Even though property prices have skyrocketed in Hernando Beach, they are still some of the most affordable.
HERNANDO BEACH - Standing on the screened porch just off her third-floor bedroom, Carrie Palcisko can see everything she loves about living in Hernando Beach.
From her perch, she can see the Gulf of Mexico, maybe a mile away, and a little tree-covered barrier island offshore. Call her a romantic, but she simply loves the smell of the sea.
She can look two stories below to the pool in her back yard and beyond that to the 26-foot deck boat parked in the freshwater canal behind her house. Tied up nearby, like a chick next to its mother, is a little paddle boat that Carrie and her grandkids use for small adventures.
She can look across the rows of neighboring canals and see the Weekiwachee Preserve. The site of the woodlands suits her affinity for trees just fine.
And in just about any direction she cares to turn, Palcisko can look around and see a house - or a piece of property soon to hold a house - that belongs to a friend from her past. They are the people who have heard her rave about Hernando Beach and have chosen to come live out their waterfront dreams with her.
The landscape is a great draw. But the prices - which have shot through the roof in the past five years - are still the hook. Her friends have abandoned even more expensive markets in Ohio, Colorado, Illinois and South Florida for the "bargains" in Hernando Beach.
Palcisko and her husband, Ed, both in their 60s, were living happily in Naples. But they wanted to be near the water to satisfy Carrie's longing for the sea. In Naples, where waterfront homes can cost tens of millions of dollars, the dream was out of reach.
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|Use the interactive maps located on the pages linked below show the rates at which prices have risen in neighborhoods throughout the 5-county Tampa Bay area:
The cost of living here
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|Real houses, real prices
So, what does a median price house look like? It depends on the neighborhood. To view representative homes from south Pinellas County, see our photo gallery.
To research detailed information about individual properties, click below to each county's website.
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"We could never afford to live on the water in Naples," she said.
So, in the spring of 2001, they decided to look farther up Florida's west coast.
Starting from a friend's house in Hudson, they jumped in their car and began their search. Within minutes, they found their way to Hernando Beach - land of real estate opportunity.
It didn't take long for the Palciskos to fall in love with a lot in Hernando Beach South, on Bluefish Drive, that they gobbled up for $26,000 - an amount they considered jaw-droppingly low given what they had seen in Naples.
Carrie wanted to buy two more lots in the neighborhood just as an investment. But Ed was hesitant. The real estate agent who sold them their lot said the market was stagnant and property values were not likely to grow.
That carried the day with Ed, and the advice has proven costly.
A lot the same size as their own sold across the street recently for $129,000. Ed says you can't find a patch of dirt anywhere in the neighborhood for under $80,000. One lot with an unobstructed view of the gulf has a $249,000 price on it, he said.
The Palciskos are thrilled with their house and their lot. But they are kicking themselves now for not going with Carrie's instincts three years ago.
As other people reap the dividends, Carrie wields the satisfaction of having been right, reminding Ed each and every day.
"Twice a day," Ed clarifies.
Though the Palciskos closed on their property in September 2001, they were able to move in only last March. It seems the building boom simply overwhelmed their contractor, creating a backlog of work. It was worth the wait, the Palciskos say.
After selling their home in Naples, they were able to pay in full for their new $230,000 home in Hernando Beach.
Their new address has none of the traffic problems that Naples had, yet it is close enough to Tampa to be in easy reach of the airport or a good concert.
While it takes 30 minutes of navigating the canals and shallow channels to reach open water in the gulf, the Palciskos say they don't mind the ride.
Ed, who is a fisherman, said he had to take his boat 35 or 40 miles offshore to find good fishing in Naples. In Hernando Beach, he can catch the same fish less than 10 miles offshore, which more than makes up for the ride through the canals.
"I can go out 8 miles and catch good snappers and groupers and trout and have a great time," he said.
Carrie, who grew up landlocked in the Midwest, can now look out any window in her house and see water - be it one of the canals or the gulf in the distance. From her porches or the boat dock, she can watch families of ducks swim by and gangs of mullet leap from the water. It is the waterfront life she has always longed for.
And, as valuable as her property has become, she has no plans to cash in and leave.
"We're going to stay. This is our home," she said. "We're lucky to able to afford this."
- Robert King can be reached at 352 848-1432. Send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org