Living in Charlotte County Florida

Find the perfect home in sunny southwest, Florida


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Buy fresh foods at your local farmers markets in Punta Gorda, Fla.

Farmers Markets Punta Gorda, FL

Who doesn’t love to get fresh fruits and vegetables from a local farmers market?  There are a couple of farmers markets in downtown Punta Gorda where you can purchase items every weekend.  You can enjoy the freshness of the food at economical prices and support your local community at the same time.

Every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to noon May through September and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. October through April you can visit the Punta Gorda Farmers Market.  It is located on Taylor Road near the old Charlotte County Court House in Punta Gorda, FL.  This market is an award winning farmers market and has been voted the best small market in Florida.  Here you will find a large number of vendors offering products such as fruits and vegetables, dried fruits and nuts, bakery items, fresh homemade pasta, kitchenware, cupcakes, beef and fresh seafood, jewelry, candles and soaps, dip mixes, arts and crafts, cheese, coffee beans, drinks, flowers, plants and more.  There is also live entertainment for your enjoyment while shopping or browsing.  For more information and a list of weekly vendors, visit the Punta Gorda Chamber of Commerce web site at http://www.puntagordachamber.com/index.php?subcat=412.  Check out the YouTube video of the Punta Gorda Farmers Market where some of the vendors describe their products at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4wKNXXJqnE.

Every Sunday the Punta Gorda Historical Society operates a farmers market at History Park, 501 Shreve Street, Punta Gorda, FL.  It is located between Virginia Ave. and Henry St. and is just a ten-minute walk from Fishermen’s Village.  The hours are 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and admission is free.  It is an open air market and operates year-round.  Here you can sample and purchase a wide variety of items from vendors such as fresh produce, a butcher, deserts, and more.

While you are at the market you can enjoy the view of the beautiful park with a variety of local and tropical plants and trees.  In addition, you can visit the historic buildings located throughout the park which are open and staffed by members of the Historical Society during the market hours.  Some of the historical buildings are the Cigar Cottage, the Trabue Land Sales Office, the Price House/Gilchrist Inn, and the Calaboose.  To read more about the history of these buildings go to the Punta Gorda Historical web site at http://puntagordahistory.com/ourhistoricbuildings/thehistorypark.html.

Buying at a farmers market does help support your local economy and farmers.  You can get products that are not only fresh, but in season and they taste better.  It also gives you a chance to meet people in your community.  Stop by and take a stroll through the market this coming weekend.

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Information you need to know when buying a home in southwest Florida

If you are thinking of buying a home in southwest Florida, here are some basic things you need to know about this specific area.  The home buying process itself can be stressful, but knowing ahead of time what you are getting into will help.

Homeowner insurance – Insurance rates vary by age of home, size of home, conditions of home, and location of home.  Insurance is more expensive if you live near any type of water – pond, lake, river, Gulf.  Insurance is more expensive if home was not built to current hurricane standards.  You can get discounts the home qualifies for by having a wind mitigation inspection done at the same time as your home inspection.  Discounts are available for building features that reduce damage during high wind events.  Overall discounts include things such as age of home, style of roof, how close the home is to a body of water, how close to a fire hydrant, how the roof is tied down, if the home has hurricane shutters or impact resistant windows, frame or block home, etc.   If the home is in a flood zone, the insurance company will require a flood elevation certificate. That can be obtained by paying a survey company to prepare it.  To check Flood Zones go to www.floodsmart.gov and type in the address of the property.  It will give you the flood zone, rates, and insurance companies.

Homestead exemption – The state of Florida has individual and family exemptions.  The most common exemption that people qualify for is the homestead exemption.  Every person who owns and resides on real property in Florida on January 1 and makes the property his or her permanent residence is eligible to receive a homestead exemption up to $50,000.  To see a list of exemptions go to the Florida Department of Revenue web site at http://dor.myflorida.com/dor/property/taxpayers/exemptions.html.

Property Taxes – A home buyer should not rely on the seller’s current property taxes as the amount of property taxes that the buyer may be obligated to pay in the year subsequent to purchase.  A change of ownership or property improvements triggers reassessment of the property that could result in higher property taxes.  If you have any questions concerning valuation, contact the county property appraiser’s office for information.  The home you are interested in purchasing may be homestead.  Homesteading caps the tax assessments on the home during ownership.  MLS records do not necessarily reflect current tax assessments.  To apply for homestead or to read through answers to frequently asked questions, visit the Charlotte County Property Appraiser web site at http://www.ccappraiser.com/.

