Questions about buying and living in a condo in or near Palm Beach Fla.
December 2, 2014 6:49 AM   Subscribe

The spousal unit and I are sick of Winter weather in the northern US and urgently wish to move to Palm Beach (NOT West Palm Beach). Our initial plan is to move into rental housing for a few months so we can be local while we shop for our new Condo home, but we have some questions about both life in the Palm Beach area and life in multi-unit HOA-run housing. We hope some Mefites with East-Florida-specific experience can provide insights.

This question is anonymous because I do not want my employers or clients knowing about my plans to relocate before I tell them formally. The things we want to know are as follows:
1) What is it like living in Palm Beach year-round? In particular we are concerned about periodic storm damage or road flooding/washouts from Hurricane season. Also any information about local culture or the neighborhoods’ atmosphere.
2) What questions should we be asking to ensure we buy into a building with proper sound insulation so we are not subjected to our condo neighbors’ stomping or musical tastes? Is there some specific construction method or certification standard we should be asking about?
3) What is a good independent resource to find data about the history and character of specific HOA organizations? Are HOA financial records open to non-members in Florida? We specifically wish to avoid joining a group of authoritarian busybodies, or being subjected to excessively frequent special assessment jackpots for maintenance or other foreseeable expenses.
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I live in a house in West Palm Beach, so can't speak specifically to your condo/HOA questions, but I can tell you what it is like here in the summer. Hot, humid, and miserable. You don't need to loook at a weather forecast in the summer (barring hurricanes) because the weather is the same every day - Lows in the low 80s, highs in the mid 90s, and at least one torrential thunderstorm per day. Basically don't plan on spending any time outdoors between April 1 and October 31. I moved here a year and a half ago and we haven't had a hurricane come through since then, but road flooding definitely happens even with lesser storms.
posted by Daily Alice at 7:17 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

My father, when he was in his early 50s, lived in Palm Beach (near the Breakers -- is that Palm Beach?). He lived in a small condo building. He never once mentioned noise. He did say that the off season was a trade off. Loved the fewer people, liked the small town feel in the off season, but as Daily Alice pointed out, it was hot and humid. I have been down there a few times in the summer to see Dave Mathews and it was hotter than teenage sex. I think he had hurricaine shutters or something, but his condo never had any material damage. Mostly, landscaping issues.
posted by 724A at 7:23 AM on December 2, 2014

I grew up in Palm Beach county, and have relatives who own a condo one island north of Palm Beach, on Singer Island. Generally, if a hurricane is severe enough to cause severe damage, they will want you to leave and you should listen (I've heard that before Andrew, for example, they drove police cars through with loud hailers telling everybody to get out. We'd already left the night before.) As such, I never experienced any severe road washouts from hurricane damage, because I wasn't there for serious hurricanes. There were a lot of downed trees across roads and damage to screened in porches. If you have large glass windows, it's probably a good idea to protect them with shutters or plywood. Power will probably be interrupted, and you should probably have hurricane supplies in case water goes out as well.

The condo buildings I've seen had large hurricane shutters which protected them from storm damage. If you're really worried about storm surge and you're near the beach, maybe don't get a condo on the first few floors.

I wouldn't exaggerate the hurricane danger, though; serious hurricanes only come through every once in a while, and again, you don't stay around when they do (keep at least a quarter tank of gas in your car).

It's generally hot and very humid. I recall months where it rained heavily every single day.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:16 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's hot and miserable for 6 months of the year. Just miserable. If you DO move here, make sure your condo has covered parking/a garage for your car. Getting into a car that has been parked in the sun on an August day is painful.

The winter season is wonderful with lots of arts, music, green markets and other outdoor activities. Palm Beach itself is well maintained and buildings built after Andrew all must be built to Miami-Dade hurricane codes. We haven't had a storm in over a decade, but big summer storms come through and there is flooding and some property damage, but nothing that would cause large scale closures or power outages lasting for days (vs hours)

I live in western Palm Beach county (Wellington area) and have for the last 6 years. When I moved here, I was not prepared for the attitude down here. NOBODY'S shit stinks here- or so they think. The roads are like a road rage free-for-all. If you are from The South and think this area is at all like The South, you will be disappointed. There are no manners here. I would be out of here in a heartbeat, but the heart of our business is here and we just can not move right now. (I grew up in central FL, the heat and attitude are far worse here in PBC.)

As far as HOAs go, I'm pretty sure they do have to file the yearly budgets with either the county or the state. I think your best bet to suss out the busybody-ness of a particular board is to talk to people in the community. Keep in mind, the board one year is not necessarily the board you get the next year. (We own an investment property an the board has gone from great to nightmarish over the last few years). It's pretty 'luck of the draw' I think.

What draws you to the Palm Beach area? Are there other places that meet those needs? Is it weather only? How about farther up the coast, even up into GA/SC? Is it the arts culture? The beaches? My view is tainted by my own experience of course, but I would see if other locales offer the same benefits you're looking for. It's HOT and rude here.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 8:20 AM on December 2, 2014

Oh yeah, this is the only place I've ever lived where almost everybody leaves their shopping carts in parking spaces rather than putting them back in the cart corral. It's like they were raised by wolves.
posted by Daily Alice at 10:00 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I lived in Broward County for 15 years. I was on the HOA board.

1. There's no way of not having a bad HOA. I got drafted against my will, but people who WANT to be on the board...are all assholes. HOAs exist to manage a group of units, and people who want to deal with that nonsense do it because they want the place to look a certain way and be a certain way.

2. Assessments. Before you buy you can look over the books of the HOA. They'll either have money in reserves, which means that a percentage of your monthly assessment will go towards reserves. This is DEEPLY unpopular in South Florida. But, if there's money in reserves, then that means less of a hit on assessments. If they do assess, you'll never know what and when. We had to assess to have the cool decking replaced on our walkways. We assessed to add insulation to the attic. We assessed when the schefflera trees invaded the plumbing. We had to double the monthly fees after Hurricane Andrew because Allstate, the insurer of the building for 30 years, pulled out of Florida and we had to scramble with East Bumble Insurance just to let everyone have a mortgage.

3. Becker and Poliakoff handles HOA legal stuff for 98% of all condos in Florida, so you might be able to ask them about a prospective HOA.

4. Soundproofing? I lived in a cement building, with a poured cement ceiling and 12 inch cinder block construction between units. It was bliss until some shitty people moved into the unit above me. They played loud music and that was that. I don't think anyone anywhere can guarantee quietude.

5. In the summer torrential rains occur every day at 2:45. They last from 15 to 30 minutes. It's hot and muggy from April through November. The building where I worked in Ft. Lauderdale would flood and the water would be up to your waist as you'd wade through to the more elevated parking area. Fish would swim around your legs. I'm not joking.

6. Even if you get a little villa/house, there's going to be an HOA.

That said, I like Florida, and I could be persuaded to live there again.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:08 AM on December 2, 2014

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