Thursday, September 24, 2015

One Story Home or More?

When buying your Florida home, you may wonder whether you should choose a one-story home or a home with two or more stories.  For many, there is no choice:  stairs would prevent one or more family members from going upstairs.  In that case, it is usually better to choose a one-story home.  
Stairs are not for every home owner

A typical Florida townhome usually has two stories with the bedroom(s) and full bath(s) located upstairs.  The first story usually has a kitchen, great room, laundry, and a half bath (no shower or tub). Some townhomes have a 1 or 2-car garage.  Townhomes are almost always maintenance free.  That means that you won't need to cut (mow) the grass, weed, or trim the trees.  This type of home is a good idea if you don't like or have time for yard work. Personal items and bedrooms can be located upstairs where guests do not need to go. Condominium homes can have stairs or an elevator to access the unit.  These buildings can have two or more stories.

A single family home can be one-story or it can have the bedrooms upstairs or downstairs.  What do you prefer?  Some prefer to have the bedrooms upstairs and out of the way of daily activity during the waking hours.  Others want all bedrooms downstairs or on one story so that it is not necessary to climb stairs.  It is a personal preference.  
One story home
Two story home
Newer homes today are constructed with more energy efficient upgrades that help even the temperature upstairs and downstairs. More efficient insulation in the attic and walls and double pane, low E windows help keep cool air (during summer) inside and cold air (during winter) outside.  It is proven--heat rises, but with energy efficiency, a homeowner can be comfortable upstairs or downstairs. The choice is yours.  

What about stairs and their contribution to family fitness? According to Dr. Harvey Simon, Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, "walking up stairs is one of the best- kept secrets in preventative medicine." Read the article:

Can stairs also harm your home residents and guests?  The National Safety Council ( reports that over 1 million injuries occur each year due to indoor or outdoor stairway falls. 
September 23-29 is Fall Prevention Awareness Week. According to the National Safety Council, "injuries from falls can lead to limited activity, reduced mobility, loss of fitness and a fear of falling, all of which increase risk of additional injury." If you do have stairs in your home, please do a safety check:  

  • are there railings and are the railings secure?
  • has clutter been removed from stairs and near the stairs?
  • are safety gates used to prevent accidental falls down stairs?
  • should "non-slip" adhesive strips be added to the stairs? 
  • is there adequate lighting on the stairway and nearby?
  • can you add a railing to both sides of the stairs?
  • are nightlights used around the stair area at night?
  • is carpet, if any, secure on stairs?  

  Happy Autumn 2015.  Stay safe and enjoy your home-whether it is one-story or more.

Diane Acken is a licensed Realtor® in Tampa, Florida with Florida Executive Realty.  
Contact her:  Diane at


Monday, June 8, 2015

Important Florida Laws

Welcome to Florida!  
I am happy to have you here as a visitor and/or a future Florida resident. Would you like information about finding a Florida home? Let's talk.
It is important to know the laws in the state that you are visiting. All Florida traffic laws are important, but the following laws have sometimes been ignored by residents and visitors and this often results in a traffic violation, points on your license, a fine, or worse-a death or injury to people involved.  I want you to have a good experience when visiting Florida.  I don't want you to go home having had a bad experience on the road with a traffic violation (and possible increased insurance rates) or a bad injury or accident to you, your family, friends or others. Please drive safely and remember these laws.  These and more Florida motor vehicle law information is available at 
Florida Seat Belt Law 
Florida has seat belt laws to help prevent the driver or other passengers in the vehicle (car, truck, or van) from being thrown within or outside of the vehicle if a crash or quick stop occurs.  All passengers in the front seat must wear a seat belt.  It is a good idea for backseat passengers to also wear a seat belt.
Confirm that children are in the correct vehicle child-restraint seat
All passengers in the front or back who are under the age of 18 are required to wear a seat belt.  In addition, children ages 3 and younger must be secured in a federally approved child-restraint seat and children ages 4 through 5 must be secured by either a federally approved child restraint seat or a safety belt.  Florida safety belt laws apply at all times, regardless if you are on a short trip in the neighborhood or a long driving vacation.  A good rule to follow:  Always wear your seat belt when in a motor vehicle.

