Choose Your Lifestyle




What’s a Florida room?

Florida Room with lots of windows and a shiny terrazzo floor

Florida Room with terrazzo floor

The term “Florida room” generally refers to an extra living area that features extra glass to bring in light and to enjoy an outside view. Usually it’s at the back of the house, and may have one, two or three walls that are primarily glass. It may or may not be air conditioned.   Think of an enclosed sun porch.  Many St Petersburg homes have Florida rooms, whether they are small 2 bedroom retirement homes or luxury waterfront mansions.

A Florida room has some features in common with a Sun Room, but a sun room is generally on the side of a house. The Old Northeast has many homes with one or two sunrooms. Often a sun porch is enclosed to become a sun room. Florida rooms and sun rooms certainly have windows and light in common, but sun rooms are generally a part of frame homes that are built over a crawl space;  Florida rooms are often added to homes built on a concrete slab.

What about a solarium? That’s also a room with glass to let in lots of light. Generally a solarium has a glass roof; Florida rooms and sun rooms have solid roofs, though perhaps with a skylight. Solariums can be attached or detached structures.

Back to the Florida room: it’s often more casual and may be furnished with indoor or outdoor furniture or a combination of the two. Often wicker and rattan are used.  Even the Florida Governor’s Mansion has a Florida room. Once an exterior porch, it’s now a casual room, wrapped with windows that allow in the famous Florida sunshine.

Read more here about the difference between a patio, a porch, a veranda and a lanai.

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Patio, porch, lanai, veranda: What’s the difference?

 Homes in St Petersburg and all around Florida often advertise a patio, porch, veranda or lanai. What’s the difference between them?

A patio is typically an outdoor space adjacent to a residence that is paved and does not have a roof. It may use pavers, brick, stone or concrete (if it’s made of wood, it would typically be called a deck). It’s used for relaxing, recreation or dining. In Spanish style homes it may refer to the interior courtyard. Many masonry homes in the St Petersburg area will have patios, especially smaller ones.

A porch is an extension to the exterior of a house, generally at the same level as the floor inside. It usually has a wood floor and generally has a roof. It may be on the front, back or side of the home and a home may have multiple porches. The sides may be open, screened, glassed or have lattice. It can be utilitarian, to protect you from the elements while you’re waiting to enter the home or a place to take off your boots or garden shoes; it can be the size of a room, with furniture for relaxing or dining. The materials and style are generally compatible with the house it’s attached to. Frame homes in older St Petersburg neighborhoods like the Old Northeast and Kenwood will typically have porches.

A veranda or verandah may be a large porch that’s a room for entertaining or it may be a gallery running along one or more sides of the home, roofed, perhaps with a railing. Often a verandah will wrap around a house – think Victorian or New Orleans style here – perhaps on the front and both sides. Verandas aren’t as common in St Petersburg but there are occasional Victorian style homes and some of the 1920s Mediterranean style homes will have them.

A lanai is less frequently defined, and often as a roofed porch or verandah. Actually it’s the Hawaiian word for patio or balcony. In Florida we wouldn’t use lanai for a balcony. A lanai is a typical term in a tropical climate and generally is furnished like a room. It may have removable panels of glass, screen or plastic and would usually have a hard surface floor, similar to a patio. Lanais are found in many St Petersburg neighborhoods – think of the masonry waterfront homes in Venetian Isles, Broadwater and Yacht Club Estates.

Like so many terms, these will mean different things in different parts of the country. Not only that, even in the same city you’ll find the terms aren’t used consistently. In St Petersburg real estate the terms patio, porch and lanai may be used to describe the same space, depending on who is doing the describing. 

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Short Sales

Short sales are sales at a price that’s not high enough to pay off the mortgage. So – the money is short. Sadly, the time to complete a short sale is anything but short. USA Today had an article this morning on short-sale frustrations. We’ve represented both sellers and buyers in short sales and it’s generally a case of Wait – Wait – Wait. We’ve had buyers that didn’t get a lender response for 6 months. Many times buyers will get tired of waiting for months for an answer to their offer and will withdraw. Sometimes the lender will counteroffer and the buyer will decline.  Back to the starting gate. USA Today cites a study that says just 23% of short sale offers actually close. If I had to make a guess from experience, I’d say perhaps only 5% of the offers actually close – perhaps 23% of the offers that get a response from the lender close.

