Our Disney House Dream

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It’s no secret that our family enjoys visiting Disney World as often as we’re able to make it happen. It’s my personal happy place and our favorite family place for memory making.

Zach and I are both big picture people. Long-term thinkers. We like to make plans for the future, think about the future, and work towards our goals and dreams. Even before we got married we talked through our ideal plan for children, age gaps, home ownership, family vacationing…you name it. We just both enjoy these types of talks and both typically have the same ideas in mind for our futures.

We have both always loved the St Augustine area and decided when we were dating that we’d make St Augustine our beach town and make July 4th our yearly beach trip with our family (yes, when we were dating we decided this and here we are 10 years later still doing it and loving it). Since we love St Augustine so much we have always talked about someday having a beach home there.

As we started spending more and more time at Disney though we started talking about how it may be wise for us to own a home near the Disney area. While we both still hope to someday have a beach house we’d rather that be more of a retirement plan and to be a home where we don’t rent it out and can just enjoy it and have it as a place for our children to enjoy with their children. People don’t visit the beach year round and St Augustine isn’t what I’d call a top rental property destination. The more we talked about it over the years, the more it made sense for us to make a Disney home a top priority.

Every time we’d travel to Disney we’d rent at different locations to get a feel for the area. Over the years we’ve had a realtor show us properties in a condo community, we’ve even discussed purchasing a mobile home in a mobile home community. We’ve spent time and energy researching, exploring options, and touring different areas around the Disney World parks.

We didn’t have a set game plan in mind on when it would happen but it was something we ran numbers on and did our homework on and were willing to be patient until the timing was right and the right property presented itself.

Then in 2014 Zach was rear ended at a red light. His car was totaled and he ended up having long term side effects from the accident. He had to have a second back surgery and has been unable to run since the wreck due to his left foot having “drop foot” after the wreck caused nerve damage. It’s been a LONG process and battle with the driver’s insurance company. Notice I said the wreck was in 2014. We didn’t get the settlement until January 2018. C-Razy.

When the wreck happened, we paid all of his medical bills knowing we’d be repaid eventually from the settlement. But the more we talked about it we thought maybe we’d use the settlement money to put down on a rental home rather than pay ourselves back for all the medical bills. By the time the check came in, we’d have already “paid ourselves back” anyway so really it’d be like we had used that money to set aside and save for a home purchase.

Then in Jan 2017 Zach was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. (You can read all of the posts related to MS here) Our worlds were rocked. Our long term plans and visions for ourselves and our family got shaken up. While we are very confident in his team of doctors and his treatment plan, when you’re faced with a life-long potentially disabling disease you can’t only think long term you have to change your thinking a bit to consider short term needs too.

I’m so thankful that we’re insurance people. Because before he was diagnosed we already had awesome life insurance for him as well as awesome long term disability insurance. But the reality is with MS you’re not likely to die (thank God!) and really it’s unlikely to become fully disabled (at least not all-of-a-sudden, it can be a slow progression to that point which kills me to even think about). It’s more likely that Zach could (hopefully not, but we have to think about the hard stuff here) become partially disabled. I’ve read of cases where patients with MS woke up unable to speak. You can’t sell insurance to people if you can’t talk to them!

While we have a lot of peace of mind with our insurance policies in place, we would be in a bad financial spot if Zach were to become partially disabled. And this is a source of worry and concern for us both. He’s the breadwinner to a family of 6. Not only would him being disabled be SO HARD for him but he’s also a very “alpha male” personality and the inability to provide for our family? It’d crush him. Seeing me have to work outside the home and having to put our young children in childcare? That would be pouring salt into an already huge wound he’d be dealing with.