School or Construction Zone Speed Limits

When you see an orange construction sign, slow down

Exceeding the speed limit in a Florida school or construction zone will result in the largest fine that you can receive for speeding in Florida.  Fines are doubled for speeding in these zones.  Get caught speeding in a construction or school zone and the fine may well be over $500.  Around most Florida schools the speed limit is 20 MPH.
Adults and children can be hurt near a school zone

You should see a sign with a flashing light to indicate that you are entering a school zone and you should see a sign to let you know that you have left a school zone.  The reason for low speed limits in a school zone are obvious:  children may be crossing the street nearby or riding bikes to school, parents may be picking up or dropping off children and school buses may be loading or unloading children.  In a construction zone, workers may be hurt by cars speeding near road work.  In addition, the construction area may have dangerous traffic patterns due to roadwork that require a lower speed.  Look for orange signs that indicate nearby construction. Focus on driving, avoid distractions and you will notice these warning signs.  

Florida Move Over Law
This law requires drivers to move over a lane or slow down 20 MPH below the speed limit to protect law enforcement and emergency vehicle workers from being hit by vehicles passing them at high speed.  If you are not in the lane closest to the stopped emergency vehicle, be prepared to allow vehicles in that lane to move over into your lane.  If you fail to move over or slow down, you can be issued a ticket, can receive 3 points on your license, and have to pay a fine.  More importantly, if you do not move over, you could hurt an emergency worker.  Remember to vacate the lane closest to the stationary emergency vehicle, tow truck, sanitation, or utility vehicle.  

Road Rage
It is important to take a calm approach to driving in Florida, but some people do not, and this can result in drivers and passengers being killed in Florida. Aggressive drivers may exceed the posted speed limit, tailgate the driver in front of them, and explode with anger when another driver does something which slows them down (i.e. cuts in front of them or forgets to use their turn signal).  If you spot aggressive or dangerous driving, have your passenger write down the license plate information, date, time, and road that you are on and contact the Florida Highway Patrol by dialing *FHP on your cellphone when it is safe to make a call.  There are bad drivers in Florida (and other states) and the best people to handle it are law enforcement professionals.  

Texting and Driving
Wait until you have finished driving to text

Whether you are in Florida or anywhere else, don't text and drive. In Florida it is against the law to text and drive.  If you are texting behind the wheel, even when stopped at a red light, you are a distracted driver. Distracted drivers can be hurt, killed or can hurt or kill others on the road.   Let your message wait until you are able to safely stop your car away from traffic.  This may prevent a serious accident.  

Stay safe on Florida roads and enjoy your visit to the Sunshine state.  If you have questions about these or other Florida laws, let's talk.  Contact me at Diane at

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Pressure Washing Need For Florida Homes

This is a clean tile roof in Florida

Florida is the Sunshine State.  Warm sunny days and blue skies most of the year are the reason that so many people choose to live in this state.  I personally never want to go back to snow, ice, and the freezing cold winter months experienced up North.  

What price do we pay to live in this paradise all year?  When rain and warm days combine, the result can be mold, mildew and algae on the outside surfaces of our homes.  The roof (normally terra cotta colored tile) can appear blackish, the sidewalks green or black, and even the concrete driveways become discolored over time.  
This sidewalk needs pressure washing
What can be done about all this unchecked mold, mildew, and algae growth?  There is an answer:  a pressure washer.   A pressure washer is a machine that uses high pressure water mixed with a chemical such as chlorine.  A small engine powers the pressure washer which sends high pressured chemical water out to treat the mold and mildew. This is a very effective treatment that lasts approximately 6 months or more.  

This is a pressure washer

Can homeowners purchase a pressure washer?  Yes, they may, or they may contact a professional that does the pressure washing for them.  I have a list of pressure washer professionals that I refer my customers to if needed.  After a season or two, the pressure washer equipment will pay for itself, but for those who would rather not do the pressure washing themselves, a company that specializes in pressure washing can be well worth the money spent.  How valuable is your time?  To do a complete pressure washing on a Florida home takes a half day or more.  It takes strength and if you don't know how to work the equipment, you can get injured.  

Every homeowner in Florida that wishes to sell their home should have a thorough pressure washing done on their home prior to potential buyers seeing the home.  Fresh clean sidewalks, entrance way and driveway will be one of the first things that a potential buyer will notice.  

In Florida we have sunny days and blue skies most of the year. Unfortunately, the warm weather does encourage the growth of mold and mildew.  A pressure washer can clean your discolored tile, sidewalks, and pavers.  It may be a busy job once or twice a year to pressure wash your property, but what would you rather do, pressure wash or use a snow blower?  If you are ready to experience sunny days as a Florida homeowner, let's talk.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

New Construction Home Benefit

One reason that buyers may choose to buy a new construction home is that many newer built homes have energy efficient upgrades that make monthly utility bills more affordable than it would be with an older (more than 10 years old) home.  There have been many energy efficiency improvements in the past 10 years.  It is important for sellers to understand that potential buyers will compare their listed home for sale to new construction homes within the same price range. 
Look for energy efficiency in new construction
If a new product (home or appliance) uses 20-30% less energy than is required by federal standards, it can qualify for ENERGY STAR certification. There are strict guidelines for a new home to qualify for Energy Star certification which is an international standard developed by the EPA. For more information, click this link:

