5656 SOuth Shore Blvd Wellington Florida

With the news that Steve Jobs’ widow Laurene Powell Jobs purchased an estate in Wellington, Florida for $15.3 million in cash across the street from Bill Gates’ equestrian estate, the town of Wellington, Fla., made national headlines. Wellington, a town of approximately 60,000 around 15 miles east of tony West Palm Beach has become a nexus of wealth and power due to one factor: horses and the people who ride them for show. Jobs and Gates, it just so happens, each sired a daughter with a love of and talent for show riding.

The news of the Jobs’ purchase came fast on the heels of June reports that Bill Gates had purchased what nearly amounted to a whole street in Wellington, simply to provide privacy. Gossip Extra detailed how Gates spent approximately $37 million in Wellington.

But why is this place so attractive to the moneyed elite?

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clubhouse

Spend any time in suburban Florida and you’ll see a lot of gated communities. It can seem as if the entire state lies secluded behind guard gates staffed by cheerful folks with clipboards and magic powers to allow or deny entry.

The true luxury in these communities is two-fold: privacy and amenities. Lush green space abounds and it seems that lawns and trees are always in a constant state of being trimmed and tended to. Amenities can be as simple as a community clubhouse and pool or range to a full-service country club. Even at the country club level, there are country clubs, and then there are the kind of clubs where service is delivered at an elevated level.

This brings us to The Bear’s Club in Jupiter, Fla., a spot that has drawn everyone from Celine Dion to Michael Jordan. The area seems to have a particular lure for golfers. Jack Nicklaus designed The Bear’s Club in 1999, creating a majestic and challenging 18-hole golf course and a community over 401 acres. The community is less than two miles from the ocean and within easy striking distance of the tony shops of West Palm Beach.

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It’s no surprise that Hawaii captures the imagination of people dreaming of a getaway. Tropical breezes, the deep blue Pacific, technicolor sunsets, and lush greenery set the stage for a dream vacation or the ultimate home away from home.

Leading Real Estate Companies of the World and Luxury Portfolio International have announced the winners of the HGTV Ultimate House Hunt, a month-long online contest held on HGTV.com each year.

The contest highlights exceptional homes from across the globe in eight exciting categories: Waterfront Homes, Master Retreats, International Homes, Living Large in Small Spaces, Bringing The Outside In, Kids’ Spaces, Classic Living and Making an Entrance. All featured homes are represented by members of Leading Real Estate Companies of the World and Luxury Portfolio International. Consumers vote for their favorite, and a winner is chosen at the end.

This year, Hawaii cleaned up, winning honors in three categories as well as the overall winner. Massachusetts homes won in two categories, as did Florida homes and the International award winner is located in Lugano, Switzerland.

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Watersound Origins Village Commons. All photos courtesy of Watersound Origins

Watersound Origins Village Commons (Photos: courtesy of Watersound Origins)

If renting a house at the beach  is your family vacation tradition, chances are good you are on your way, at, or planning a trip soon to the Florida Panhandle.  As Candy Evans noted in an earlier report this month, the region encompassing Destin, Panama City Beach, and South Walton is the second largest vacation rental ownership market in the country, and for good reason.

Snow white sand beaches, sea oat-covered dunes, pine forests, wetlands, and coastal dune lakes along the Scenic Coastal Highway 30A corridor of  the “Emerald Coast,” as it’s known, make for a wonderland of outdoor recreational activities in stunning natural beauty. But, especially if you are a regular, the problem with staying in touristy housing is that, well, everyone there is a tourist.

Not so three miles inland of South Walton Beach at the residential development Watersound Origins, which has just announced the opening of its second phase. Short-term rentals are banned here — it’s a community dedicated to those with a permanent commitment in mind.  And what does it have to offer? Jump to see … (more…)

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We’re here reporting from the Westin Oaks Galleria at the National Association of Real Estate Editors Houston conference where we’ve heard from some exceptional experts in second home and vacation real estate, including Natalie Binder of Telluride Rentals, Ben Jenkins of Land Advisors & Resort Solutions, and Matey Veissi, founder of Veissi & Associates.

Each of these professionals offered interesting perspectives on the vacation and second home market for 2014, which is one where buyers, developers, and investors are cautiously rebuilding after the economic downturn.

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89 Watercolor BoulevardThis week is spring break for a lot of peeps, and we know that a hefty slice of Dallasites and North Texans have invaded the Beaches of Walton County, Florida, those picture-perfect white sands along Highway 30-A in the panhandle of northwest Florida.

And after October, we might just re-populate the place.

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Alys Beach

Winter in Canada is a long, cold slog for the country’s 34.5 million residents. From the first snow to the final melted puddle, we’re talking 8 months, sometimes 9.

Now, if you were Canadian and you owned a second home in say, Alys Beach, Florida, you’d want to trade the shoulder-high mountains of grey snow for sandy dunes while you work on your tan for as long as possible, right? Me too. But under current laws, “Snowbirds” are allowed to stay in the US for 6 months. If a bill authored by Sen. Chuck Schumer is passed, they could escape Canada’s bitter cold for an extra two months.

That has to be good news for our neighbors to the north:

The impetus for the change comes from the Canadian Snowbird Association, based in Toronto, which estimates that Canadian snowbirds made 1.08 million trips to the U.S. During 2011. The association defines a “Canadian snowbird” as someone aged 55 or older who spends 31 or more consecutive days in the US during the winter time.

“The association estimates that 70% of Canadian travelers spending over one month in the sunbelt states choose Florida as their destination,” stated Evan Rachkovsky, research officer for the Canadian Snowbird Association, in an interview with USA Today. There are many Canadians who own second homes in the U.S., particularly in the states of California, Florida, Arizona, and Texas.

“A lot of people want to stay longer,” explained Bob Slack, president of the Canadian Snowbird Association, and a keen supporter of the new bill. “They’d like to stay for seven months if they can.”

Other popular winter residences for Canadians include the states of Arizona, especially around Yuma, Lake Havasu, Tucson and Mesa, and California, in particular the Palm Springs area. Meanwhile, Texas is another choice destination for Canadians, especially around Rio Grande Valley, McAllen, Brownsville and South Padre Island.

We know that foreigners are buying up U.S. real estate from New York City to Hawaii. Once our values went downhill, sharp foreigners popped in to pick up bucketloads of bargain U.S. dirt. We know that the Chinese, now, are even investing in Dallas real estate. Many of us thought the last few years might have been a great time to buy a second home property. Well, it was.

WAS. Hot vacation home spots on the water and beach and other desirable areas are getting picked up by foreigners faster than sand dollars. Now, Latin America is precipitating a building boom in southern Florida that has almost brought on the halcyon says of 2007 in, of all places, Miami.

Miami? Isn’t this where they were giving away condos, jokes were made about see-through buildings, and prices were lower than low because no one was buying anything condo after 2008. The cash buyers came on board in 2010, which signaled the end of the downward home value spiral.

According to Yahoo News, wealthy Latin Americans have long invested in south Florida property. But this time the Miami resurgence is getting a huge boost from South American developers building for their fellow Argentineans, Brazilians, Venezuelans and Mexicans. They are looking for a stable place to park their money and to make extra income through rentals. Peter Zalewski, a fellow NAREE member and probably the most informed condo expert in the whole state of Florida, says he’s never seen them with the kind of clout they are carrying right now in construction and development.

“It really is a coming of age period.” said Peter, principal of real estate consultancy Condo Vultures.

Southern Florida property prices are rising, and there are 80 announced plans for new residential projects. Latin American developers are involved in nearly one-third of them, according to Zalewski.

Wonder when they’ll come to Texas?