Pest Control – Bugs are a natural part of Florida.  The most common problems are termites, carpenter ants, fire ants, and spiders.  For any home you live in within this area you would either need to spray your home for pests or hire a pest control company to do it for you quarterly.  There are several plans to choose from.  When you purchase a home you can get a termite inspection for free.  Check with a Realtor for recommendations.

Utilities – Some homes have well and septic, others have city water and sewer, and some even have city water and septic.  Prices vary by county.  FPL (Florida Power and Light) is the power company used in this area – www.fpl.com.  The Charlotte County Utilities web site is http://www.charlottecountyfl.com/CCU/.

Moving to Florida Guide – For information on moving to and living in Florida check out this web site http://www.stateofflorida.com/Portal/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=40.  It contains topics on driver’s license and motor vehicle registration, employment, real estate, Florida taxes, schools, residency, weather, cost of living comparison, facts on Florida and more.

Pets in Florida – You must use heart guard and flea and tick control on your pet.  Be aware of bugs, snakes and alligators that may harm your animal.  There are a lot of ticks here certain times of the year.  Another thing about Florida is that there are many poisonous plants and palm trees – http://www.dog-health-guide.org/dogpoisonousplants.html.  There are pet friendly parks and beaches in the area.  Go to this article to read more http://www.examiner.com/article/southwest-florida-pet-friendly-parks-and-beaches.

Airports – There are several airports in the area.  Southwest Florida International Airport in Ft. Myers – http://flylcpa.com/, Sarasota Bradenton International Airport – http://www.srq-airport.com/,  Punta Gorda Airport – http://www.flypgd.com/, and  Venice Municipal Airport – http://www.venicetravelplanner.com/orientation/venice_airport.html.

Beaches – Some of the beaches in the area include Englewood Beach, Boca Grande Beach, Manasota Key Beach, Nokomis Beach and Port Charlotte Beach Park.  For more information on beaches, nature and outdoors visit the Charlotte Harbor Visitor and Convention Bureau web site at http://www.charlotteharbortravel.com/cms/index.php?id=17.

A Realtor can explain the home buying process to you and answer any questions you may have.  Although home prices have been increasing in the southwest Florida area, there are still many deals and home options to choose from including single family homes, condos, villas, townhouses and mobile homes.  Do your research.  Find a good Realtor and happy home hunting. 


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Best places in Charlotte County, Fla. to buy used furniture

When shopping for furniture there are a variety of options in new and used.  In our area of Florida many people buy second homes or vacation homes.  Furnishing a second home can become expensive.  An option is to buy used furniture.  Some suggestions for used furniture are consignment shops, Habitat for Humanity store, Goodwill store, local newspaper, Craigslist and garage sales.

The Goodwill Stores in Charlotte County are located at 2325 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte,  10381 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda,  and 1501 Placida Rd, Englewood.  The stores do have student and senior discount days as well as frequent shopper and donor reward cards.  Check out information and deals on their web site at http://www.goodwillswfl.org/.

The Charlotte County Habitat for Humanity stores are located at 1354 El Jobean Rd, Port Charlotte, 1750 Manzana Ave, Punta Gorda, and 3949 S. Access Rd., Englewood.  They all carry living room furniture, dining room furniture, bedroom furniture, patio furniture, office furniture, appliances and home décor items.  Their web site is http://charlottecountyhfh.org/home.html.

There are some other consignment shops and stores such as Funkie Junkies, 204 E. McKenzie St, Punta Gorda, Deals and Steals, 3890 Tamiami Trail, Port Charlotte, and Al’s Quality Furniture, 24100 Tiseo Blvd, Punta Gorda. They carry a variety of used furniture and other items.

The Cultural Center of Charlotte County at 2280 Aaron St, Port Charlotte has a store called Trash and Treasure.  You can find anything from donated clothes to house wares and furniture and electronics.  Furniture ranges from end tables to entertainment centers; upholstered furniture to patio furniture.  Their store hours are Monday through Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Sundays from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  For more information visit their web site at http://www.theculturalcenter.com/trash_treasure.html.

To check on Craigslist for furniture you can go to the Ft. Myers link and click on the Charlotte County tab and then click on furniture under for sale.  New items are posted every day and most items have a photo.  Be aware of scams and never send money through the mail.  It is recommended to go see the item in person.  Here is the link http://fortmyers.craigslist.org/chl/fua/.

If you want to search the local newspaper you can go to the Sun Newspapers web site at www.yoursun.net.  Click on the area of interest such as Charlotte Sun.  Then go to the local classifieds section.  Here you can search for merchandise for sale by individuals and see the list of garage sales in the area.  Items here do not have photos.  Shopping at garage sales might yield the best bargains as sellers are more motivated.