What features should you look for in a newly built home to know that you will receive energy efficient benefits?  First, ask if the builder has an Energy Star certification.  Many builders use energy conserving materials and practices but don't have this actual certification. Remember that this is not an easy certification to attain.  Do you think that it is important to purchase a home that has this certification? Let's talk.  Always ask about the cost savings features of the home.  Ask about the type of insulation, windows, heating/ventilation/air-conditioning (HVAC), lighting, faucets/shower heads, water heater, and appliances that will be used in the construction of your home. 

To measure a home's energy efficiency, a Home Energy Rating System, or HERS is used to score a home.  This scoring system is set by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) and it measures a home's energy efficiency in relation to a HERS reference home which has a score of 100 on the HERS index.   This is the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home's energy performance.  For more information, please click this link:

If you have an older previously-owned home to sell, should you feel hopeless about your home's energy efficiency?  No!  There are many things that you can do to make your home more energy efficient.  In Tampa, Florida,  the electric company (TECO) has a free energy audit.  An energy specialist will inspect your home and let you know what you can do to lower your energy bill.  For more information about this program, click this link:

Do you have questions about buying a home or selling your current home?  Let's talk.  

This is the goal for buyers and sellers 

Contact me: Diane at


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Alligators in Florida?

I work with a lot of people moving from areas other than Florida. A question that I hear frequently is, "are there alligators in Florida?" Usually this question is asked with a very frightened look on their face. I answer and try to alleviate their fear.  

Alligators are native to Florida.  Most freshwater ponds, lakes, and rivers (including wetlands) are home to alligators.  They also have been known to live in and near brackish (salty-fresh water combination that occurs in estuaries) water.
One of many beautiful ponds in Florida.  No alligator in this photo, but the pond is home to at least one alligator.

People who live in Florida have seen alligators living in the wild. It is very common to see a pond with an alligator swimming in it. There is an alligator in the pond near my home. Most Floridians are not frightened of alligators because alligators usually live quietly in ponds or lakes and rarely bother people.  

According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the alligator diet includes prey that is abundant and easily accessible. Alligator information in this post is from:

Young alligators eat insects, amphibians (i.e. frogs), small fish and other invertebrates.  Mature alligators eat larger fish, snakes, turtles, small mammals, and birds.  

I tell people who are new to Florida:  

If you live on or near a wetland in Florida (many people do)
DO NOT allow your small pets to wander near the water.

As stated, alligators eat what is accessible.  They rarely leave their pond/water to hunt.  Most of what they need to survive lives in or near the pond.  If your dog or cat is accessible...they can be prey for the alligator.  As a Florida homeowner, you need to know this.  If you are a cautious pet owner, you should not have a problem with alligators.  

Alligators do need the Florida sun to warm their body temperature. Frequently, you will see an alligator sunning itself on the land beside the water where it lives.  The alligator usually means no harm to people. 
This alligator lays in the sun on the bank of a neighborhood pond


Alligators can bite and even a small alligator bite can result in injury or infection.  

In your previous home location, you may have been able to swim in a nearby lake or pond.  Pond swimming is not recommended in Florida. Alligators are native to Florida.  They are here, but you need not be too frightened.  Allow them to live in their habitat without disturbing them. Soon, as a Florida homeowner, you will be able to tell your visitors about these interesting animals.  If you want to see alligators up close, I recommend going to Lowry Park Zoo or Busch Gardens in Tampa, Florida.  Let's talk, I will tell you about other Florida locations for visitors to see Florida alligators up close in their natural habitat.  

If you want to swim, head to the beautiful Florida beaches or the swimming pool at home or nearby.  It would be extremely rare to find an alligator in a pool or beach/gulf/ocean.

If you have any questions about alligators or finding a great home in Florida, let's talk.  

You may contact me by e-mail:  Diane at

Monday, April 20, 2015

Private Home Pool or Neighborhood Pool?

Most people who move to Florida want access to a pool because Florida has sunshine almost everyday.  As a home buyer in Florida, should you choose a home with a pool in the yard or choose a home with a nearby community pool?  There are pros and cons to each choice.  
Potential Backyard in Florida

If you like to swim or relax in a pool often, you may choose a home with a private pool.  When you are ready to swim, you simply open the door leading to the pool and jump in.  The sparkling clean pool will add value to your home when you choose to sell it (based on a similar home without a pool).  You won't have to share the pool with anyone except people that you know and choose.  If you want privacy, you can locate the pool (when building it) where there is less chance of someone seeing you in the pool.  You may also install a fence, screened area, or natural shrubs to block or partially block the view into your pool area.  

