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Southern comfort

British buyers are getting more for their money in Florida’s newest property hotspots. By Annie Davies

NEWS that the world’s highest earning sportsman, Tiger Woods, has just snapped up a £23million ocean-front estate on 10 acres of Florida’s Jupiter Island is likely to boost the already sky-high prices of this exclusive enclave, where the likes of singer Celine Dion and fellow golfer Greg Norman have multi-million-dollar homes.

But if your buck won’t stretch to an island bolthole, with a mooring deep enough to anchor a yacht the size of Woods’s £10million 155-footer, then head 160 miles further north in the state to Daytona Beach.

There’s an invigorating whiff of rock ‘n’ roll and engine grease about Daytona. With its mix of tattoo parlours, surf shops, chop houses and so-called gentlemen’s clubs, the seaside town is an irresistible combination of Brighton and Baywatch.

The beach has been a Mecca for speed freaks since the turn of the century, when daredevil drivers vied for the land speed record. These days, each February thousands flock in for the Daytona 500 car race, while Bike Week attracts around 500,000 fans of two-wheel velocity.

The area’s new attraction for petrolheads is Destination Daytona, a £28million bike-themed complex built by local Harley-Davidson dealer Bruce Rossmeyer. But while Daytona has no intention of binning its leathers, it is adding a designer suit to its wardrobe. With its spectacular 23-mile white sand beach, blocks of pastel-coloured art deco hotels and inter-coastal waterways, Daytona is tipped as the new Miami.

Down-at-heel motels are being refurbished, high-rise condominiums are sprouting along the shore, there is a new Hilton and plans for several more hotels. The tropical storms and hurricanes of the past years have done little to slow the property scene. In fact, the real estate market has grown by more than 30 per cent over the past 12 months and the total property value of Volusia County, where Daytona is located, rocketed by nearly 19 per cent to £17billion last year.

That said, the weakish dollar means that you get a lot more for your buck than you would in Britain. A trawl of the internet reveals that it is still possible to find a four-bedroom pool house in Daytona Beach for just over £230,000.

Strung out along the Atlantic coast, just 50 miles north-east of Orlando, Daytona combines the plus points of the Florida lifestyle with a few idiosyncratic ones of its own. It enjoys year-round sunshine, with summer temperatures reaching the 90s and winter temperatures rarely dipping below 60F. And you don’t need language classes to do the shopping.

Daytona is also in poll position for most of the state’s biggest attractions. Disney World and Orlando’s theme parks are an hour’s drive. The Kennedy Space Centre, launching pad for the shuttle, is an hour the other way.

There are daily flights direct from the UK to Orlando International Airport, and although the nine-hour flight cuts it out as a weekend destination, Jeffrey Baldasarre, director of marketing and resort sales for the Superior Group enthuses: "Daytona just has everything going for it – great weather, miles of beach and some beautiful buildings. And it’s only about an hour from the airport."

All this explains why the British-run Superior Group has been quick to move into Daytona, snapping up prime locations for two different developments, due for completion by 2008. Grande Champion will be a detached home development built within the Ladies Professional Golf Association Golf and Country Club, a short drive inland from Daytona Beach. Prices for the family pool homes range from under £233,000 to just over £290,000.

The Daytona Beach Ocean Club will be an art deco-style condominium on the beachfront, with indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a bar, restaurant and gym. Prices for the units at the Ocean Club, with views of either the beach or inland waterway, start at £203,000 for a north-facing studio, rising to £1.3million for a three-bedroom corner unit with an Atlantic view.

Although building has not even started on the Ocean Club, 35 of the 117 units have already been bought off plan. Grande Champion and the Ocean Club are the latest of a series of seven projects that the Superior Group has under way in Florida. The other five are in Orlando, and the formula for all the projects is the same.

"Resorts are the way forward for people who want to own their own home overseas but still want resort facilities," says Richard Wilkes, the Forest of Dean-born chief executive officer. It is a formula that has proved successful for many owners at Regal Palms, the first of Superior’s resorts to be completed. A gated community of just under 600 units, Regal Palms is just 10 minutes drive from Disney World, still regarded as the epicentre of Florida tourism.

Prices at Regal Palms range from £194,000 to £216,000 for three or four-bedroom town houses. As well as owning the house, homeowners also have access to a clubhouse, swimming pools, spa, fitness centre and business bureau. Superior Group also offers a rental facility, of which Kathleen Armishaw and her partner Jason Dicks take advantage. They spend one long holiday a year at their home at Regal Palms then rent it out the rest of the time.

Initially, they wanted to buy in Europe, but the potential language problems and a weak euro propelled them towards Florida. "Within six weeks, the house had risen in value and that’s continuing," says Kathleen.

The Superior Group leads prospective buyers through the purchasing process, starting with an inspection trip. After an initial outlay of 20 per cent, the balance is payable on completion. Buyers should allow around 2.5 per cent of the price for title insurance and purchase fees. And if you’re taking up a mortgage, set aside between 1.5 per cent and two per cent. Remember, too, you can only stay in Florida for up to 90 days. For more information, check out the website at
www.uscis.gov

INFORMATION: See
www.superiorworldwide. com or telephone: 0870 7504477 (calls are charged at national rate) and visit:

www.daytonabeach.com
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