Thursday, August 18, 2005

Celebration to a Tee

Given the sky-rocketing housing prices in Celebration (as well as FL in general and many other parts of the country), many worry that we're floating atop a real estate bubble. Thus, my husband was quite amused when he found a t-shirt with the the logo below:

Personally, we're not too worried about the bubble. We purchased our house with the intent of making Celebration our permanent home. We never thought of it as an investment, even though I must admit that I'm floored at how much its value has risen. Unfortunately, for us that just means higher taxes. If the housing prices crash, it won't matter. It will still be the same old Duloc Manor, regardless of its paper value.

But many people do, indeed, think of our town as an investment vehicle. I can't say that I blame them; where else can a house price nearly double in a couple of years? If I had the ready cash, I'd be right there snapping up some condos with the rest of 'em.

Still, the negative impact is that it has changed the character of Celebration. Two recent ads in the community newspaper summed it up quite nicely. Both were for real estate agencies; one touted the investment opportunities and the chance to make a quick buck. The other said something like, "Do you remember when Celebration was more about community than investment? We do."

I, like many others, came to Celebration seeking community. Happily, even with the rampant real estate rampage, I've found it. It's a wonderful, friendly place where people know each other and neighbors get together for coffee or barbeques (or, in the case of the Bunny Brigade, celebrity stalking or a game of croquet). Granted, there are a lot of empty investment properties that leave "black holes" in the neighborhoods, but so far that hasn't been able to overcome the good things about our town.

People worry about the number of rental properties; there are a huge number of homes and condos for rent at any given time. But when all of the apartment complexes were converted to condos, that took away a huge chunk of Celebration's rental inventory. The only "official" apartments left are the garage apartments owned by private homeowners. I was sad to see that happen because I felt that the original apartments were vital to the character of our town. Now I just figure that the privately owned homes and condos that are being rented out are taking the place of those lost apartments.

The only thing that would ever drive me out of Celebration is if the town's character shifts from a warm community atmosphere to a playground for the rich & snobby and/or transient vacationers. Granted, we're not exactly bursting with low-income people right now, but even though most people are doing well economically, they're neighborly and down to earth. We do have snowbirds, but most come to town for months at a time, rather than just a couple of weeks a year. That's the Celebration that I know and love; if it dies out, I might as well leave as it will be just like a hundred other cookie cutter Florida subdivisions.

Personally, I don't think that the real estate bubble will burst completely. The astronomical growth may slow, and even stop, but I don't think prices will ever go down. After all, we're Celebration, the Disney Town, and that infamy will always be worth a premium. Even if the town's character changes completely (and for the worst), people who never knew it before won't even know the difference.

A tragic thought. I pray that it never happens.

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1 comment:

JJ said...

You have some wonderful thoughts about Celebration and the rental market. I rented an apartment in Centergate (now Siena) but was forced out when they converted to condos. We are now renting our third home in Celebration and are again facing the difficult task of finding another rental property within our budget in this town that we love. We, too, miss the days when Celebration was a town and not an investment.