With the news of his diagnosis the whole causal talk about purchasing a rental property became more of a forefront in our minds. Having multiple income revenue streams is smart for anyone, but especially someone who is self-employed and facing a life long disease. Having rental property income could truly provide for our family in the event that it was necessary. Even if it meant stopping saving for retirement for awhile or gutting the savings we did have for retirement it made sense to do it in order to secure that short-term peace of mind and knowing that if we don’t ever need the rental income to live off of that it could also become a retirement plan!

Y’all know me and my Dave Ramsey loving self and I know this may not be what Dave would recommend but I also believe in evaluating what is best for your family and your situation and this is what we decided was the best possible avenue for our family in the long-term but especially in the next 20 years while we still have children under our roof to provide for.

At first we explored options of purchasing rental property in our home town. We know several people who flip houses and rent homes and make great profit! But the more we looked into it, it just didn’t make sense for us. A big concern for me was adding stress onto Zach’s plate. I didn’t like the idea of HIM having to manage all these properties and having to be so hands on with them and in the every day process (having to collect rent, evict people who don’t pay, make repairs, etc).

So a Disney home started to make even more sense to us. There are advantages to owning a home in Florida, especially when it comes to Disney (hello Florida resident discounts!). Over the years I’ve become so knowledgeable about Disney and the area that I know which neighborhoods rent well, are close to the parks, are safe, and hold value. We also visit Disney often and added up all the money we spend on rentals when we visit and how, assuming the property started paying for itself, that would be a savings for us since we’d “stay for free.”

When I was in Florida for ICPC with Spear Zach and the kids came down and we set up an appointment with a real estate agent. Again, we’ve learned over the years. Zach did his homework and this time we had a GREAT agent to work with (Britt from Wemer Group Reality was AWESOME). I knew we only wanted to see homes in Emerald Island or Windsor Hills as those are two of THE top places I see mentioned in Disney groups as recommendations for places to stay off-property.

We chose to see 5 properties. We knew going in that our minimum was 4 bedrooms because that’s what is comfortable for our family right now at this phase in life. But my ideal was to have 6-7 bedrooms. We travel a good bit with all of Zach’s family and with the grandparents, kids and grandkids we need a minimum of 6 bedrooms to make everyone fit. I wanted to think long-term and big-picture and if we were going to make this investment I wanted it to be in a community where we’d always feel safe, that would STAY nice and hold value, and where we’d be able to bring our grandchildren someday.

We were BEYOND impressed with Emerald Island as a community. The homes were built in the early 2000’s which I like because it’s well established and still very well maintained. They have a gate and security guard (and he was hardcore which I like too). They have community amenities like a pool, tiki bar, volleyball court, basketball court, tennis court and several outdoor playground areas. There are sidewalks and beautiful trees. But yet the HOA fee isn’t CRAZY high (the condos we had looked at several years ago are already super junky and their HOA costs are insane).

It was pretty clear which home would be the best fit for us. We went back and forth a bit with the sellers but stood by our highest offer because we’ve been patient this long and didn’t mind waiting longer if that’s what it took to get the price point that we felt comfortable we’d be able to rent to cover the monthly costs involved.

The seller finally agreed and we were under contract by Christmas!

It was all kinda a whirlwind and I’m so thankful to Zach for completely handling all the details of everything. I had a brand new baby and was running on no sleep and had enough on my plate without adding in buying a house haha!

Closing was set for the end of January and we both had to be there to sign so it was my first time away from Spear since he was born. I’m so thankful to Mrs Charlotte for being willing to spend the night at our house with ALL the kids so we were able to make this happen!

I enjoyed the time away with Zach AND the full night sleep πŸ˜‰ While it was all a LOT to go through and think about (home buying is never an easy, or smooth-sailing process right?!?!). It was amazing the peace we both felt about it. We weren’t really freaking or stressing.

A big thing we’ve been focusing on the last couple of years is Stepping Out in Faith in ALL areas and just TRUSTING God to guide us. It’s incredible when you just chill and follow His lead how much more content you feel and how He provides and reminds you that He’s got this! While this is a big decision and something we’re naturally nervous about, we also feel that content feeling and know that it’s truly the best path for our family.

