Posts by Alan Hubbard

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August
3

Jacksonville is quickly becoming a popular destination for locals and tourists alike and it's easy to see why. "The River City" packs a lot of fun with an eclectic mix of neighborhoods, miles of sandy beaches, vibrant museums, a wide-spread artist's community, and glorious state parks – there's truly something for everyone!

Jacksonville also happens to be ideally located in terms of its proximity to the various neighboring gems, including everything from national seashore beaches populated by wild horses to ancient natural springs. There are so many different places to visit within a short drive, which makes day trips a marvelous idea in your staycation or weekend itinerary. You'll find that it's easier (and cheaper) than ever to enjoy Northern Florida's stunning attractions within the space of a day.

Here are eight great daytrip excursions: all you have to do is pick a day, pack a small bag, and go!

1. Blue Springs State Park

One of the most beautiful stretches of the St. John's River, the turquoise waters of Blue Springs State Park span an impressive 2600-acres of sparkling, tranquil landscape. The springs are also home to West Indian manatees that are visible during manatee season. While the ocean waters turn cold in the winter, the springs maintain a steady 72° all year long, so as the air turns cold, hundreds of manatees seek the warm spring waters. So, if you want to see the manatees, wintertime is a great time to come. But no matter the season, Blue Springs is a great place to spend a day swimming or kayaking, walking the boardwalk, or embarking on a guided tour throughout the area.

Find more information here: Blue Springs State Park

2. Amelia Island | Fernandina Beach

A quick hop, skip, and a jump away from Jacksonville (more specifically, about 30 miles) lies the serenely beautiful Amelia Island – an Atlantic barrier island with white sand beaches and a lush, vibrant interior sprinkled with marshlands. The Fernandina Historic District area of the island offers art galleries, historic saloons, and a mellow, small-town atmosphere. The island also boasts a collection of beaches, upscale resorts, and great golf. You'll find popular festivals ranging from music to foodie throughout the year.

For more information, visit Amelia Island

3. Palatka

For a fascinating insight into a historic Floridian settlement, make the one-hour journey to the city of Palatka, where you'll find old-town charm coupled with beautifully preserved and restored historic homes and churches dating back to the 1800's. A visit to Palatka feels like you've stepped back in time, and boasts a thriving art scene with galleries and street vendors alike. Enjoy a nice lunch followed by the Palatka Mural Tour or, for a more nature-focused outing, venture out to the Ravine Gardens State Park, home to two ravines and lush gardens galore!

For more information, visit City of Palatka

4. Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area, Ocala

Another pristinely beautiful escape from metropolitan life comes in the form of the sun-drenched region of Ocala, featuring mile after mile of untouched natural reserve – the most attractive of which is the Ocala National Forest. Here, you'll find a mixture of narrow valleys adorned by weeping willows, and tranquil springs of clear waters. Juniper Run and Silver Glen Springs are particularly popular for swimming and tubing routes, while the Silver Springs State Park offers land activities such as horseback riding and picnicking.

For more information, visit Explore Ocala

5. St. Augustine

We would be sorely remiss if we didn't include the infamous St. Augustine in the list as this is a major bucket-list Floridian destination. The oldest city in the United States, let alone Florida, is a delight for those with an interest in history, architecture, good food, interesting museums, or simply just appreciating a unique, old town. Spend hours walking the cobblestone streets, shopping in the cool boutiques and kitschy tourist shops, dining in some fabulous farm-to-table restaurants or visiting some of the tourist landmarks like the Alligator Farm, Ripley's Believe it or Not! Museum, the Fountain of Youth, or the centuries-old Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest still-standing masonry fort in the United States. Take in some breath-taking views of the town, then climb atop the St. Augustine Lighthouse, where you'll take in a breathtaking view of the city in all its glory. But whatever you do, wear some comfy walking shoes, make sure you allot a good amount of time, and, most of all – enjoy!

