Toby is Moving to Tidelands Condominiums: Anatomy of a Real Estate Decision

Grand Haven has been wonderful for 11 years, but it was time for us to downsize. We bought a short sale Tidelands condominium. I’ll take you through my decision making process.

Sunrise from my lanai in Grand Haven - Toby TobinPalm Coast, FL – January 29, 2011 – January 24, Shirley and I closed on a Tidelands condominium six months after signing a short sale contract. We are leaving a 4 bedroom/2 bath house with a pool overlooking a lake and the Grand Haven golf course (see sunrise picture at right) for a 3 bedroom/3 bath, 1st floor condo overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. We had lived in Grand Haven, a wonderful gated golfing community in Palm Coast for 11 years. It was time for us to downsize and I believe the Tidelands condominium (also in Palm Coast) was the right decision. I’d like to share how we came to that conclusion.
Reasons for moving
Each of us has our unique set of circumstances and reasons to move. Here are ours:
  • Our health is excellent but we have reached the age where even next week is no longer a certainty.
  • Maintaining a house used to be fun. I once enjoyed single-handedly designing and building a 950 square foot two-story addition. Now maintenance is an unwelcome chore.
  • Our grandchildren’s visits are less frequent and shorter. They have jobs, boyfriends or girlfriends, and more school related activities.
  • We need to live more economically (remember, I’m in real estate).
Why Tidelands?
In real estate, nothing is certain. All real estate purchases carry some risk. But if we dwelled on all the things that can go wrong with a real estate purchase, we wouldn’t buy anything. So we forged ahead. By doing our due diligence, we minimized potential problems. Knowing and understanding our risks is better than "flying blind."
Both Grand Haven and Tidelands are gated, deed-restricted communities. Both are governed by documents written and filed by the developer. The covenants, conditions and restrictions (CCRs) limit what an owner can do on or with their property. Before buying in a restricted community, be sure you read, understand, and accept the CCRs. If you don’t agree with the restrictions, you won’t be happy owning there. Most buyers don’t even get through the reading part. I read the CCRs before making the offer.
Check out the community association (POA). Make sure their finances are in order. How many units are in foreclosure? How many units are not paying their association’s assessments? How is the cash flow? What does the balance sheet look like? Are there proper reserves for repairs and replacements? Is the insurance coverage adequate? If not, you may be shocked in the future by increased assessments and/or special assessments.
The Tidelands POA is covering its expenses, fulfilling its maintenance and insurance obligations and has cash on hand. More importantly, the situation improves slightly each month as foreclosed and short sale units change hands and delinquent assessments are brought current. The association is taking advantage to recently passed Florida legislation that lets POAs collect rent directly from tenants when assessments become delinquent, passing on the residual to property owners.
I checked out the owner/renter mix. It was acceptable and getting better. Hint: Simply noting the type and condition of cars within the community can be revealing.  So can the condition of the common areas. If you are concerned about safety, ask the local police department if they have an inordinate number of complaints from within the community. Talk to other property owners and to renters. I did. I also talked with members of the association board.
The Tidelands condominium community was built by Centex. The units were presold at high prices during the housing bubble. When the bubble burst, several buyers broke their contracts and did not close. Centex was left with nearly 100 unsold units. Prices were dropped and incentives added as market conditions deteriorated.
Centex managed to sell all remaining completed units, but those who bought at the original contract price were quickly upside down. Like similar condominium communities, several owners defaulted on their mortgage and stopped paying association assessments. Unfortunately, this condition means Tidelands and other condominium communities with identical problems do not qualify for Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae loans.
My Assessment
Intracoastal Waterway view from my Tidelands condo - Toby TobinThe individual units are well built with quality construction and materials with upgrades throughout. Ours is an 1858 square foot, unit with three bedrooms, three baths, and a large screened lanai overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway. It sold in December, 2006 for $587,500. Our purchase price was $170,000, in line with recently purchased, same floor plan units – more than 70% off the original price.
Because of the number of foreclosures and delinquent assessments, Tidelands does not qualify for traditional government guaranteed mortgage loans. The lack of traditional financing greatly restricts the pool of potential buyers, resulting in selling prices well below the intrinsic value of the units. I estimate that if traditional financing was available, our condo would sell above $200K.
The chances for value appreciation (percentage-wise) are greater with the Tidelands unit than with our current home. It should also meet our living needs for the foreseeable future.
Low risk – If the financial markets and housing market takes another dive, the Condominium Association could be in trouble. Although I found that it was in much better shape than anticipated.
Moderate risk – The Association is in a lawsuit over the formula for expense sharing with phase 1 of the development. Phase 1 is single-family homes and building lots. Lawsuits are a crapshoot. Their outcome is sometimes an unwelcome surprise.
Low risk – The clubhouse and two pools are owned by the developer, Pulte. (Pulte and Centex merged.) Club dues are assessed by Pulte separate from the Association’s assessments (but included in the chart above). There is always a risk that the developer could make a decision disadvantageous to property owners. They could raise the dues, close or sell the club facilities. On the other hand, the association may be able to buy them in the future.
Low risk – Tidelands was approved as a PUD for multi-family structures. Some of the entitled units have not been built. Pulte could build additional condominium units or apartments. They could also sell the land including entitlements to another developer who would have the same options. There is no guarantee that additional units, if they are built, will conform to the high construction standards used in the present buildings.
Some of our estimated saving are due to the fact that the condominium is smaller than our house (1,858 square feet vs. 2,447) and has a lower assessment ($180,600 vs. $245,400 in 2010). But most of our projected savings are realized because many current homeowner expenses are covered by the condominium’s POA. Here’s a summary of our expected savings:
Grand Haven
2010 Property tax
Fees and assessments
Lawn Care
Pool Maintenance
Pest Control
Exterior maintenance
Total Annual Savings
Property taxes – It’s a great time to reset our homestead assessment at a nice low price. I suspect the Tidelands unit’s assessment will drop a little more in 2011. Because we will be homesteaded, it cannot rise more than 3% per year going forward.
Appreciation – The current mortgage market penalizes condominiums hit hard by foreclosures and delinquent assessments. Market prices for Tidelands units are depressed further than the local housing market as a whole. This will change once the mortgage market returns to normal, and the Tidelands POA becomes financially stronger.
Balanced analysis – Most importantly, Tidelands suits our needs perfectly. The expense savings plus Tidelands’ greater potential for future value appreciation justify the acceptable risks.

