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While real estate agents may tell first-time buyers that now is the time to purchase a home, a Florida Gulf Coast University professor says it all depends on the individual’s situation. 

Shelton Weeks, Lucas professor of real estate and director of the Lucas Institute for Real Estate Development and Finance, is asked a lot by students whether they should rent or buy. 

Shelton Weeks

“If they have a stable job and will be here for four to five years or more, then it makes sense to take the next step,” he said. 

Rental prices are not cheap, with Weeks saying many students must take on extra roommates to cover their rent. 

There are some things to take into consideration, Weeks said. 

“At the end of the day, a lot of folks get caught up with what will my monthly payment be,” he said. 

They should consider what happens after they become a property owner and how they’ll handle a broken hot water heater or a leaking roof. 

He said having a reserve amount of cash, or “cushion, is often overlooked by firsttime home buyers.” 

Some have found that their mortgage payment would be lower than rent they are paying. But they also need to consider property taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities and maintenance of the home and property. 

The average price of homeowners’ insurance in Florida is more than $6,000, Weeks said. 

But he added that it’s impossible to ignore “feelings of self of where you live,” and that home ownership provides a positive psychological effect. 

Those wanting to buy a home have a lot to choose from and prices have been easing, although mortgage rates remain higha 30-year FHA fixed rate is nearly 7%. 

Some have been struggling to afford their rent, but Weeks said the good news is that many new apartment units in Southwest Florida are coming onto the market and there have been decreases ranging from 3% to 9.5%. 

In Charlotte County, the Fair Market Rent, or FMR, for a two-bedroom apartment averages $1,380 which is 1.5% higher than Florida’s average price of $1,359, according to 

Charlotte County ranks 31st out of 67 counties, meaning the gross rent is higher than in 36 other counties, making it the 31st most expensive county in terms of rent. 

Taking away the FMR, the median rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,489, according to, but a quick search revealed rents that are higher throughout Charlotte County. 

At the Parkside Punta Gorda apartment complex, studios, one- and two-bedroom units range from $1,500 to $2,655. At Lakes of Tuscana in Port Charlotte one-, two-, and threebedroom units range from $1,746 to $2,325. Springs at West Port studios, one, two and threebedroom apartments rent for $1,458 to $2,359. Lemon Bay Apartments’ one- and two-bedrooms are $1,755 to $2,240, and Fiddlers Green II has two-bedroom apartments renting for $1,900. 

Those who have decided to stop paying rent and build equity in their own home also should consider whether they want to buy a single-family residence or a condo. 

Weeks cautioned that HOA fees might have risen in the wake of needed repairs and/or damage due to storms. The assessments are passed along to the homeowner. 

He recommended that a would-be condo buyer should “research the current status of the HOA.” 

Has an assessment recently been levied? Are some assessments coming? What is the insurance status for the buildingis there litigation pending? Those are some of the questions that should be asked, he said. 

The HOA board is comprised of people who own a unit in the same community and want it to be stable, Weeks said. 

But when it comes to insurance and repairs, the board must make a tough decision. 

John Cadden

John Cadden, managing principal of the Orlando-based Condominium Advisory Group, summed it up this way: “You’re not going to be on that condo board if you keep raising dues,” but herein lies the problem. 

He said a HOA board should have put money in reserve to pay for eventual repairs and maintenance. If there isn’t enough to cover something like a roof, and a storm destroys it, then the homeowner will get hit with a large increase in their HOA fee. 

However, he said the reason why many choose to live in a condo is because they don’t want the maintenance issues associated with a single-family home. 

However, it’s difficult to predict what the HOA fee will be in the future, while a single-family homeowner who is homesteaded in Florida, knows that any property tax increase is capped. 

The unknown is the future cost of property insurance both for condo and single-family home owners.   

In the case of condominium buildings that are three stories or more and are 30 years or older, the state now requires inspections, which could reveal building defects that would have to be repaired. 

A licensed engineer or architect must conduct a milestone structural inspection by Dec. 31, 2025, of the building’s 30th year to evaluate the building’s structural integrity. 

If a structural defect is discovered during the inspection, the condo association must address the issue. 

This law was enacted after the collapse of the Champlain Towers South in Surfside. 

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