For more information, visit City of St. Augustine

6. Ginnie Springs

Dubbing themselves "A Slice of Pure Florida," Ginnie Springs is known for the clarity of their waters, making them particularly popular with snorkelers and divers alike. From inner-tubing, kayaking, paddleboarding, or simply swimming, there are so many ways to enjoy these glorious springs. And just like Blue Springs, their crystal-clear water stays at a perfect 72° year-round, so come and dip your feet in January or February while wearing a cozy sweatshirt. Ginnie Springs also offers a large network of subterranean caverns under the surface that are exhilarating to explore… so grab your bathing suit and some towels and get ready to have a swimmingly good time!

For more information, visit Ginnie Springs Outdoors

7. Cumberland Island, South Georgia

Yes, you read that correctly: South Georgia! Jacksonville is 30 miles from the Georgia state line, so this excursion does indeed fall into the day-trip category and is a beautiful attraction. Board a ferry at St. Marys, GA to get to the island and be sure to have your phone or camera ready to capture Cumberland Island's most intriguing feature: its herds of wild horses roaming free along the beaches and tree-lined paths. Enjoy biking, take a guided tour, or simply hang out on the beach, but whatever you decide to do, don't forget to pack a water bottle, food, bug-spray, sunscreen, and an extra layer of clothing!

For more information, visit Cumberland Island

8. Big Talbot Island State Park | Blackrock Beach

On the Northeastern edge of Jacksonville, you'll find a surreal setting, one that features marshlands populated by wild birds and a boneyard of sorts full of sun-drenched, bleached tree "bones" that have been preserved by nature, aptly named Boneyard Beach. Enjoy a picnic in one of the pavilions on the water or avoid the crowds and come early to catch the sunrise and hike the half-mile trail through hammock forest and coastal scrub. Be sure and keep an eye out for turtles, beautiful birds, and bald eagles along your way and make the most out of your visit by packing plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, bug-spray, beach gear, towels, and $3.00 (cash only) for parking.

For more information, visit Florida State Parks Blackrock Beach

Well, there you have it! A list of some amazing daytrips that are a quick stones-throw away! So, whether you're in the mood for a tranquil getaway, a beautiful beach experience, or more of a shopping and dining excursion, you can't go wrong with any of these trips. Just remember to do a little research, pack accordingly, and most of all enjoy fun close to home!

January
14

Whether it's your first time buying or selling a house or it's your fifth, you'll likely have lots of questions about the process. We understand that, which is why we're answering some of the most frequently asked questions about the home-buying and home-selling process. Read on to get the answers you seek!

Buying a Home

Should I work with an agent?

Yes! When searching for a home, it's important to know what you want. The right agent will help you determine must-haves and deal-breakers, as well as educate you on the communities you're interested in. Your agent will also help you navigate the complexities of the home-buying process. They're the expert, after all!

Should I go to the bank before starting my house search?

Getting pre-approved before starting your house search can be very helpful. By measuring factors like income, credit, and assets, a lender can determine what type of loan best suits your needs and how much home you can afford. Not only will you know your spending budget, it can also give you an upper hand as a buyer because it shows sellers you're serious about making a purchase.

How many houses should I tour?

As many as it takes until you find the perfect home for you. Everyone's needs, wants, and deal-breakers will be different, and you want to avoid settling for a house you'll dislike after a few months. Even if it takes time, it's worth the extra effort.

Do I need money for a big down payment?

Not necessarily. Today, more loan options and homebuying programs exist, giving buyers a larger variety of approaches to buying a house. While some people may still want to complete a large down payment, it is absolutely not vital to purchase a home. In fact, the average first-time buyer only puts 6% down, and many loans and programs available to first-time buyers require even less than that.

How long will closing last?

After negotiations have settled and your offer is accepted, the loan process and title work begin. Inspections and other walkthroughs will be completed as well. Most closings last 30 to 45 days.

 

Selling a Home

Should I sell on my own or with an agent?

You've probably heard from one person or another that going the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) route is optimal as it will save you money that you would otherwise spend on commission fees. However, the benefits of listing, marketing, and exposing your home to potential buyers an agent provides are often worth the commission fee.

What's more, you may end up spending less money by selling with an agent. A typical home sale process that requires lots of time and effort likely won't net you much savings at all if you go it alone.

