As you know, we've begun the process of putting our house on the market here in the Shen Valley. We're waiting the the house is officially listed before contacting the realtor in Orlando, but we've been spending hours every day on Trulia.com and Realtor.com browsing the listings and getting a feel for the market in the area.
Some time in mid-May, we'll fly down and actually take a look at some houses and (hopefully) make some kind of final decision by the end of May. We'd like a closing date here in late June ad there in early July. That would be ideal. Of course, you know how these things go... Y'all can pray for us that the Lord would work out the timing...
We're not going completely blind into home-buying in Orlando, thanks to friends who know the area and an awesome website, that I highly recommend to anyone moving out of state, called city-data.com It's a forum where you can ask and answer questions about various cities ad neighborhoods all around the country.
Due to recommendations from all of the above resources, we are looking for a home in an area outside of Orlando called College Park. It sounds like everything we're looking for. One friend (who lived there for many years) says it's the kind of place where everyone knows your name. Here's how a very kind and articulate poster on City-Data describes the neighborhood:
Come to College Park. You'll be right at home here. My wife and I bought a bungalow in College Park four years ago and love it. The neighborhood was Orlando's first suburb (just 1 mile from downtown), so there's every type of house style, and it's not cookie cutter by any imagination. A 1940's-era three bedroom can be had starting in the low 200's. The neighborhood is very stable with long-term homeowners, so there aren't a lot of foreclosures. Prices have been going up lately. There are no HOAs to tell you you can't plant a vegetable garden in the front yard of your $1mil+ lakefront home. Seriously, there's a house right across from Lake Ivanhoe on Poinsettia Avenue that has rows of beans, collards and tomatoes tastefully planted and staked next to their vintage Porsches.It sounds wonderful :) The problem is the pricing is riiight on the edge of what we were hoping to find. I'm just praying that the Lord will lead us to a house in College Park within our price range in the next few weeks, no matter how improbable that seems right now. I know He knows where we should be, but right now, the best we can see, College Park is the place for our family.
There's a farmers' market on Edgewater Drive every Sunday where you'll be surrounded by other moms wearing their babies in a Moby wrap. You'll also have the other extreme of yuppies pushing a Bugaboo $troller, too. Princeton Elementary is one of the best schools in the city, and Edgewater High is finishing up a massive renovation and expansion of its campus. The Ivanhoe Row antique district on the western part of College Park near Florida Hospital is home to Ethos Vegan Restaurant, vintage boutiques and office/work space for media professionals and artists. Next to Ivanhoe is the Loch Haven Park cultural district, which may be high priority if you're homeschooling. The science museum/planetarium, Shakespeare Theatre, and Orlando Museum of Art are all located in Loch Haven.
If you like places with a sense of history, College Park has that, too. It's the only neighborhood I know that holds an historic home tour every year. Most of the streets are brick and lined with mossy live oak trees. This is the type of neighborhood new urbanists try to replicate in the burbs. The diverse housing stock from $1 million homes to $900/mo. rentals ensures every type of person who wants to, can afford to live here.
Crime is limited to some property crime that subsided when the police arrested several teenagers last summer. The mayor and other movers and shakers live in College Park, so you know the police will clamp down on any shadiness.
Commuting to anywhere in Orlando is a breeze with easy access to I-4 and the 408. Winter Park is a 10-minute drive at worst on city streets. If you need to go to Whole Foods, add another five minutes to get to the far east side of Winter Park.