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Planning for Retirement

While Most of our Clients look forward to the time they can officially stop working full time and change their work status to “Retired” we do have some clients that want to live in Solivita yet still work. It is all possible, Solivita is a great place to live, gated, private, peaceful, and surrounded by beauty. The bonus of our area is there are lots of jobs outside our gates. If you want to work at Disney, great, Disney has special work programs for seniors; and who doesn’t want to work in the “happiest place on earth.” Would you rather work at Publix, no worries, they are a great employer and have multiple stores near Solivita.

Solivita is near hospitals, medical offices, manufacturing plants, and stores offering lots of opportunities for employment while you ease into retirement. I have had many clients move to Solivita and work full time for a few years and many clients who move to Solivita and work part time while considering full time retirement. When you move to Solivita you will be assured of a beautiful home in a lovely, active community filled with life, lots of new opportunities and plenty of friends to make.

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U.S. News & World Report on the best Retirement Metro Areas

In a recent issue, the U.S. News and World Reports ranked 150 US Cities for livability in retirement. 11 Florida Cities were in the Top 20 Places to Retire to in the USA. I am happy to say Orlando and Lakeland were among the top. The study was based on how well each city met Americans’ expectations for retirement, with measures including affordability, health care and overall happiness.

The report states “The peninsula nailed down 11 of the top 18 spots even though Florida isn’t as cheap as it used to be.” Having said that, our area is still affordable with a high quality of life and low tax rates since there is no state income tax.

Floridians did not need to read about how good life is in Florida, but it is nice to see it confirmed in print; Florida is a good, healthy and a happy place to live.

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Why Florida?

The three top states in the US for relocating retirees are New Mexico, Florida and Arizona and currently the top three states with residents fleeing their homes are NJ, Maine and Connecticut, all in the order as listed. Retiring residents are fleeing northern states for many reasons, but chief among them is the need to stretch their savings and their Social Security checks. It is always wise to know before you go what the true affordability factor is. Florida DOES NOT have a personal income tax, an estate tax, or an inheritance tax, although Florida does impose sales and property taxes. Florida’s overall tax burden has consistently ranked among the nation’s lowest for decades, according to the Tax Foundation, a non-profit and non-partisan educational and research organization.


Since Solivita is a 55+ Community, your property taxes are already substantially reduced, but in addition Florida offers several property tax exemptions that can help further reduce your tax bill and as full time residents you will be eligible for them all. They include a homestead exemption of up to $25,000 for an individual, or $50,000 for married taxpayers. Exemptions are also available for senior citizens over age 65 and the disabled.

In addition, veterans can qualify for four different types of exemptions, and widows and widowers are entitled to a $500 exemption provided they haven’t remarried and weren’t divorced at the time of the ex-spouse’s death. Homeowners who are legally blind are also entitled to a $500 exemption.


There are no “death taxes” in Florida, either on the value of an estate or on gifts received by beneficiaries. The Florida estate tax was repealed effective December 31, 2004 and it cannot be reinstated. The state’s constitution prohibits it.

Reduced property, estate and inheritance taxes are a prime reason that Florida is a good state for retirees as these reduced costs allow you to stretch your retirement savings and retirement income; while providing benefits for your heirs.

Lee and I were NJ residents and from experience can state that life in the Florida sunshine is not only a better life, but a good lifestyle, with a reduced cost of living. When we moved to Florida, we agreed to spend our disposable cash on fun, travel, food and life instead of high property taxes and state income taxes.

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Tips for North-Bound Snowbirds

As our Florida temperatures begin to rise so do the temperatures up north, making it time for our Snowbirds to begin their journey to their summer homes.