The timing and complexity gets more complicated if there is more than one loan. If it’s a home equity loan, even with the same lender, it’s a totally separate department. Sometimes there are second or third mortgages. Sometimes FNMA needs to approve. Sometimes a guarantor needs to approve. Sometimes the mortgage is owned by multiple investors. And yes – by the time the lender responds, the market may have changed and the buyer may not longer be willing to pay the once-offered price.

It helps if the real estate agent and/or title company checks to be sure the original documentation (financial statements and hardship letter from the owners, brokers price opinion, etc) is complete, as the package will keep getting rejected if anything is missing, so the time line doesn’t even start.

We hear that the government has plans to streamline the short sale process.

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Lifestyle Liquidation

Lifestyle Liquidation is a term I first saw Robert Frank use this morning in his Wall St Journal article. He gives lots of specifics on the auctions and firesales of homes, vehicles, and collections. Yes, some of this is wealth related, or the loss of wealth related as half of all millionaires have lost 30% of more of their fortunes in this economy. It’s also becoming gauche to flaunt your wealth. Some just feel it’s time for a minimalist lifestyle rather than excessive buying and collecting. It takes time and money to care for everything that you buy! It’s time to simplify – whether it’s a cabin in the mountains or a condo in Costa Rica or taking off for a world cruise in your 40 ft sailboat. 

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What’s a split plan?

Many Florida homes are advertised as having a split plan. This may be an unfamiliar term to people from other parts of the country. A split plan means that the bedrooms are split apart – generally with the master bedroom on one side of the house and the other bedrooms on the opposite side of the house. Sometimes instead of a 3/1 split (master on one side and 3 on the other) it’s a 2/2 split, with 2 bedrooms on each side. Generally when this happens, the 4th bedroom is more like a den or a nursery, in that it shares the master bath. More recent homes may have a 3 way split, a 2/1/1 where the master bedroom is on one side of the house, 2 bedrooms are on the opposite side, and the 4th bedroom is at the back of that side, with a different access point – great if you want a somewhat separate area for guests. Here’s a floor plan with split bedrooms.

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What’s a Florida room?

Florida Room 1

This Florida room is perpendicular to the house.

2 bedroom waterfront home for annual rent at $1,500/month.

Florida Room 2

This Florida room is parallel to the house.

3 bedroom waterfront pool home $499,000

While a Florida room is similar to a Family room in being designed for more casual living and enjoyment, a Florida room typically has windows or glass on three sides – so that you can enjoy Florida. Back in the 50s some of thee 2 bedroom 1 bath winter homes had a small Florida room built on the side or back of the house. Some of the 3 and 4 bedroom homes have long Florida rooms built across the back of the house – some designed that way and others converting a lanai or screened porch.  Click on the above photos for a larger view. Both of these Florida rooms are on the back of waterfront homes that we are currently marketing.

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A garagemahal is a home where the garage (often a 3-car garage or more) dominates the front view of the house. I don’t know that the word applied to townhomes that may have only a one car garage, but the point is the same when you see the garage but not the entrance and no other facade than the garage. The word comes from the Taj Mahal, so there’s a bit of irony in that most of these garagemahals have none of the majesty of the originating building. We have to assume that somewhere behind the garages, there IS a house.

The opposite to this is a development such as Dolphin Cay, where the single family homes (other than the waterfront homes) are designed to be pedestrian-friendly, generally with a front porch. The garages are behind the homes, unobtrusive, and occasionally with living space above the garage – a home office, a guest suite, a recreation room.

The Old Northeast, a popular neighborhood in St Petersburg that is close to downtown, is pedestrian friendly, which adds to its appeal. Some of the homes in the Old Northeast date back to the 1910s – others are still being built, though generally on lots that previously had homes. Characteristic of the neighborhood, garages are typically behind the house, with alley access. The front porches encourage neighbors to know one another, as you’re much more likely to chat if one of you is on the porch and the other is on the sidewalk walking by. People are unlikely to walk up to your house and ring the doorbell just to say, Hello! When you’re within sight of one another, it’s only natural to nod, wave or strike up a conversation.

Hint: if you want to get to know your neighbors, take a dog out for a walk (yours or one that’s borrowed) – just remember that they’ll know your dog before they know you.

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