We Came, We Saw, We Conquered...


As you may already know, Fran and I decided to relocate to Florida after a six year stint in Costa Rica.  This article will not go into the reasons why we are returning for they are well documented in previous newsletters.  This article will focus on doing our Due Diligence in preparation for our upcoming move.

If the business world taught me anything, it taught me "Nothing beats a good plan containing clear, achievable and measurable objectives."  And that is what our Florida Due Diligence trip was all about.

On July 29, we will continue our adventure by returning to our native roots, South Florida.  To minimize frustration, anxiety and the chance of failure, when we land we want to hit the ground running and that takes planning.  We have identified several milestones that must be in place in order to minimize the possibility of failure.  Those most impactful on us include Housing, Transportation, Health and Auto Insurance and of course the mandatory Drivers License.

TASK #1: Gimme Shelter...

Number one on our list of objectives is housing.  For not does it provide shelter and safety, we need a street address in order to get a drivers licenses and health insurance. 

Again, as we so often preach, rent before buying.  For about two months prior to this trip we have been communicating (or at least trying to) communicate with various realtors from the Venice Florida area.   We were looking to find just one realtor who would be willing to work with us to find an acceptable long term rental.   I hate to say it but we wasted a lot of time trying to accomplish this remotely from Costa  Rica.  Most of the people we contacted never returned our calls and when one did, all they wanted to do was SELL us a house.  As it turned out, those efforts were a complete waste of time. 

Once we got to Venice, we decided to visit the local Chamber of Commerce.  There, we got a list of all the local Realtors and Property Managers.  The next morning we started dialing.  After about an hour into our calling marathon, we were starting to feel that maybe we really screwed up.  Even though this is "off season", nothing in our price range seemed available.  Most places that were available were either way too expensive or looked liken crap.  Add to our search criteria TWO LABRADOR RETRIEVERS and our task became even more daunting.

But all was not lost.  We got a call back from Janet Thomas at Venice Home Realty and she asked me whether or not we would consider a short term (seasonal) rental as opposed to a long term.  The only other alternative was to begin our new Florida life living in a shit hole.  We said YES!


After looking at a few places, we opted on house #2, a nice, well appointed 2 bed 2 bath, fully furnished.  The best part being, our month-to-month lease included everything from cable TV, ultra fast internet and all utilities, even electric.  The bad news is we need to vacate by December 31st.

December marks the beginning of the tourist season in Florida.  That means the availability of rental homes drops to ZERO and below.  Once we move in on July 29, we will begin immediately looking for that long term, pet friendly rental which provides us with more space and is close to the  beach.  We have come to the realization that we may NOT wind up staying in the Venice area but that's OK for we have come to learn (and appreciate) that life is a series of compromises.

TASK #2: Round Round Get Around I Get Around...

Now that we had an address, transportation was next on the agenda.  We knew what type of car we wanted and  knew what we were willing to pay... well sorta.  We were targeting medium size SUVs, something like a Toyota Rav4 or Honda CRV. 

Living in Costa Rica for the last six years did not prepare us for the sticker shock we were about to experience and when I say sticker shock, I mean that in a very positive way.  Cars, both new and used are HALF the price we pay in Costa Rica plus you have a fairly high level of confidence you are buying something of quality.

Our first stop was at a local Mazda dealer in Venice where I wanted to check out the new CX-5.  I was immediately put off by our undersized, Napoleonic looking salesman.  I quickly realized that I knew more of this vehicle than this diminutive twerp.  And to add insult to injury, he would not let me test drive the car because all I had was my Costa Rican drivers license.  I then then told him he was a flaming idiot and just lost any chance of making me a Mazda customer.

The remainder I test drove everything from Toyota, Honda, Kia, Nissan, Buick, Chevy (and just for shits and giggles) a Porsche Cayenne.  In the end we cut a deal with Kia on a previously owned, "certified" 2011 Kia Sorento.  The car was in perfect condition.  Although it had 47,000 miles on the odometer, we got an additional three-year bumper-to-bumper warranty just in case.  The dealership worked with us every step of the way and even provided a free  ride to the Orlando Airport, 140 miles away.  By taking possession of the car immediately, we were able to return our rental car, thereby saving another $400! 

For being such nice people, we gave both the Kia salesman and the sales manager a bag of fresh Costa Rican coffee for being so helpful.

Task #3: Licensed  to Drive...

This task was an effortless, no-brainer thanks to our earlier research.  We were advised not to just show up the the DMV to get a license; get an appointment first!  We did and it was clear sailing.

Our appointment was for 8:45am and we were called at exactly that time.  All I needed to show was my passport, Costa Rican License, original Social Security card and some kind of document containing my address.  That's why the housing issue was so important, I just used a copy of my lease.  As for the Social Security card, I had to do a bit of hunting prior to leaving on this trip.  Without breaking a sweat, Fran found the document that was issued to me 58 years ago .  But if you can't find your original SS card, don't fret.  Any original document containing the SS number would be fine (i.e. tax return, SS Statement etc.).  I was then told put on my glasses, read line 5 of the eye chart and smile. 

At exactly 9:00 am, just 15 minutes after my  name was called I was handed my new Florida driver's license.

Task #4: Health Insurance: What we learned about the A.C.A.

I don't care what your politics are.  The long and short of it is we left the US in 2009 because of the high cost of healthcare and we are returning in 2014 because it is now affordable.  I have written a comprehensive analysis on this topic and you can read it right here.

Task #5: Seeing Is Everything...

The condition and quality of the eyeglasses and sunglasses I bought in Costa Rican was lousy (at best).  Not only that, both sets of glasses were scratched beyond belief.  And even though both sets were made at the same time, by the same lab, the prescriptions were different.

So I decided while in Florida I would see a "real" eye doctor, get a "real" eye exam and purchase some "real" eyeglasses.  I did, but I did not realize that I would also be receiving a "financial colonoscopy!"

The exam was awesome and thorough and only cost $89.  But the two new sets of frames and lens were another story.  They set me back a cool $1000 but these glasses were high quality, progressive Varilux Physio lenses.  I might have gone elsewhere, some suggested going to the eye center at Costco.  Yes they would be much cheaper, but all I could get would be standard, "fuggly" looking bifocals for about $300.  I learned a long time ago,  don't mess with eyesight. 

I returned to Lenscrafters seven days later (as promised) for my final fitting and it was like I stepped into Wonderland.  No more scratches and everything was sharply in focus.  I was once again a happy camper.

In Summary...

Our Due Diligence trip to Florida was a huge success.  I owe that all to good planning and near perfect execution.  Everything we needed to accomplish (and more) came off without a hitch. 

There were no snags or surprises.  We even managed to get in a night of raucous dancing to some really good old classic rock and roll from the band Bandana.

The move (so far) is on schedule.  About 80% of the house is packed.  We'll finish the balance in plenty of time before our shipper, Charlie Zeller, comes with his truck on July 15. 

The big day comes on July 29 when the Ocean Express picks up the dogs at 10am and drives them to San Jose for  their direct flight to Miami.  We head out later that day from Liberia airport where we meet the dogs the next morning and drive to Venice.

Between now and then we have some vet prep that needs to be done and we are scavenging for a few more boxes and bubble wrap.  Believe it or not, trying to buy packing supplies is very difficult in the land of Pura Vida.


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