure process to get on its way. Mortgage services experienced a stranglehold of regulatory and compliance restrictions after the fast and loose practices were discovered. As the government and banks work to streamline processes and increase oversight and transparency, it is clear that mortgage services are still under a microscope. To keep abreast of what’s happening currently with mortgage service regulation and compliance, head over to the National Mortgage News, which recently published a breakdown of the changes mortgage services will face in 2016.

Additionally, for those individuals who won’t be buying their next luxury home with cash, Florida 30-year fixed mortgage rates are at 3.49% as of March 18, 2016. With the low mortgage rates that Florida has to offer, luxury home buying becomes an affordable option for those who qualify.

The Path to Continued Success

So take a deep breath, and relax. After all, isn’t that what’ Florida’s about?! Florida’s real estate market is clearly in a good place. I’ll leave you with one last tidbit of information: Meyers Research, a consulting firm that focuses on real estate, published a report written by their Chief Analyst Dr. Kevin Gillen, who contends “Florida’s continued success will be driven by its steady stream of business from tourism, international trade, and construction.” We couldn’t agree more. Florida is a great place to live — come join us at The Colony!

Contact Colony realtor, Jill Kushner, to learn all there is to know (and love!) about The Colony in Bonita Springs, Florida!

4 Helpful Tips for New Kayakers & Canoers

Are you new to kayaking or canoeing? Participating in these water activities can be a great way to stay active while also enjoying the beautiful Florida scenery. If you live in The Colony, you do not have to go very far to enjoy these fun Florida activities. Along with 34 acres of white sand beaches, The Colony Bay Beach Park also offers a Back Water Bay Canoe Park. If you have been wanting to try canoeing or kayaking, but haven’t gotten the chance to get out on the water yet, have no fear!

If you’re a new kayaker or canoer, you may not know where to start. Use these tips to help you get started and enjoy some fun in the sun:

Go Canoeing and Kayaking With Friends

The best way to learn how to kayak or canoe is to practice, and practice is much more fun when you can enjoy the activity in the company of others. Bring your spouse or find a friend who is also interested in learning how to kayak or canoe. If you have friends who are experienced, ask them to show you the ropes. If not, learn together!

Join (or Create) a Community Canoe or Kayak Group

One of the best ways to stay motivated and continue to spend time on the water is to find a local kayak or canoe group. Here, you can meet others who enjoy these activities, including experienced paddlers who can give you some pointers. At The Colony in Pelican Landing, we have a number of residents that enjoy the occasional kayak/canoe season. Find others in the community who enjoy these activities and make kayaking or canoeing a weekly or monthly event.

Take a Canoe or Kayak Paddling Lesson

If you’re new to canoeing or kayaking, your first paddle might be a little daunting. The Colony Kayak & Canoe Park offers a first time paddle training session for those who have not yet been out on the water. During this training session, you can learn the basics of paddling and build your confidence so that you’re ready to get paddling.

Enjoy a Guided Canoe or Kayak Session

Southwest Florida offers many opportunities for guided canoe or kayak tours. These tours are led by seasoned paddlers who can teach you the basics while showing you the natural beauty of Florida. If you live at The Colony, you don’t have to go far for a guided paddle experience. These sunset/moonrise paddles are regularly scheduled throughout the season, but as the season comes to a close, the last paddle will take place on May 4, with a long paddle at 6:45 p.m. and a short paddle at 7:30 p.m.

Are You Ready to Enjoy the Best Kayaking in The Colony?

Imagine having these activities right in your own backyard. The Colony Bay & Golf Club offers this and more as part of its offering of luxury amenities. To find out more about how you can enjoy the best that Bonita Springs has to offer, contact Jill Kushner today!

Who is Jerry Pate?

Southwest Florida is a golfer’s paradise. But if you’re an avid golfer then you know that not all golf courses are created equal. The very best courses pay attention to the subtleties of the game, while also incorporating the natural beauty of the landscape. If you have ever had the pleasure of playing on a golf course designed by Jerry Pate, then you know that these courses do just that.

Golf Legacy

Since the age of six, Jerry Pate has loved the game of golf. He turned pro in 1975 after winning the U.S. Amateur Championship and playing on the U.S. Walker Cup Team. During his rookie season, he took the PGA Tour by storm, winning the U.S. Open title with a legendary shot – 190-yard five-iron over water to within two feet of the hole. Pate won eight times on the PGA Tour from 1976 to 1982, bringing a color and humor to the game that many fans grew to love.

Though shoulder injuries cut Pate’s PGA Tour career short, he is still very active in the game, continuing to compete on the Champions tour and doing wonderful work as a designer and developer. Pate uses his skill and passion to help others discover a love for the game by designing breathtaking Championship golf courses.

Golf Courses Designed by Jerry Pate

Jerry Pate uses his eye for design and his love and experience with the game to create truly spectacular golf courses. On his website, Pate discusses the things he holds most important when designing courses:

What does it take to be a great golf course designer? Start with a responsibility to the environment, working to embrace its natural beauty. Then, follow with the strategic knowledge of the game to provide golfers of any skill level an enjoyable experience. Finally, possess the experience to properly construct the course, allowing for the highest quality agronomic playing conditions with responsibility to the owners.

Beyond the breathtaking natural views, Pate’s courses are creative, providing every golfer with the opportunity to enjoy the game.

Ready to Hit the Fairway in Bonita Springs?

If the idea of having regular access to a Championship golf course designed by Jerry Pate sounds like a dream, it doesn’t have to. By finding your new or next home at The Colony Golf & Bay Club, you can have this and much more! The Colony also offers other luxury amenities, such as six Har-Tru tennis courts, 34 acres of private beach park, and a well-equipped spa and fitness center, all in a fabulous location – Bonita Springs, FL.

If you are interested in taking a tour of the community and seeing things for yourself, contact Jill Kushner to see what living at The Colony is all about!