Kicked off our time away with some Panda Express! YUM!

We met the realtor at the property to do a final walk through and y’all it was HILARIOUS. I hadn’t seen the house since we originally looked at it and I literally couldn’t even remember which house it was that we’d bought. We drove into the neighborhood and were passing houses and guessing which color ours was hahaha totally newborn life moment right there! 

I LOVE the spot ours is located because it’s a corner lot and has such a nice yard space AND is super close to a playground! I’m thinking about leaving the kids bikes there b/c I feel like we’d use them more on trips down than we do at home haha

Whoop whoop! 

It’s official!!!

Literally as soon as we signed the contract on the house we headed to Disney World. Hahaha!!! One of the biggest reasons we’ve been able to afford Disney over the years (you can read all the ways we make it affordable for our family here!) has been the 10-Day No Expiration Passes I bought. Disney stopped selling them a few years ago so I used money I had saved “just in case” Kye went to private school to buy us all several 10 day passes for the parks. I think total I ended up paying like $40 per day or something which is CRAZY cheap and they NEVER expire! 

While Tess still has like 8 days left on her pass, Britt is almost completely out of days and I think she had like 1 day left. Which meant we were going to have to start paying full price for park tickets for at least some of our family members whenever we visited the parks. Typically we do just like a one day park type thing and those are not cheap. By a long shot. 

So leading up to the closing I did the math on our cost for Florida Resident annual passes for our family and made a phone call to Disney to work it all out. I was already a pass holder so I’d be able to renew my personal pass for the Florida Passholder price plus still take advantage of the 15% off offer when I renewed. I was also able to “cash in” our unused tickets towards the cost of our passes. And the left over no-expiration days we had left? They are good FOR LIFE. So someday when the kids don’t get to mooch of mom and dad and we stop buying them annual passes…they can have those days to be able to visit the parks for free at that time. πŸ˜‰

And, of course, I paid for them all with Disney gift cards to save even more!

Our mortgage contract was all the proof they needed to get us the passes and at the end of it all I ended up paying out of pocket only $390 per person per annual pass. How crazy awesome is that?!?! No black out dates either so literally for less than the cost to spend 4 days at the parks I got passes!!! 

Yes, the house is the bigger deal here but y’all having annual passes for our whole family?!?! I was GIDDY with excitement. Plus getting them for so cheap?!?! 

SO PUMPED.

When you buy a house and Disney passes? You celebrate with the cheapest meal you can buy hahaha

We got some pretty sweet swag from our lender…

and realtor! (although it was a tad awkward accepting champagne when we don’t drink)

I think we were the most excited about these treats though πŸ˜‰

Aside from the excitement for the house and Disney…this new mom was beyond excited for the SLEEP that night!!!

The next morning we had to get stuff DONE! We were so thankful to find a home to purchase that came fully furnished and was truly okay to rent “as is” for now if we wanted. However, we rent from places all the time and know what we look for in a rental property and wanted to really do our best to make it a place we’re proud to call ours. We walked through each room and took notes of every little detail we wanted to change or that needed updating.

Our realtor also recommended a property manager whom she’s personally worked with and who has been in the business for 25 years. He came by and we are in SUCH great hands! He and his wife are a team and I love that! 

It’s so important to us to have a property manager to handle the property. Not only to ease our stresses of getting it rented (they handle the website and have their own connections for potential renters) but also for the upkeep side of things. We want there to be someone local on hand that guests can call if they need something during their stay and like that they do a check of the property each time a guest checks out to keep everything staying nice! 

We’ve been working closing with them these last few months and they are ON THE BALL. I joke that Michele is like Zach’s mom on steroids b/c she is very detailed orientated and literally thinks of every possible thing! 

