Rising stars of the Orlando real estate market, condo-hotel resorts offer a hands-off way to invest in a rent-yielding Disney holiday home. We compare them with Florida’s more conventional second home communities – and we’ve picked some exciting examples for each
Located close to central Florida’s main tourist attractions and designed specifically for vacation stays, condo-hotels are best described as privately-owned apartments (condos) run collectively as a hotel.
Rising demand for resort-style vacation accommodation, particularly in the Orlando area, has driven growth in this type of development in recent years so that today’s buyers have plenty of choice.
Most are built in the style of a traditional hotel resort, with high-rise blocks of apartments and communal areas serviced by a main reception. Designed to offer a full holiday experience to the occupants, the most modern condo-hotels have no limits when it comes to on-site leisure and sports amenities.
These days, in addition to a swimming pool (often two, including a themed one), it’s not unusual for them to have their own mini waterpark, spa and fitness centre, games room, kids club and activities, clubhouse, bars and restaurant(s), and even a 3G football/sports pitch.
They are managed as a hotel, usually by a large tourist operator, which means they also have a concierge and housekeeping service available. Another popular service is the free shuttle bus to the local attractions, such as Disney or other theme parks.
Units available to buy in most condo-hotels are two or three-bedroom apartments, although some include villas or townhouses. They come fully kitted out and furnished to the same level and in the same style, ready to be used by guests.
The majority of buyers opt to have their condo managed entirely by the resort’s operator, who will take care of all maintenance and enter the property into their on-site rental scheme, making it available to tourist operators and holidaymakers. Owners are free to arrange their own stays around any rental bookings.
Revenue generated through the rental scheme is usually split between the hotel operator and the condo owners. Condo-hotels attract running costs, including management charges/ fees to the operator, which will be deducted from the owner’s rental income.
Examples of popular Disney condo-hotel resorts include The Grove Resort & Waterpark, Lake Buena Vista Resort Village & Spa, WorldQuest and Margaritaville Resort Orlando.
Until not so long ago, the go-to option for vacation homeowners in central Florida was the more traditional community, often with gated access. Most of these will produce healthy rental returns, but they are suited equally to owners who wish to maximise their own time there and create more of a second home. They are also ideal for those who might spend long periods there, such as the winter months, or those not interested in rentals.
Most communities are situated within an area dubbed the ‘Golden Triangle’, which fans northwards from Haines City as far as Highway 192 and the edge of Orlando and Disney, taking in the popular buying spots of Davenport, Kissimmee and ChampionsGate. Crucially, short-term rentals are allowed here and the triangle is bisected by Interstate 4, giving fast access to Orlando city, the airport, and the theme parks.
Common to most Disney communities are a clubhouse with restaurant/bar, a fitness centre, a communal swimming pool(s) and outside areas. Some may have more amenities, but generally not to the level of a condo-hotel. Properties tend to be single-family homes, villas and townhouses. A homeowner’s association (HOA) will be responsible for the general maintenance of all communal areas and will have a set of rules governing what is allowed within the community. Each owner pays monthly HOA fees.
Typically, owners will appoint an independent management firm to look after their property and take care of rentals – whatever level of service is required.
Established communities popular with family second homeowners include Highgrove, Tuscan Hills, Solana, Calabay Parc, Windsor Hills, Emerald Island, Bella Vida, Highlands Reserve, Highgate Park, Tuscan Ridge, and West Haven. Disney World is no more than a 20 to 25-minute drive from each of these.
For buyers planning to spend six months of the year in Florida, typically retirees, more residential communities with quieter neighbourhoods, lots of natural scenery and where the homeowners association (HOA) fees are low are preferred. Examples of these could be Watersong in Davenport and Orange Tree in Clermont.
Written by Overseas Guides Company.
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