When you are away from your home, there is often no way to know if there is an issue; set yourself up for success by following a few of the ideas below and you can have a worry-free summer and return next winter to a problem free home:

  • Call an expert and have them install a smart thermostat. Once this is done, the temperature of your home can be controlled from your cell phone. With a smart thermostat you will be assured that your HVAC unit is running and your home away from home is being maintained at the proper temperature.
  • Keep your blinds and drapes drawn and keep all your windows locked to keep the cool air in.
  • Change your HVAC filters before leaving and have your HVAC flushed to prevent possible issues while you are away.
  • In Solivita you do not have to worry about safety, but you do want to protect your home from potential problems. Don’t let the mail pile up in your mailbox. Arrange for a mail hold or mail forwarding. Arrange as many bills as possible to be paid online. This way if mail goes astray you will get an email alert and still be able to “take care of business”.\
  • Cancel your newspaper delivery and arrange a start and stop date. If you want to keep up on local news, see if your local newspaper has an electronic edition.
  • Put your telephone, cable and or/internet on vacation hold. Not all companies offer this service, so call your local utilities and ask. You will pay a monthly fee that is significantly less than if you were paying for regular service.
  • Empty your refrigerator. Use this opportunity as a time to clean out the fridge and freezer. If you decide to unplug your refrigerator, clean it out and LEAVE the refrigerator and freezer doors open to prevent mold and odors.
  • Empty your dishwasher and leave the door open to prevent odors.
  • Open the washing machine lid to prevent odors.
  • Read up on your Hot Water system and turn it off the proper way so that you are not heating water all summer long.
  • Unplug all unnecessary lights and appliances.
  • Leave a few lights on timers inside your home or install smart lights that you can control from your cell phone.
  • Set the house alarm if you have one.
  • Winterize your toilets, Put just a cap of bleach in the toilet. Cover the porcelain only with Saran Wrap very tightly. You’ll come back to a clean and fresh toilet. Just flush and you’re ready to move on to better things in your life.
  • Give your house plants away and take your favorite ones with you.
  • If you have a landline phone remember to turn off the ringer. If you have an answering machine, DO NOT change to an away message. Leave your message on and retrieve your messages remotely.
  • If you have a golf cart, please be sure to perform the shutdown routine required for your golf cart before leaving it unattended for a few months. I unplugged mine, but never read the owner’s manual and after six weeks of non-use our golf cart needed new batteries. A very expensive mistake, and one I will not make again and do not want to see you make either.

Recognize that these steps will prevent mishaps, but unless you have a caretaker to visit your property a few times a month, to run the water for a few minutes, flush the toilets, inspect the lawn for working/broken sprinkler heads, etc., you may still encounter a problem.
Have a safe and fun summer and we look forward to your return when the weather up north cools down.

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Snowbird Season

It is snowbird season and the weather is cooling down but the housing market in Solivita is heating up. Everyone seems to be looking to move to their own spot in the sun. Bella Verde Realty is always happy to help you find your special place in the sun. Call anyone of our Realtors, ask advice on selling your home, or for advice in locating your perfect home in Central Florida. Bella Verde lists and sells homes throughout Central Florida and we specialize in the communities of Solivita, Bellalago, Vitalia at Port St. Lucie, Traditions, Celebration and Reunion.
There is always something to do in Central Florida, but during the holidays our calendars fill up quickly. This year in early December we plan to kick off the season with “A Christmas Wonderland Spectacular” Show, and in late December we have tickets to see “Miracle on 34th Street”. Between the dancing, the music, the stories of wonder, and the beautiful Florida weather, we are planning to have another amazing holiday filled with the magic of the season.

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Spring has arrived and with it, St. Patrick’s Day.