Some people don't mind sharing a pool with others.  Others don't want or can't afford a private pool.  If that is you, consider choosing home in a neighborhood that has either a neighborhood pool or a nearby community pool (i.e. city pool, Y, country club or other community center).  
Y Pool, Tampa, Florida
In the Tampa area, many neighborhoods have pools.  Usually the pool is located convenient to most of the homes and many have a parking area.  You may drive, walk, ride a bike, or use another mode of transportation to arrive at the neighborhood pool.  Most neighborhood or community pools have chairs to use when you visit and bathroom facilities.  Some may have a snack area and/or a coin operated drink machine. Many employ lifeguards and pool maintenance employees to keep the pool, guests and surrounding area safe and clean.  You won't have to clean the pool or pay directly for the operation of the pool (this cost may be included in neighborhood fees which all owners pay-even if you don't use the pool or have a pool of your own-ask your agent
). Usually a neighborhood pool is much larger than a private pool and some will have lap lanes for serious swimmers.  In addition, the neighborhood pool may be deeper and have pool extras like diving boards and/or a pool slide. Many communities in Florida have picnic areas and grills available to use in addition to a pool, and some neighborhoods have organized activities for residents.  
Neighborhood Pool with giant slide in Wesley Chapel, Florida

Which option sounds better to you?  

With a private pool, you have privacy, 24-hour access, and you don't have far to travel if you forgot to bring sunscreen or a towel.  


With a neighborhood or community pool, you won't have the upkeep that a pool requires:  cleaning, skimming, and testing the water chemicals (or you won't have to pay monthly for pool service).  Your electric or gas bill will be less than the same home with a private pool.  You may pay less for home insurance. Accidents can happen anywhere, but a homeowner who has a pool must insure that safety fences, screens/nets, or alarms are used and work properly to protect those who may accidentally wander into your pool area. Another benefit of having a neighborhood pool is that you are able to meet more of your neighbors.  These neighbors may be your friends for many years. On the other hand, you may find that the neighborhood pool visitors are loud, rude, and may or may not follow the pool rules.  It is a good idea to have your Realtor® take you to the neighborhood community area a few different days at various times during the day so that you may see a sample of who visits the pool and how clean and safe the area is for your family, friends, or guests. 

Having access to a pool in Florida is important.  After all, Florida is the Sunshine State.  It is warm in summer (fall, winter and spring, too!). Swimming is a great way to exercise and cool off quickly. When moving to Florida, consider the benefit of having your own pool or having access to a nearby pool.  

If you have any questions about pool ownership or finding a great home in Florida, let's talk.  

Contact me: my first name@(my first name)(my last name).com

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

What is a Parade of Homes?

The Tampa Bay 2015 Parade of Homes is from April 11-April 26, 2015. The hours are Monday-Saturday: 10 AM-6:00 PM.  Sunday: 12 noon-6:00 PM.  

What is a Parade of Homes?  It is a FREE event in Tampa where you may visit 140 decorated model homes from various builders and 3 professionally remodeled homes.  There is a map to the homes and all are located throughout the Tampa Bay area (Hillsborough County, Pasco County, and Pinellas County).  For more information, please visit the website: 

The Tampa Bay Builders Association (TBBA) sponsors this event every year.  There are other sponsors too.  It takes a lot of sponsors and volunteers to make the Parade of Homes a very special and successful event.

It is a GREAT way to see what is new in Florida housing.  

You may want to see what materials are now being used in new construction homes. Are kitchen counter-tops still made of granite in new homes?  Are stainless steel appliances still the rage?  What new energy efficient options are available in new construction? There are many other questions that you may have that can be answered.  

What are the prices of these homes?  There are a lot of different price ranges for homes in the Parade of Homes, so everyone should be able to find a dream home.  The actual price range is from $150,000 to over $1 million.  

Have you ever wanted to see inside a million dollar home?  Now is your chance in Florida.  I've found that million dollar homes are a lot more fancy than normal homes, but they also have a lot more rooms that will eventually need cleaning.  Of course, if you can afford the home, you most likely have the resources for a housekeeper.  Allow me to help you with any home professional referrals. 

You may go on your own to see these homes at your convenience. The only limit is time.  The event will end soon, so why don't you plan to visit the Parade of Homes tomorrow?  It is a nice way to spend a day in the beautiful Florida sunshine.  

If a new home is a consideration, let's talk.