Working with them will really be the perfect scenario for us. It allows us to not have to be fully hands on like we’d have to be with a local property. Zach is handy and can do many of the needed projects on his own, but it’s a HUGE asset to have someone there local to handle the little things that are bound to pop up here and there! 

On top of that, something that was very important to me was to find a property manager who worked with us. Many times rental communities force you to use their management. I’m thankful Emerald Island is not like that! But even then, many property managers require you to allow them to do all bookings. We didn’t want that either. 

I truly mean it when I say I LOVE Disney and it’s very important to me to be able to offer this rental home at the lowest possible rate for our friends, family, and blog readers. We need to be able to cover the bills, but as long as Zach’s in good health are only real goal is to break even (although a second goal is to cover our annual passes at Disney ha!) so it’s important to me to be able to give the lowest possible rate that we can in order to help other families enjoy Disney as much as we do! 

You can check out how to rent our home here!!!

The house is located just 3 miles from the parks but also so close to a TON of other great stuff. Awesome restaurants, great shopping. I seriously love the location and know it’ll be SO great for our family to be so close to so many options while visiting. If you visit Disney often then you know 192 is a nightmare and the location of Emerald Island is in “Four Corners” which is this area behind 192 and allows you to access all the great spots on 192 but avoiding all the awful traffic and crazy tourist drivers πŸ˜‰ 

Chuy’s for lunch before heading home!

Even though the house was fully furnished I didn’t quite realize how much we’d still be needing to purchase. I LOVE that Michele is so hardcore about the little details and I’m sure the guests who rent the property will appreciate each one of them but we aren’t picky AT ALL when we rent places so it was kinda hard for me to swallow buying all new bedding and towels and shower heads and toilet seats and a bazillion other items haha

I did get the second best deal of my life though (the first being the deal I scored on the Disney passes for us for this year duh). I had a Target coupon for 15% off my home purchase. Plus everything I needed was on Cartwheel for 20% off AND I got my additional 5%. I was on the biggest deal high ever!

Something important to Zach is the TVs in the rental house being up to date. Each room has both a tv and a dvd player and he wanted to make sure both the living room and main master bedroom had THE newest and best. Again, I lucked out and scored this TV for only $125!!! DEALZ!

The kids went to see the houses with us the day we went and looked but they didn’t remember any of the ones we saw and were SO pumped when they got to visit for the first time in early Feb! We had already planned a Disney trip for that weekend and it was the perfect chance to use the home and get some work started!!! (Post to come on that trip)

The timing again was so great because the kids had 3 days off school for President’s Day weekend. We were able to take that whole time and just WORK on the house. Omg Zach, his mom, his aunt and his grandma KILLED IT. My job was to mostly keep the three older kids busy and occupied but I did manage an IKEA run on my OWN with the kids to get some house stuff we needed!!!

The weekend was really great for getting SO much accomplished around the house, but the best memory Zach has is that he got so much quality time with his grandma πŸ™‚ 

Posts to come covering our busy “house work weekend” but I did go ahead and put together a blog post featuring ALL the before and after photos of the home (here)!!! We are SO excited at how it’s coming together!!!

While this is a big step for our family, it’s one we have thought on, researched, and prayed over for many years. I’m excited to be able to enjoy this home and create memories there together but also to see other families able to spend their Disney vacations (or other reasons people may travel to Orlando…but I mean Disney is THE reason right? ha!) enjoying it as well! 

If you’d like more info on our rental property and to see how you can rent it visit this page

To see all the before and after photos you can go here

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journeyofphood

Hey Guys, I’m Emily! I’m a stay at home mom and consider parenting to be my passion. Disney is my happy place and I love making memories as a family together. I’m a big believer in transparency and share all of my real-life moments as a mother of four.

My work has been featured on Today Parenting and Chronicles of a Babywise Mom. I’m also honored to be a member of the Babywise Friendly Blog Network.

You can read more about our family on my About Me page. Also be sure to follow along with me on Instagram, FacebookΒ and Pinterest!

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