The nice thing about buying used furniture is that you can sometimes ask for markdowns.  You don’t always have to pay the marked price.  Also if you buy a lot of items or a group of items you may get a discount.   Always check the item for quality.  If there is some damage, see if it can be fixed easily or the problem easily remedied.   Before you go on your search, be sure to bring a list of your needs.  This helps with selecting appropriate items and keeps you more focused. 


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Punta Gorda’s bicycle paths form ring around the city

A vision of the city of Punta Gorda is to have over 15 miles of bicycle and pedestrian trails and paths that will connect the neighborhood, the parks, and the commercial areas as a ring around the city.  The different phases of the plan are being implemented as funds become available with expected completion by the end of 2012.  The funds are coming from multiple sources such as Federal Transportation Funds, 1 cent local option infrastructure sales tax, and private sector funds.

There are four routes that are part of the plan which are being created in stages.  One is to link Linear Park to the northern end of the U.S. 41 multi-use recreational trail.  A second one is linking the eastern end of Linear Park across U.S. 41 past the historic Punta Gorda Railroad Depot in the historic eastern neighborhood of the city.  A third one links the eastern end of Linear Park through downtown to Laishley Park.  And the last one is joining the eastern extent of Harborwalk south to the northern end of U.S. 41 multi-use recreational trail.  To see a map of the plan and photos of some of the existing routes, go to the City of Punta Gorda web site at http://www.ci.punta-gorda.fl.us/depts/growthmgmt/ringaroundcity.html

In connection with the ring around the city, TEAM Punta Gorda has developed a bicycle loaner program.  Their goal is to encourage bicycling and promote tourism.  There are several locations throughout Punta Gorda where you can borrow and use a bicycle.  Some of the participating locations are Charlotte Regional Medical Center – Wellness Center, Laishley Municipal Marina, Four Points by Sheraton, Fishermen’s Village Marina, Isles Yacht Club Marina and the Wyvern Hotel.  To learn more about TEAM Punta Gorda and some of their efforts go to their web site at http://teampuntagorda.org/.

Punta Gorda has received honorable-mention recognition as a “Bicycle-Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists.  Whether you like bicycling or walking there are current trails to try out and the completion of this project will make your trip even more enjoyable.  Take a walk or ride and get some exercise at the same time. Don’t forget, if you have friends coming into town or you don’t own a bike, borrow some bikes for free.


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Gardens of Gulf Cove – a small community close to the Gulf

Gardens of Gulf Cove is a small community located just minutes to the beautiful Englewood area and Gulf beaches.  It has easy access to Boca Grande and Gasparilla and is just 10 minutes to the Port Charlotte Town Center Mall.  It is also convenient to shopping, dining, fishing, boating, and golfing.  It is west of Gulf Cove and north of South Gulf Cove in Port Charlotte, FL off of 776.

Most of the homes are very affordable and have two to three bedrooms which make a great starter home, retirement home or family home.  There are a variety of sizes from 900 square feet to 2,000 square feet.  The original homes were built in the 1970’s to 1980’s, but there are some newer homes as well.  There is a small homeowner association fee and deed restrictions.  This established community has sidewalks, street lights, and underground utilities.

Some of the homes in the community are located on a canal with Gulf access by small boat.  There is also a boat ramp located nearby.  There is a Publix grocery store within walking distance of the club house as well as banks, restaurants and Home Depot.  Bike paths are located throughout the community for easy traveling or riding.   There is a secure RV storage lot for those residents who own a recreational vehicle or trailer.

The community itself offers many amenities including a large recreation center and club house.  The Recreation Center has an outdoor heated pool, billiards, Ping-Pong, various games and puzzles, and exercise equipment.  The Club House has an outdoor pool and offers workshops, board meetings, pizza parties, dinners and dances.  You can even rent the Club House for family events such as weddings, receptions, and anniversary or birthday parties.

At Gardens of Gulf Cove you can become involved in a variety of social activities.  There is something for everyone such as aerobics, aquacize, arts and crafts, basketball, bocce ball, pool tables, bowling, bridge, exercise classes, chorus, garden club, horseshoes, poker, quilting, shuffleboard, tennis and more.

For more information on this community and to see photos, their bylaws, covenants and restrictions go to their web site at http://thegardensofgulfcove.com/Home_Page.php.  The community is managed by Gardens of Gulf Cove Property Owners Association, Inc., 6464 Coniston Street, Port Charlotte, FL 33981.  Office phone: 941-697-4443, fax: 941-698-9274.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Green Lion Realty, Port Charlotte, FL


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Cypress Falls – a North Port, FL 55+ community

Cypress Falls at the Woodlands is an upscale, resort, gated 55+ community located in North Port, FL which is in southern Sarasota County.  It is just off of the Gulf coast and is close to Charlotte Harbor and has easy access to I-75 from Toledo Blade Blvd.  North Port has been growing for several years and there are shopping, grocery, golf, medical facilities, fishing, beaches, dining, and more within a short driving distance.

