Those who have been around the block when it comes to investing in property overseas will know that buying vacation homes is often as much about owning something nice, or something you like, as it is about making a sound investment. We all remember many of the up-and-coming resort areas (with no land registries) in the last decade that buyers flocked to and which then got flattened during the crisis. One can only hope that those who bought numerous homes in some of these places for GBP30,000 actually love them.
Orlando is different according to Irish developer Garrett Kenny. Safely ensconced in the centre of Florida, Orlando has never lost its crown as the theme park capital of the world. “We were affected by the crisis just as everyone else was. We had to restructure and re-focus our energies, but Orlando was still the world’s most famous vacation destination. It still had demand, and still was a place more and more people wanted to come to.”
Garrett Kenny, the CEO of Feltrim Group, has been building and investing in Orlando since the mid-nineties. “What makes Orlando interesting for buyers is that it’s established with strict rules, and a good, strong domestic demand, it has strict rules that protect the buyer and it’s also growing very quickly, both in tourism and in new industries.” He points to Orlando’s latest visitor figures which show that Orlando is now attracting almost 70 million visitors annually. “That’s more than anywhere else, but it’s still quite reasonably priced for property buyers”.
Kenny’s latest project Balmoral seems well-placed to take advantage of this growth in visitor figures. Balmoral at Water’s Edge. Balmoral is a new vacation home resort of 245 homes, each home with a private pool and access to on-site amenities like a water park, mini-golf course, restaurant, games arcade and natural lakes. The first phase was completed in April 2017 and is now receiving guests from international tour operators, the nearby LEGOLAND park and from the firm’s own direct marketing initiatives.
Feltrim has not only built the resort but also manages the resort and all the homes. “We include the furniture and private pool for the buyers and then rent the property back from them under a leaseback program at 6% NET of the property price. It is a real turnkey investment for the buyer; they have no empty nights, no property management costs, no rental commission.” The fact that one company does everything gives Balmoral an advantage according to Kenny. “More and more people are choosing vacation homes for their vacation as they can bring the whole family and prepare their own food etc., and tour operators are a great source of guests for us. What they want is to get the same high standard in every home they send a guest to, that they don’t have different standards within a single resort, which is what can happen in vacation homes. They also prefer a single management company on site with a reception to handle questions or to help their guests.”
The other part of the Orlando story in recent years has been its development of newer industries. Through a combination of tax and education policy along with the cosmopolitan make-up of its population, the area is fast becoming a tech and R&D hub. “It reminds me a little of what Dublin did,” Kenny says. “They brought corporate taxes down and got everyone studying computer science, and brought in language skills from other EU states. So, we had all the big tech names and call centres moving in. The same is happening in Orlando. UCF is now the largest university in the US, and the area has become a hub for virtual reality, simulation, R&D, call centres and sports with facilities like the new National Tennis Campus.”
The vision for Balmoral doesn’t stop at hospitality. Feltrim is projecting to build a 10-acre soccer academy with a private school in 2018. The soccer academy is associated with the 90’s Brazilian star Ronaldo. “The academy will bring in even more visitors to the resort for events, camps and courses.”.
Phase II of Balmoral is currently on sale. Prices start at $350,000 and include a private pool and furnishing.