40 replies
  1. Ray Smith
    Ray Smith says:

    Great article – as always

    As always you provide prospective and comment to our area. We wish you success in your new home.

    Please comment on the difference in fees/assessments in your new home.
    Ray Smith

  2. Chris
    Chris says:



    Just a quick note to wish you and your wife a safe and happy move to your new home.

    I’m sure you’ll really enjoy living there once you’re settled in & unpacked.

    Hope all goes well with your move.



  3. Eddie Rider
    Eddie Rider says:


    Toby, your information on this news letter was outstanding. I want to wish you and Shirley all the best in you new adventure. When I downsized 6 years ago it was the best thing I ever did. Hope to see you both soon. eddie.

  4. jan
    jan says:

    Moving to Tidelands

    "I checked out the owner/renter mix. It was acceptable and getting better." Can you please expand on this sentence? Thanks, J.C.

    (Please use only my initials)

  5. Eva Martini
    Eva Martini says:


    I wish you the best in your new home. We downsized 10 years ago and I would not want to go back to a big house.I have so much more free time to do the thins I like to do.

  6. msekol
    msekol says:


    congrats on the move my parents just did downsize themselves and love love love it

    we r looking at buying at hammock beach how do you think their financials are are worries at the club there ???

  7. Richard McGuire
    Richard McGuire says:

    What did you do with your former home?

    Hello Toby,
    Thanks for all the information & best wishes in your new home. I’m curious, you mentioned that you were "leaving" your former home but did not actually say what you did with that house. Did you sell it? If so, that was a big part of the move you made and some details about that process would no doubt be interesting to your readers as well. Things like how hard it was to sell. How long it took, etc..
    Some people are holding off on attempting to sell their current homes because prices are presently so low and it is such a "buyers market".
    Many people who would love to take advantage of the tremendous buying opportunities that exist today are not able to simply because they can not sell their current homes. Was that a factor for you? Thanks.

  8. Herb Whitaker
    Herb Whitaker says:

    Homestead exemption

    Recalculate your taxes for 2011. I don’t believe you will qualify for 2011 homesteading, may be wrong, but after this year your calculations and theories will prevail.

  9. Frank
    Frank says:

    Congrats! And Welcome

    Welcome Toby!

    We have been homeowners in the Tidelands (Phase 1) for seven years and love it! We are sure you will love it also.