Cypress Falls offers social, leisure, and recreational activities for the active baby boomer.  The 16,000 square foot clubhouse has a state-of-the-art fitness center, two swimming pools, whirlpool, billiards, card room, Internet café, arts and crafts room, grand ballroom, putting green, yoga room, bocce ball, and tennis.  There is a full-time Lifestyle Director to help organize activities and help residents with their recreational plans.

Cypress Falls is designed to help support active adults.  Some of the social events that residents are involved in are afternoon teas, happy hours, themed potluck, bus trips, wine and cheese social, movie night, ice cream social, pool parties and luaus.  In addition, the community has organized several clubs to encourage residents to stay active and get to know their neighbors.  Some of the groups and clubs include social/programming club, card club, canasta, travel club, book club and walking club. They also have basic painting, knitting, scrapbooking, quilting, digital photography, computer learning classes, and wellness classes.

There are many choices for maintenance free homes.  Whether you want to be a permanent resident or seasonal resident, you are sure to find something to meet your needs.  There are garden villas in single family or paired style with two bedrooms, a den and two bathrooms as well as single family homes up to 2,500 square feet with three bedrooms and a den.  Most of the homes were built between 2005 and 2008 and just recently started new construction again in 2012.  The builder is Centex Homes and the sales office is located at 2605 Argula Drive, North Port, FL.  They are open Monday through Saturday from 9am to 5pm, and Sunday from noon to 5pm.  Here is their web link to view community information, photos, floor plans and price ranges:  http://www.centex.com/communities/fl/north-port/cypress-falls/104197/index1.aspx.

The community does have deed restrictions and a homeowner association fee which is paid quarterly.  Association approval is required through the Cypress Falls Homeowners Association.  The property is managed by Argus Property Management and their web link is:  http://www.argusmgmt.com/client_login.php?client=371#.   To search for homes in this community you can go to the local MLS at http://myfloridahomesmls.com/.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Green Lion Realty, Port Charlotte, FL


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Oak Hollow – an affordable community with abundant amenities

If you are looking to live in Port Charlotte, FL and want a community that offers a wide variety of activities for any age, then you need to take a look at Oak Hollow.  It is located in the heart of Port Charlotte and is within walking distance to shopping, dining, the library, the cultural center, and the YMCA.  It is near the Charlotte Harbor with easy access to highways, medical facilities, parks, boating, fishing, schools, and the Port Charlotte Town Center Mall.

Within the community you will find several different residences in East and West Corktree Circle, Tappan Zee-Quesada, The Woodlands and Shadowmoss.  The single family homes in this community are affordable and most were built in the 1980’s but you will find a few newer homes as well.  It is an established community.  The homes are smaller in size, around 900 to 1,300 square feet, which makes maintenance easier.  There are two bedroom and three bedroom models which have eat-in kitchens and sliding glass doors that lead to a patio or lanai.  Most are wood frame built with stucco exterior.

Another nice thing about the community is that it has city water and sewer, underground utilities, paved sidewalks, and the security of a neighborhood watch group.  But let’s not forget about the Oak Hollow Recreation Center which residents have members-only access.  The myriad of activities include a heated swimming pool, children’s wading pool, children’s playground, tennis, shuffleboard, basketball, volleyball, bocce ball, horseshoes, badminton, outdoor grills, picnic tables, pool table, table tennis, and an exercise room.  In addition, the recreation building has a large banquet/conference room, small conference room, full kitchen, large screen TV, books, magazines, and planned activities such as dinners, dances, and outings.

The community is managed under the Oak Hollow Property Owners Association and has low HOA fees.  The community does have deed restrictions, a set of rules and regulations, and a declaration of covenants.  The homes can be rented out seasonally or annually if you are an investor looking to purchase within this community.  For more information about this community you can contact the Oak Hollow Property Owners Association, Inc. at 1111 Forrest Nelson Blvd., Port Charlotte, FL 33952.  Phone 941-624-3451 or by email at oakhollowhoa@comcast.net.  To search for a listing in this community you can go to the local MLS http://myfloridahomesmls.com/.

Tammy Hayes, Realtor, Green Lion Realty, Port Charlotte, FL

tammyhayesre@gmail.com