When should I put my home on the market?

This is the first of many steps where an agent's expertise will help you make a decision. When there are fewer available homes to purchase to meet buyers' demands, you get a seller's market. Each home for sale becomes a hot commodity in this sort of market.

There's no truly bad time to sell, necessarily. Even in a buyer's market, your home will still draw attention so long as it's promoted properly.

Should I make any changes to my home before selling?

Definitely! Do a deep clean, make necessary repairs and replacements, organize cabinets and closets, declutter and depersonalize, and spruce up your home's curb appeal. Be careful about spending too much money on major repairs and renovations, however; you may not make back what you spent in the sale.

How should I price my home?

Determining your home's value can be tricky; setting an accurate sale price can be even tougher. Your agent will help you assess your home's value by analyzing other similar homes in the area that have sold. A home inspection will also help to paint the picture of your home's value.

Setting a sale price is a delicate art. Price it too high and you risk pushing buyers away. Price it too low and you might raise suspicions in buyers' minds. Again, your agent will help you find the sweet spot and price your home favorably.  

 

Still have questions about the home-buying or selling process? Contact one of our expert agents to have your questions answered.

December
22

If you're like 60% of people, you probably dread the idea of moving. And we get it! Packing, loading, unpacking – it can all be a bit of a drag. So you've probably considered simply reimagining the space you're in as an alternative to moving. But that has its own drawbacks, like trying to live around the messiness and noises of home improvement.

At the core of either of these decisions lies the true issue: you're not happy with at least some part of your home. Making the choice to renovate or move to a new home entirely isn't easy, but we're hoping the following guide can help you make an informed decision one way or the other.

Consider the Costs

Try to think beyond the profit, because believe it or not, selling your home can be costly. Everything from touch-ups and minor repairs to staging and various closing costs can rack up a high price. That's before you even consider paying for your new home!

Then again, depending on the scope of your renovations, you could be looking at a hefty price tag as well. Renovations also typically require immediate out-of-pocket costs, and as projects go on, you could see additional costs enter the picture.

Do You Like Your Location?

Do you love your neighborhood? Are your kids in a great school district? Are you an active fixture in your community? Sometimes the one thing you fall out of love with about where you live is…where you live.

If you've found you adore your community but your home isn't meeting your needs anymore, perhaps renovating is the route for you. Conversely, if you'd rather discover a new neighborhood, you might choose to start fresh with a move.

Think Long-Term

It's generally accepted that what you pay for in renovations, you probably won't get back when you sell. There are exceptions to this, of course, but for most folks it holds true.

So if you plan to be in your home for another 10 years, remodeling is a good idea. You'll get to enjoy the results of all your hard work and money spent. If you don't see yourself staying put for long, however, it likely won't be cost-effective to sink money into renovations.

Research the Market

For the past year and more, the market has been particularly ripe for sellers. And while that might influence your decision to sell and move into a new home, keep in mind that you'll still need to buy a new home. The market has been significantly more challenging for buyers.

The market is always fluid, however, so whenever you find yourself pondering renovations versus selling, do yourself a favor and check in on your local market.

 

What you choose will ultimately come down to your unique situation. If you're looking for an agent's expert opinion on the matter, check in with one of Watson's knowledgeable real estate pros!

December
1

Gator Bites

A live alligator may not be a delightful sight, but gator tail is an exotic food experience that will delight your taste buds. Head to these great restaurants when you're craving this iconic Florida famous food.

The Black Sheep on Broadway - 128 SW Broadway St., Ocala, FL 34471
With a name like The Black Sheep on Broadway, you may think this gastropub is all about red meat. Yes, they have delicious burgers and steak sandwiches, but they're also known for their fried gator tails. Get them as an appetizer, served with zippy Cajun remoulade sauce, or on the Cuban gator sandwich. Stop in for live music on a Friday or Saturday night. Hours are 11 a.m. - midnight Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. - 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Sunday.