Spring has arrived and with it, St. Patrick’s Day.  
My Niece, Michele and her Mom will be visiting from New Jersey again this year over the St. Patrick’s Day Weekend and we have a nice visit planned.  I am cooking Birthday Dinner for Michele on Friday and we will Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on Saturday. Included in our Weekend Celebration is the Solivita St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Street Party.  Solivita put on a great Street Party for Mardi Gras this month; the Parade was fun, the Street was packed, and the weather was beautiful. Seems like the Solivita Parties just get better and better. It is always fun to Party in Solivita, we have No Driving Worries, We Party with our Golf Carts, We are Close to Home, and We Have Fun in our Own Community with Our friends and neighbors.  Time to tiptoe through my closet to find something Green to wear.
My Mom and Sister are turning their Lanais into Gardens of Green for St. Patrick’s Day.  The Clover has been planted in Pots, the Dining Tables will be covered in green, the good china, and lace napkins will come out of the cupboard and we will sit down to our Annual Corned Beef and Cabbage Dinner.  My favorite part is always the next day, when I make a Corned Beef Sandwich on Rye Covered with Spicy Mustard.
In our Family we are all Irish for one Day and We share the following Irish Blessing.
May the Good Lord take a liking to you…..but not too soon!  
We then share a cocktail.  Some of us drink wine, some of us beer, and one of us water, but there is always a Signature Drink.  My brother-in-law is the Bartender at most parties and he has been busy mixing and testing recipes and it looks like the winner is an Apple Ginger Martini.  Gregg has provided us with this year’s Signature Drink Recipe here:
Part of our Holiday Weekend with the family will be spending quality time together. Michele is a Graduate of the University of Miami, and has been an Event Planner with the NBA for over 10 years, she is a world traveler and always on the road.  A few days of R & R in Solivita will be a welcome break for her. Although most of our family is up North, we do seem to spend more quality time with family now that we live in Florida. When family and friends visit Solivita we have Pajama Parties, we share leisurely meals, and spend afternoons together at the pool, we do a bit of sight seeing, or we play some golf.  Entertaining is Easy in Solivita, there is so much to do. Seems that we have Much More Time to be together now that we live 1,000 miles apart. A nice bonus to living in Central Florida; everyone wants to visit.
See you at the Street Party   I’ll be wearing Green!
From Our Family to Yours Happy St. Patrick’s Day:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sunshine be warm upon your face
May the rains fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again, may God hold you in the palm of his hand.

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Gregg’s Recipe for a Green Apple Ginger Martini

4 Oz of Ginger Infused Vodka

4 Oz Fresh Green Apple Lime Juice

2 TBSP Honey Simple Syrup

For the Ginger Infused Vodka take 1 Cup of Vodka and infuse a 2” slice of fresh ginger peeled and grated.

For the Green Apple and Lime Juice slice 2 Large tart green apples, add ½ cup water, and the juice of 4 limes.

Infuse the Vodka for about two hours.  The longer you infuse the stronger the ginger flavor will be. Strain the Vodka.

Take the Green Apple Mix and blend on high speed. Strain through a mesh strainer pressing the liquid through the pulp. Reserve the liquid. Dispose of the Pulp, all the flavor will be in the liquid.

Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice and shake vigorously till frosty.  Strain and Enjoy.

“A Good Green Cocktail with the Power of Antioxidants plus the Power of Vodka”.

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April 14, 2018 Time for A Golf Outing. We Invite You To Come Out and Play with Us.

Bella Verde Realty is the Sponsor for the 6th Annual QCAACF Queen’s College of Guyana Golf Tournament.  
This Tournament Benefits Queen’s College and is Always a Great Event and a Fun Time.   We have fielded a team and are looking forward to sharing a great day with great folks in Solivita.  If you would like to sign up for the Tournament you can do so on line at and at the same time you can also pay for the outing.   Questions, please contact the tournament director, Walé Omawale, at 407-414-1577
Advice for Finding a Good Listing Agent

  1. Word of Mouth.  Advertising is great, but the best recommendation is that of a friend or family member.  Ask Your Friends for the Recommendation of a Realtor they have used and have had a positive experience with.  
  2. Always Use a Local Realtor, A Realtor who knows the area, knows the clients, and has a good relationship with other local real estate agents.   A Realtor who has a local office. A realtor with an out of town office not only does not know the area, but most likely does not have any relationships with other realtors in your neighborhood.
  3. How local is local?  In most towns and communities, agents cover a few towns and districts.   If a Realtor comes from too far away, that realtor may not be your best choice.   
  4. Experience Counts.  There is No Doubt About It.  You need an experienced professional who has sold many homes in your neighborhood.   Your home will sell faster with an experienced realtor who can guide you through this process.  How? Experienced Realtors have the inside scoop on homes, recent sales, and already have a client base to show your home to.
  5. Honesty Counts.  Choose a Realtor with a personality that works for you. And always choose a realtor that has a reputation for being honest.  Like most important life decisions, you likely will have a gut reaction to people and situations. Let your gut be your guide.  The Right Listing Agent will most likely be busy, but a Good Agent is Busy for a reason. As Lucille Ball famously said “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it”.
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Florida Fun in February

February not only brings beautiful weather but, Valentine’s Day and President’s Day.   These are all reasons to Celebrate, but we live in a 55 Plus Community in Beautiful, Sunny, Central Florida, making every day a reason to celebrate.  The activities in Solivita, Celebration, Reunion and our surrounding communities fill all our days and our calendars.  In addition to planned activities, Florida has great parks, beaches, lakes, and ponds; all providing opportunities for outdoor fun.  

