Okaloosa County - Where to live full-time

Discussion in 'All About SoWal' started by patticakes, Aug 20, 2005.

  1. patticakes

    patticakes Beach Lover

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    Looking for some recommendations from locals. We want to relocate to the panhandle next year. As much as we would like to make SOWAL our permanent home, it doesn't seem an 'ideal' fit for us. After researching public schools and housing prices, it looks like Okaloosa Co. might make sense. Are locals as friendly there as SOWAL? What areas should we look at? Can't afford to be on the beach, but bay or inland a bit is good too.

    Driving 30 minutes to the beach is much better than commuting from Kansas.

    We do have a realtor that we love and will use when we're ready to look seriously. But would like to do some preliminary looking about on our own when we come down in September. Thanks in advance for any positive or negatives you can offer!
     
  2. beachmouse

    beachmouse Beach Fanatic

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    The locals are still friendly in Okaloosa, don't worry. Areas I'd be looking-

    Mary Esther east of Hurlburt- construction is generally 25 years old or less, and a lot of houses are a comfortable size. Close to many shopping opportunities and as easy drive to the beaches on both Okaloosa Island and Navarre Beach. I wouldn't go west of Hurlburt because traffic on US 98 can be such a nightmare from that point on and 98 is the only way to get anywhere between there and Pensacola.

    Kenwood/Longwood/Poquito Bayou- northern part of Ft. Walton Beach. Generally nice established neighborhoods with bigger yards and mature landscaping

    Shalimar- similar to Kenwood, but the strike I have against it is low elevations, and you're more likely to have minor flooding problems in some areas. Nice mix of different homes from smaller ranches and townhomes to bigger homes on the bay and golf course.

    Valparaiso- has more of a history than some other areas. Real mix of homes ranging from big & nice bayfront properties to stuff that doesn't look like much. Right underneath the langing pattern for Eglin's north-south runway, so if you're looking in the area, make sure the home's soundproofing is good.

    Niceville- pretty typical 50-90s suburban development that's pretty much a bedroom community for both officers and enlisted from Eglin. Smaller homes to the west and inland, and the bigger homes are on the bay or around Rocky Bayou CC.

    Bluewater Bay- just east of Niceville and the north end of the Mid Bay Bridge. One of the big master-planned communities in the area, with a reputation for being family and pedestrian-friendly. Recreation options (pool, tennis, golf, marina) are all ala carte, so you only pay for what you're going to use. Older neighborhoods tend to have bigger lots and better trees, while newer construction tends to have more Florida modern styling. Less than 10 minutes to Destin beaches and Destin Commons mall. Good schools, and motivated parents.

    We live in Bluewater, and it's about a 15 minute commute to work, 10 minutes to the nearest Gulf beach, and about a half hour to Grayton Beach.
     
  3. patticakes

    patticakes Beach Lover

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    Thanks, beachmouse! Very helpful information. Sounds like Bluewater might be a good fit. Schools are priority for us might be able to find larger lots there - we have an acre now with dogs, kids, etc... we need some space. Is Bluewater several communities? Any thoughts on Crestview? Any areas in Okaloosa where you can still buy reasonable acreage - nothing huge, but 1-5a would be nice - room for Morton bldg for storage and tinkering. Are there any communities in Destin off the beach that are not 'golf' communities? Nothing against that sort of thing, but we're pretty laid back, liberal hippie-types. Any areas closer to SOWAL but still in Okaloosa that we should check for reasonable land/estate sized lots? Any thoughts on Navarre area - Santa Rosa Co area? Looks like Navarre schools get good marks.
     
  4. Camp Creek Kid

    Camp Creek Kid Christini Zambini

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    You can always check out Freeport which is just across the 331 Bridge from SoWal. Lots of acreage there and a lot closer to SoWal than Crestview or Santa Rosa County.
     
  5. Smiling JOe

    Smiling JOe SoWal Expert

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    Freeport is closer, but note that it is in Walton County.
     
  6. beachmouse

    beachmouse Beach Fanatic

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    And there are no bargains right now in Freeport because all of the speculators in the area. Right now in either Walton or Okaloosa you've pretty much got to go north of I-10 in order to get affordable acreage. And whether you want to do that really depends on your tolerance for Good Old Boys and their politics since it's definitely a Good Old Boy area.

    Crestview- (and Baker and Laurell Hill) everyone I know that lives up there bought there because they got 3,000 square feet and a 3/4 acre lot for $159,900 in 1999, not because there's just so much going on in Crestview. If your family is relatively self-contained, it's nice to have a bigger home than you would in the south part of the county, but you need to be okay with the idea that any external fun is going to be 45 minutes one way to Ft. Walton Beach/Destin or Pensacola. (which is actually almost quicker because it's all I-10, and Ft. Walton/Destin involves doing the 'Crestview 500' on SR 85) However, if you do want horses or other livestock on your own land, this is where you're still going to be able to find five acres for a pretty reasonable price, especially if you're willing to buy up by the state line.

    South of Eglin, you can find some decent lot sizes in neighborhoods that were built between the 60s and mid-late 80s. A friend has a 70s era ranch in Niceville with a half acre lot, and that's enough space for both backyard area, and his pretty sizeable street rod workshop.

    Okaloosa is largely military. Conservative, but they're usually more policy-oriented than political. I'm pretty liberal, and any time politics come up, we usually just end up agreeing to politely disagree.

    There are some neighborhoods in the older part of Destin north of 98, and west of about the Back Porch that might fit your needs, but anything involving a bigger lot there is probably going to have a SoWal-like land value involved. And I'm just not big on the idea of buying a permanent primary home on a barrier island area. (why I also wouldn't buy on Okaloosa Island or in Ft. Walton/Mary Esther/Navarre south of US 98. You're going to get a full force hit from the next Big One)

    Navarre- only if your commute does not involve normal rush hour hours. Traffic on 98 has more than doubled in the past 10 years while road capacity has remained the same. And it will probably continue to get worse for the next ten years until they figure out some sort of fix. The area is also a) less than 10 feet above sea level in many places and b) has many filled in wetlands. Check out the hurricane surge maps and also ask if the neighborhood flooded during the spring storms of 2005. You need to be a bit picky to make sure the neighborhood doesn't have water/drainage issues. There are plenty of nice areas there which have never had water problems, and it's great to be so close to Navarre Beach and Pensacola Beach, but best to do your homework and make sure the area you've fell in love with is one of them.

    Bluewater- Bluewater proper makes up about 3/4 of the area between the Rocky Bayou and Mid-Bay Bridges, but there are also a number of smaller communities. You'd find bigger non-Bluewater lots in Raintree Estates, Brookhaven Way, and Springacres Cove off of White Point Road, some parts of Lancaster Rd. by the medical center, and the old Seminole community area. Villa Tasso has some good-sized parcels, but just across the Walton County line, and the kids could have a pretty long trip into Freeport for school because Okaloosa tends to be hit or miss about allowing waivers into Twin Cities schools because of overcrowding at the elementary and middle school levels.
     
  7. patticakes

    patticakes Beach Lover

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    Ok! We'll see what we can find. Hope it works out - would be nice to leave the Kansas winters behind for good. Thanks for your advice!
     

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