    And your well-written article including the detailed due-diligence will only help promote interest in the community. We thank you for this.

  10. Judy
    Judy says:

    We will miss you!

    Grand Haven won’t be the same without you & Shirley. You will truly be missed. However, I think you are definitely "onto something" and I’m sure there are alot of people here who are contemplating the same issues you addressed. You’re just "ahead of the curve," as always!

  11. jj
    jj says:


    Thx for the article -real informative.
    Can u break down further the units to how many are unsold and how many are in foreclosure? Also are pets allowed?
    thx again.

  12. John Boy
    John Boy says:

    Moving to Tidelands

    Tobby, how didyou decide on Tidelands. There are many different developments that are depressed and have quite a few buying opertunities. Where there certain things that Tidelands offerred, not found in other developments. Thinking about doing this and have looked into Waterside, Marina Cove, Palm Coast Resort, etc. What are the real considerations that one should use to help decide?

  13. John McDonnell
    John McDonnell says:

    Good luck

    Wishing you and Shirley the best in your move to a new home. It was a most informative article as are all your pieces. Take care and God bless.

    John and Ginny

  14. gloria
    gloria says:


    very interesting article – well done on the comparison of expenses. I’m curious why the fees and assessments at tidelands were so much higher than those at Grand haven. Please Advise. thank you

  15. Andy
    Andy says:

    Tidelands 2012

    Has your assessment of Tidelands changed in the last year and a half? Do you think it’s potential as an investment is strong? I’m thinking about buying in Tidelands. Thanks!

  16. Ron Czadzeck
    Ron Czadzeck says:


    Nice article. We are new owners at Tidelands. We live the other 6 months in Victor, NY. I did graduate work at U of R and Was Ad of Sp,Ed at Franklin HS for years.
    I have Tobin relatives. Strange if we are related. See you around the campus! Ron

  17. Linda
    Linda says:

    Two Years Later

    Dear Toby,

    Very much enjoyed reading this article – found it to be extremely informative. However, two years have passed since it was written. Do you still view the Tidelands as a good investment even though prices on these condos have risen? Also are pets, namely dogs, permitted in the Tidelands community?
    One last question/thought: just wondering if you think Palm Coast Resorts and/or Yacht Club condos are good values or should we focus on the Tidelands? Thank you!

  18. Linda
    Linda says:

    Two Years Later

    WOW! Thanks for responding to my inquiry!!!

    Just heard a rumor regarding the Tidelands…mold. To your knowledge, is there a mold problem that we need to be aware before considering making a purchase in the Tidelands. Again, thank you for your speedy reply and articles. Your information is extremely helpful.

  19. Bob Hines
    Bob Hines says:

    Tidelands Info

    Toby, enjoy your website. I live just south of Jacksonville and have recently become interested in buying a condo in Tidelands. I may have missed the boat. We looked at two units last week, including #2115 that was purchased last July for 80K less than current asking price and #1933 that was purchased one year ago, also for $80K less than current asking price. If this is the current market, that just doesn’t make sense. Any insights? Also, does a garage and storage room come with these units? Are forecloseure auctions a viable avenue for purchase and if so, what’s the best way to find them? When and if the HOA forecloses on a unit, how do they dispose of the units? Sorry for so many questions but you seem like a very experienced source. If this is not the forum to ask these questions, let me know. Thanks Bob

  20. marion Tull
    marion Tull says:


    Very helpful information. We are looking to relocate. Is there a separate fee for maintenance or for the pool and clubhouse? Thanks so much for the article and all the help.

  21. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to Ray

    The association fees are currently $4,992 annually (billed monthly). They include common area maintenance, insurance, security, reserves for repairs. They also include water and sewer, basic cable, and pest control. The activity center and pools are owned by Pulte and billed separately each month as club dues. They total $1,476 per year. A condo owner insures only contents and the interior replacement to include the drywall.

  22. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to Richard

    I you read about what someone should do to prepare their home for sale, you will be reading about everything that is opposite of the way Shirley and I live. The first recommendation is to ”remove the clutter – to depersonalize your home." My desk looks like Andy Rooney’s. So does Shirley’s (although not quite so much). You cannot tell what color our refrigerator is because of all the family snapshots. Family pictures dominate every horizontal surface. We have 7 children, 13 grandchildren, and one great-grandchild between us.