February is Strawberry Season and this year the berries are especially sweet and juicy.  From Late December through March, Central Florida produces close to 300 million pounds of strawberries, most grown within a 20-mile radius of Plant City.  Plant City is a quick 45-minute drive from Solivita.  Central Florida is known as the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World; and Florida Strawberries are World Class.  You can visit Plant City for Strawberries, Strawberry Shortcake, and Strawberries with Ice Cream, or you can stop by the local fruit and vegetable stand and pick these berries up fresh from the garden.    

We are going to visit Universal Studios in Orlando and celebrate Mardi Gras this year; a quick trip from Solivita.   Universal puts on a big celebration including big-name concerts, a Mardi Gras Parade with Street Performers, Bands, and Cajun and Creole Cuisine.  

For Valentine’s Week we are going to visit the Space Coast for the Seafood and Music Fest.  The Space Coast is a quick drive from Solivita.  One of the great things about life in Central Florida is that we are no more than 1.5 hours from either coast, and Central Florida is out of the way of coastal storms.  The Space Coast Seafood and Music Fest is an annual event; and there will not only be great seafood but some wonderful performers, including Willie Nelson, Don McLean, the Wailers, and the Los Lonely Boys.  Please visit the festival website at:

February 16 – 18th also brings Central Florida the Silver Spurs Rodeo in Kissimmee.  This year will be the 140th Silver Spurs Rodeo Show attracting cowboys on the pro-circuit and bringing Central Florida a great show featuring bull riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing and team roping.  A fun event for you and for visiting grandchildren, as the Rodeo Clowns come out and perform for fun too.  Children under Age 10 are free.  A nice evening or afternoon out within 20 minutes of Solivita.

On February 17th the Beer, Bourbon, & BBQ Festival is held in Tampa at the Hixon Waterfront Park, 600 N. Ashley Drive.  Another Great Event.  Live Music, 60 Beers on Tap, 40 Bourbons and Lots of BBQ.  So much is going on we cannot make all the events, but this is certainly a great list to choose from.

Sprinkled in between the men in our family have a golf outing in Mount Dora while the ladies are going to the spa, do a bit of shopping and enjoy a nice lunch.    Although this month has not been as warm as other years, the cooler temperatures did not slow us down.  

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Florida Strawberry Shortcake

2/3 Cup Sugar 1/4 Tsp.  Salt
1/2 Cup Butter or shortening 1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Large Egg 2 Tsp. Baking Powder
1 1/2 Tsp. Vanilla Extract 1/2 Cup Milk
Whipped Cream
2 Pints or More Fresh Strawberries, Sliced and Sweetened with some sugar.  I leave the berries to sit overnight so that juices begin to flow.   If your berries do not get juicy, add a bit of jam to a pot and melt it over the berries.  I do not sweeten and slice all the berries, as I save some unsweetened and unsliced berries for the garnish.
Cream the sugar and butter or shortening.  Add egg and vanilla, beat well.  Combine dry ingredients and add alternately with milk to the creamed mixture.  Spread evenly in a greased 9” Square Baking Pan.
Beat the Heavy Cream, you can sweeten with a bit of sugar and add a touch of vanilla too, your decision.  Beat into soft peaks and refrigerate until ready to use.  Make this within 1 hour of serving.
Bake at 350 for 20 – 25 minutes.  Cool on wire rack.  Cut cooled shortcake into nine servings.  Split each serving horizontally and fill with whipped cream and strawberries.  Replace top of cake and garnish with more berries and another dollop of whipped cream.  Serve immediately.