My fiance, Pat and I made the decision to move to Central Florida last November in the midst of a global pandemic. We’re six months out from when we signed for our house and the journey is just beginning. Over the next few months, I’ll be sharing our experience and in the hope that if you are thinking about making the move to Disney (AKA Central Florida!) this will be a helpful resource.
Step One – Deciding to Move to Disney
Pat and I are lifelong residents of New Jersey and our only moves so far have been from our parents’ homes to apartments. When we first started dating, we had talked about a 5 year goal to move right outside of Walt Disney World to Central Florida, but I don’t know if either of us really thought it would happen.
Probably fueled by the changes that happened in our life due to the pandemic, Pat and I began considering moving out of our apartment. At first, we looked for homes in New Jersey that would be close by our parents. We quickly discovered the cost of a home that was only a bit larger than our apartment would put us at the top of our budget. We didn’t really want to move into a home that we might grow out of in just a couple years – both of us wanted to have space for offices, so we already knew we needed at least three bedrooms.
I’m not sure if it was Pat or I who did the first Zillow search in Florida, but we both agreed that we should consider moving to Florida when we realized how much more we could get for our money.
Step Two – Looking for a Home in Central Florida
Before we started our search, we figured out our budget, must haves, and wish list. We decided pretty quickly that we didn’t want to rent (either an apartment or home) prior to buying because we didn’t want to pay for two moves. However, this is an option that a lot of people moving to the area go with to familiarize themselves with the different towns and communities. For us, we had a pretty good idea what area we wanted to be in and used that as our reference to compare other towns to. We really focused on what we were able to get with our budget, but also proximity to my family who lives in the area and distance from both Orlando proper and Walt Disney World. (Let’s face it, if I’m moving to Florida, I want to be able to go to Disney without a second thought!)
To get an idea of what the average home in the area and size we were looking for was going for, we did a ton of research online. Zillow is a great resource and makes it easy to filter your searches. We also looked at homebuilders in the area to see what it would cost to be a new home. This can be a little difficult if you’re not able to drive around the area and just look for “Now Available” signs. For some reason online searches for new builds just seemed a little tricky – we would be searching for days and then all of a sudden land on this “new” builder site. My tip? Either get a realtor or if you have friends in the area, see if they’d be willing to do a little searching for you. We were lucky to have family that was super willing to do some research for us! After this initial research, we decided that we wanted to build a home.
It was a little challenging doing this research online and not being able to actually see the homes or models in person. Thankfully, we were able to take a trip down to the area and scheduled a bunch of appointments with builders to see the models and ask more questions about the build process. I’m not sure if it works this way for everyone, or if we were just lucky, but we pretty much knew right away which builder we wanted to go with. We made our final decision based on – 1. Cost per square footage (I did the math for all of the homes we looked at and this helped me compare), 2. Proximity to family, 3. Proximity to Disney, 4. Proximity to Orlando and the airport, 5. The feel of the community.
Step 3 – Buying a Home by Walt Disney World
Once we had determined what home we would like to purchase, we signed the contract and the process began. We were able to very easily do all of the paperwork from New Jersey and our builder was great with communicating with us through text and phone calls. We were told the typical timeline for building with our company is 6 months. This can be different depending on where, when, and what you’re building. For reference, we signed at the end of November 2020 in Central Florida on a “semi-custom” build. Semi-custom basically just means you have some options that you are able to select. With our home, we were able to select the elevation (what the outside of the home looks like), if we wanted an upgraded kitchen, what flooring we would like on the first floor, and a few other things like color of the walls and finishes like backsplash in the kitchen.
After signing the paperwork and making our design choices, we had some time to shop around for a mortgage company and home insurance company.
And now we wait…
The building process in the beginning was going super quick and we were seeing movement daily! Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, we faced an 80+ day delay on getting windows. Thankfully, we recently go our windows and are moving forward!
Next month I’ll share another blog that outlines the building process and some tips we’ve picked up along the way. Hopefully at that point we’ll be prepping to move into our house!
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