When we moved to Sarasota, we decided to rent for a year so that we could get to know the area and find the right place to live and buy a home. This strategy was chosen knowing full well that getting settled meant that we had to make two moves. Given the pain associated with moving, this was not a decision that we made lightly. We bought our home in mid-June and moved in last week. The move experience was no less painful than we expected, but was the strategy the right one?

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In the 10 months that we have lived in Sarasota, we have explored a lot and met many new people. We’ve built some new friendships and established some new acquaintances that may bloom into full-fledged friendships. Most of our discussions have something to do with learning about what to do and where to live on the “Sun Coast”, the greater Sarasota area. Very few of the people that we have spoken with are unhappy with their choice of Sarasota as a place to live. The longer term residents harbor some resentment toward the new comers because the area has become built up. But they are still very happy to be living here.

One thing that struck me about the “new comers” is that they fall into two categories. A lot have been coming to Sarasota for years and knew the area before they bought a home. The other large group bought a home when they first moved in. Very few chose the strategy of renting and finding the right home for them. Almost all of those that bought when the first came to Sarasota have moved at least once.

We found the greater Sarasota area to offer a wide variety of living options. Had we not lived in an apartment for a few months, we would have purchased a single family home in an OK neighborhood with a pool. That would put us back in the mode we had been in for the last 40 years of maintaining a house, yard and pool. Apartment living quickly taught me the benefits of maintenance free housing. We also learned the tradeoff between private ownership and higher density living with a shared pool. The outdoor life makes the community and your neighbors just as important as the four walls and roof.

We have spent the grand total of eight nights in our new home. It’s roomy, quiet and the neighbors are really nice. We had a dinner invitation the night we moved in and a monthly neighborhood party a couple of days later. Our home is in a maintenance free community and many of the owners are “snow birds”, only here in the colder weather. The full time residents warmly welcomed another addition to their group. We have room for guests and a community that worked hard to blend the natural surroundings of the Florida forest with an active golf and tennis environment.

Moving is a painful process and choosing a two move strategy went against every fiber in my being. My better half, the smarter one, convinced me to put a toe in the water before we jump in. She was right. Had we gone with my gut we would have been in the wrong type of home. The neighborhood would not have been right and we would have over paid making moving that much harder. Becoming retired is a tumultuous process that has many steps and stages.

The move strategy of renting to get to know an area is the right way to go regardless of that painful second move. In all likelihood you’ll move twice before getting settled anyway and renting gives you the advantage of being able to take advantage of the natural demand cycle in your market. It’s much better to buy from a distressed seller than be a distressed buyer. More importantly, your home is your castle and being in the right situation for your retirement lifestyle goals is a key element for your long term happiness.