Why Everything You Know is Useless When Moving to Florida

By Valerie Iola LaBoy, MBA Realtor®

When you grow up in a place, you think you understand how the world works. At least I did. Was I in for a rude awakening when at the tender age of 54, I left the green rolling hills of central-NJ and moved to Florida. Here’s what I learned during Year 1:

My credentials as a learning consultant were not recognized in the public schools. I had spent 10 years teaching special needs students in NJ public and private schools, and earned a masters-level LDT-C credential at Rutgers. In NJ, that meant I could test students’ academic ability and potential, and work on a child study team. Not so in Florida. School psychologists do that. So I was advised to “go back to school and get a psych degree” or return to the classroom. Folks in nursing, construction and other fields have had similar experiences. So check with the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation www.MyFloridaLicense.com for information on your profession and the licensing requirements.

Fruits and vegetables come from a supermarket. In NJ, I loved going to the local farm stands, looking at all the fresh produce, and choosing those luscious, aromatic strawberries, crisp red apples, and ripe, table-ready beefsteak tomatoes. Sometimes I couldn’t wait to get home and would eat a couple in the car. Most Floridians, however, frequent the monopoly supermarkets which offer un-ripened standards – no exotics. It’s apples, bananas, grapes…which look pretty good, but then disappoint with no flavor or aroma. Then, we squeeze them into the refrigerator, so they don’t molder overnight. Thankfully, there are more farmers markets popping up in SW Florida that offer crafts, hand-made soaps and candles, and some fresh produce. Here is a link for Charlotte County: https://www.charlotteharbortravel.com/things-to-do/shopping/farmers-markets/ And here is one for Sarasota County: https://www.heraldtribune.com/news/20171121/farmers-markets-guide-for-sarasota-bradenton-area

When friends come down to look for a house and say they want 55+, I’m thinking, “Uh, no, you really don’t.” You see, in NJ, communities designated as 55+ are known as “active adult communities” which attract empty-nester professionals who want freedom from lawn care and house painting. Living there can be a lot of fun, as people make new friends who are in the same life stage. They take in Broadway shows, have book clubs and card games at the clubhouse, and have dinners out together. Here in Florida, the gated communities have pretty strict rules, and tend to attract adults who are 55+ even if they are not designated as “adult communities.” I hosted an open house the other day, and some naughty homeowner allowed his pre-teen, helmet-less children to ride an ATV up and down the middle of the street for half an hour. The neighbors were none-too-pleased and reported the incident to the board. Communities designated 55+ in Florida are, in my experience, generally populated with folks who are 70 to 75+, and usually no one uses those tennis courts. Occasionally, someone’s grandchild, or great-grandchild will visit, and resident conversation will start with: “Did you see that child in the pool?” My suggestion is to talk to a local realtor about the gated communities, and to visit them and look around. If you’d like to research them, here is a link you might find helpful: https://www.55places.com/florida/city/sarasota?gclid=Cj0KCQiAxNnfBRDwARIsAJlH29BKPK8WirlMXARRWK4YNV5fUYwAhQ6YKzP2E9zv2i0CLS2vLih6CnkaAt8iEALw_wcB

When registering a car in NJ, one goes to the DMV, or MVC, or whatever the latest governor wants to call it – but it’s the car place. Here in Florida you go to the Tax Collector’s office to register your car (and that’s who handles voting too). Florida has an interesting way of defining jobs. Here is a link to Florida Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles: https://www.flhsmv.gov/

You already know it’s not called the shore, it’s the beach. What you probably will love is that there are no badges! Nope. No parking tickets either. If you can park on the street, it’s free. If you park in the lot that is literally right next to the beach (really!), you might pay a quarter per hour, and that’s only at the beaches with the pay-by-space-number machines. It’s really refreshing! And there are many beaches to choose from – including some that are dog-friendly:


We do have alligators here. In fact, I’ve heard it said that if there is standing water, there will be an alligator in it – so no wading in the ponds or walking rock-to-rock in the streams. Generally, the gators don’t bother anyone, and the little ones are really cute. However, they are stealthy predators, and deserve respect. They make a low grunting sound, similar to a bullfrog. We also have many species of frogs here, which, personally, I think are adorable. They like to sit in a piggy back formation over doorways and along gutters. Though when one sticks to my leg as I am walking the dog, it is a little surprising! Check out all the species: http://ufwildlife.ifas.ufl.edu/frogs/central.shtml

Overall, it’s been a great move to Florida – especially when the weather turns just a little cooler and we sleep with the windows open from October ‘til April. If you would like to know more about moving to Florida, e-mail me at Valerie@FindMyLanai.com

Valerie Iola LaBoy is a central-NJ native who now makes her home in Southwest Florida. She is a Realtor® specializing in helping people find the right home in their newly selected state.