    I am fortunate that ”bridge” financing was available. There is a tenant in the condo. When the tenant vacates, I will paint, shampoo or replace carpet etc. before moving. It’s so much easier to do when the place is empty. After the move, I’ll do the same at our house; then list it. I plan to price it realistically. It should attract buyer interest because it is one of the best lots in Grand Haven. We have a beautiful view over the lake to the golf course with no homes on the other side. The lake is 100 yards wide so golfers are not a problem. Our privacy is not disturbed.

    It has been said that the only two prices that are important are the price you pay for your first home and the price you get for the last one. Everything in between is simply shifting equity.

  23. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to John Boy

    We considered all those options. Each are good properties and each has its pros and cons. We chose Tidelands because the floor plan was perfect. It was on the first floor with a view of the Intracoastal Waterway from a large screened lanai. Tidelands has a nice community feel to it. And it was the best bargain – an Intracoastal condo for $90.50 per square foot. Waterside has limited listings, all over $200K. Marina Cove and Palm Coast Resort each have more availability but are priced above $200K as well.

    Tidelands prices are currently more depressed than units in the other communities. Prices are down because of the inventory of distressed properties, but I think the market has overreacted. I feel quite confident about Tidelands. The value is there.

  24. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to Gloria

    The Grand Haven fees I used in my comparison were for residential homes. Condo owners at Grand Haven pay those same fees plus condo association fees. I believe the condo association fees are $6,000 per year.

  25. Toby
    Toby says:

    Update on Ron’s comment

    I have since met Ron. We discovered that my Grandmother Tobin was Ron’s grandfather’s sister. We probably were at the same family reunions when we were children.

  26. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to Linda

    Two years later: Tidelands has only nine units for sale. Only four are short sales. Prices are rising but remain low compared to alternative. Pets are OK but no more than two. Palm Coast Resort and Yacht Harbor are good values, but less likely to attract full time residents. Tidelands is definitely trending toward more resident owners. By the way, I overestimated the monthly electric bill. Ours has ranged between $45 and $80.
    The lawsuit with phase one is settled. The number of non-paying unit owners has been cut by 2/3. The Association is in fine financial shape.

  27. Toby
    Toby says:

    Reply to Linda

    Yes, there are two units with mold. They have been vacant without air conditioning. The condo Board is working with the appropriate banks to remediate the problem. There has been no migration of mold between units.

  28. toby
    toby says:

    Reply to Marion

    July 23, 2013 – Update – The monthly fee of $568 combines the condominium association assessment with the Club dues. It covers membership to the Club (two pools, two spas, exercise room, two tennis courts and two activity rooms) and the following:

    Water and sewer
    Pest control
    Property and casualty insurance for everything outside your unit
    Maintenance of all building components not associated with your unit, including pools, landscaping, roads, sidewalks, exterior lighting, building painting, roofs etc.
    Gated security
    Trash removal
    Storm water management system
    Basic cable

    Updates – since I originally wrote this article, many things have changed. In a final settlement agreement with developer, Pulte, Tidelands Condominium Association gained ownership of the Club amenities and the shoreline property. A component of the settlement agreement assured that any subsequent development of the 134 entitled residential units will conform to standards set by the existing units. The lawsuit with Phase 1 was settled at no cost to the association.

    The financial condition of the association has become very strong. The number of units delinquent on monthly payments has been cut by 2/3. A cash component of the Pulte settlement is allowing the association to go forward with a coquina shoreline stabilization project which is planned to include observation piers, one of which will be covered.

    Unit market value is appreciating. In some cases, units are selling for as much as 50% above the market bottom. When I started looking three years ago, there were about 60 units for sale – all either short sale or lender-owned. There are now 4 available – only one is distressed.

  29. Maria Davidson
    Maria Davidson says:


    I read your article on the tidelands and it was very helpful. Thank you..
    I was wondering on how long did it take you to acquire you short sale..
    We are relocating to Palm Coast due to my husbands work. We have been looking at properties for some time now and are considering the tidelands.. We are about to list our house here in west Palm Beach and need a place within a month.. I’ve heard Short Sales are usually long sales:) Was wondering if you had any helpful advice..
    Thank you

  30. Tom
    Tom says:


    How do we see things today in the Tidelands ? With all said in past years is this a good olace to hang your hat ? Investment wise and overall living ? Do you have access to own a boat and use the dock ? Where are you allowed to moore the boat if so ? Thanks

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