Fish on Fire - 7937 Daetwyler Dr., Orlando, FL 32812
The exterior of Fish on Fire is decorated in traditional Florida pastels. Inside, the food is unlike any other restaurant. Founders Jay Herrington and John Mitchell are longtime fishing buddies, so they're seafood experts. The cleverly named Allies Gator is seasoned with Everglades spices before frying for a unique flavor. Specials such as shrimp & grits fritters showcase their inventive spirit. Hours are 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m. - 11:30 p.m. Thursday, 11 a.m. - midnight Friday and Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 7 p.m. Sunday.

Tibby's New Orleans Kitchen - 2203 Aloma Ave., Winter Park, FL 32792
Find flavors of the bayou at Tibby's New Orleans Kitchen. Cheesecake usually comes after a meal, but Tibby's serves a savory shrimp & alligator cheesecake to whet your appetite. If you prefer, order your gator bites straight up, hand-battered with a side of remoulade sauce. The menu includes other favorites such as boudin, jambalaya, and muffuletta. Tibby's is open 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. - 10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. - 10 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. - 9 p.m. Sunday.

Cocoa Beach Fish Camp Grill - 5602 N. Atlantic Ave., Cocoa Beach, FL 32931
Cocoa Beach Fish Camp Grill definitely lives up to their slogan, "Swamp Food with a Flair." Choose gator bites with their signature Camp Sauce or a trio of gator sliders on brioche buns topped with coleslaw. If you're starving, take the Da Rougarou challenge. This beast of a sandwich features a pound of pulled pork, eight strips of bacon, andouille sausage, mac & cheese, coleslaw, crispy onions, and two Black Angus patties. Hours are 11 a.m. - midnight Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. - 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday.

JT's Seafood Shack - 5224 N. Oceanshore Blvd., Palm Coast, Fl 32137
Just as straightforward as its name, JT's Seafood Shack serves fresh, delicious food in a casual setting. The tin roof, wood doors, and diner-style decor provide a classic ambiance. Fried gator tails, shrimp & grits, and crab cakes are only a few of the seafood favorites on the menu. Follow them on Facebook for information about specials. JT's is open from noon - 9 p.m. daily except Friday and Saturday when hours are extended to 9:30 p.m.

Famous foods are just one part of the amazing lifestyle in Central Florida. Contact us at Watson Realty Corp. for experienced help buying or selling your home.

 

November
10

Holiday season is a magical time of year. Warmth and holiday movies and family and a general, pervading sense of mirth make for a potion that can rejuvenate even the darkest spirits. But let's face it – capturing that holiday spirit can be tricky when you're in a place like sunny Florida, where the temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees and snow seems more like something from a book rather than an actual meteorological event.

Don't fret, though. There are still plenty of ways to kindle your holiday spirit even in a state that's more at home in summer than winter, and we're here to share them.

Click Here to Read More...

October
27

Your first stab at buying a home involves a lot of emotions. Excitement, happiness, anxiety, fear, joy, sadness; you're sure to feel at least some combination of these and more during your first homebuying experience.

Real estate agents know this, and they're often prepared for it. "First-time homebuyers can be scared because they've never experienced this situation before," Michael Blazek, Managing Broker of Watson's Atlantic Beach office, says. "But working with them is fun because they're usually very excited."

We understand just how daunting buying your first home can be. That's why we got some of our brokers to come up with their own expert advice for first-time homebuyers.

Click Here to Read More...

October
15

One of the first steps to buying a house is securing a mortgage loan. But how do you know who to trust as your lender? It's a big decision, and more goes into it than simply finding the best loan terms. Read on for our tips on how to choose a mortgage lender.

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September
30

For most of us, a life lived mostly inside the walls of our home became the norm for at least a year. Lots of things changed; grocery store trips became deliveries, intense hand-washing sessions occurred multiple times a day, and empty guest rooms became home offices.

It makes sense then that homebuyers' preferred features have shifted in response to the changes they've experienced. Point2 Homes examined 43 million words from more than 640,000 listings across the United States, then compared their findings to a study of the same nature in 2019.

Examining the most popular home descriptions words, phrases, and features reveals a lot about how buyers' tastes have changed.

Click Here to Read More...

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