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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Beyond the Theme Parks: The Best Off-the-Beaten-Path Orlando Attractions

No doubt about it: Walt Disney World puts Orlando on the tourism map. Additional major theme parks, like Universal Studios Florida, SeaWorld Orlando and LEGOLAND, Florida have only added to the region's lure as a family vacation destination. But there's more to see in Central Florida, both in Orlando and its surrounding towns. These smaller attractions and off-the-beaten path sites offer quality entertainment and enrichment, and work within any travel budget.
Gatorland, Orlando
What began as a small tourist attraction in 1949 has evolved into the "Alligator Capital of the World." Gatorland offers a look at Florida tourism when gators were considered exotic enough to be the main attraction. However, it has progressed into a 110-acre theme park and wildlife preserve, showcasing thousands of alligators, crocodiles, an aviary, petting zoo and breeding marsh with an observation tower.

More Orlando Attractions

Besides observing the gators of all ages and sizes in their pens, kids enjoy the train ride and the Gator Gully Splash Park. The Gator Wrestlin' Show and the Gator Jumparoo demonstration draw the biggest crowds. You can even sample gator, in the form of fried nuggets, at Pearl's Restaurant.

Gatorland's newest attractions include the White Gator Swamp, home to the world's largest collection of giant white Leucistic alligators, known for their ivory skin and reflective blue eyes. There are only 15 of this rare species known to be alive, and four of them reside here. Also, the new Screamin' Gator Zip Line features over 1,200 feet of zip lines and a 50-foot suspension bridge.
Orlando Science Center, Orlando
The Orlando Science Center introduces kids to physical and natural sciences in the most effective ways possible, with plenty of opportunities to experiment and interact with the exhibits. For preschoolers, the main attraction is KidsTown, where they can build dams at the water table, pick pretend oranges at the juice processing plant, create designs with working gears or participate in an impromptu drum lesson.

A life-size Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton greets you near the entrance of the "DinoDigs" exhibit gallery. Guides in lab coats give walking presentations about this and several reproduction skeletons of dinosaurs and prehistoric sea creatures. There are two fossil dig areas, which include a waist-high table and a "pit" on the floor, where kids can brush away "dirt" to reveal dino bones.

For the grade school-aged set, the Science Park gallery exhibits focus on principles such as magnetism, electricity, lasers, sound waves and more. They can construct pinewood derby cars and send them down the 70-ft. track, play a harp with laser "strings," or create echoes with tubs of PVC pipe. The Digistar planetarium, inside the 310-seat CineDome, features a giant, 8,000-sq. ft. screen. You can watch a traditional planetarium show, laser light shows and movies in this supersized theater.
Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Sanford
With over 400 animals, the Central Florida Zoo and Botanical Gardens offers a full day of entertainment. In addition to the menagerie of mammals, reptiles and amphibians in residence, there's also the Animal Adventure Children's Zoo and an impressive collection of bugs in the Massey Services Insect Zoo. The Herpetarium houses the southeast's largest collection of venomous snakes and non-venomous reptiles. Zookeepers offer several programs a day, such as bird shows, reptile demonstrations, feeding observations and "encounter" programs with raptors, camels, primates and felines.

The Zoo offers rides and attractions in addition to the nature and animal exhibits, including a train, carousel, playground and laser tag area. The Wharton-Smith Tropical Splash Ground is a water play area offering cool relief on warm days, with raining trees, a water tunnel and a bucket dump. The newest attractions include the North American River Otter Exhibit and the ZOOm Air Adventures aerial course of rope bridges, zip lines and suspended disks.
Unique and Unusual Finds
Two attractions located on Orlando's International Drive make the most of unusual, unique and sometimes downright bizarre exhibits. While it looks like Ripley's Believe it or Not! Odditorium is sinking into the ground, it's just an illusion representing the quirky character of this collection of oddities from around the world. Artifacts and interactive exhibits are displayed in 16 different galleries, which you tour at your own speed. The relics range from the disturbing, like the human shrunken head, to the oversized, like the 25-foot tall mural of Jimi Hendrix made from more than 8,500 playing cards.

More architectural trickery is at hand at WonderWorks, a building that appears to be upside down, even when you first enter. This attraction aims to exercise your mind through education and entertainment with over 100 hands-on exhibits. To experience the application of force, you can lie on a bed of 3,500 nails, or feel a 5.3 earthquake in the Disaster Zone. Other kid-friendly experimentation awaits on the life size replica of the Mercury capsule, the Bubble Lab, the Mind Ball bio feedback game and the Far Out Illusion Gallery.
Courtesy of the Family Vacation Critic!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Choosing a Real Estate Agent

Your Orlando, Florida, Real Estate Agent Talks About How To Choose a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your House.
  When you are choosing a real estate agent to sell your home, you need to be somewhat selective with who you choose. Different companies have different qualities about them that can make them better or worse for the job. When you are choosing an agent, be sure to take some of their qualifications into consideration. Below, you will find many things that are positive, or potentially negative about each agent. When you are choosing who you want to help sell your home, you can use this list to determine whether or not the agent you are working with is someone you want to continue to work with throughout the sale.
#1 - The fee charged.
Perhaps the biggest concern is how much money your real estate agent is going to charge you. Often times, agents ask for a percentage of the sale price of the home. Some charge more money than others, so this is definitely something that you will want to take into consideration. It's a good idea to contact more than one company and ask them about their pricing. Doing this allows you to compare companies and see who has the lowest price. Of course, you may not want to go with the estate agent that offers you the best deal. They might not be as efficient of promoters as the other agents and they may not be able to sell your home as quickly. Turnaround time is very important.
#2 - How fast can your home be sold? 
How quickly the estate agent can sell the home and get it off of your hands is also very important. You want to hire someone that has experience with this and has successfully sold many homes under a quick turnaround time. Remember, you are paying them a good deal of money so the faster they can sell your home, the better value you are getting out of the agent. Part of their services should be to get the home off of your hands as quickly as possible, that is why you hired them.
#3 - What does the track record of your real estate agent say about them? 
Every real estate agent should have some type of track record. This track record should speak for their quality of services and it should tell you a lot about what they provide. For instance, do they have a history of selling houses successfully? How long did it take on average to sell the homes that they have listed? These are things that you need to consider, it can mean a lot when it comes to selling your home.
There a lot of different qualities and things that you need to take into consideration when you are selecting a real estate agent. Real estate agents have big differences and comparing these traits is very important to hiring the right person for the job.
Your Orlando, Florida, Real Estate Agent Talks About How To Choose a Real Estate Agent to Sell Your House
Bethanne Baer
Keller Williams Realty
2300 South Crystal Lake Dr.
Orlando, Florida 32806
407-228-1112 office
407-375-3321 cell

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Buy A Home in Central Florida with FREE MONEY! (Sort of)

Down Payment Assistance (DPA)
Nationwide, the single largest barrier to homeownership is lack of down payment funds. Florida’s First Time Homebuyer program features two down payment and closing cost assistance programs that provide borrowers greater access to homeownership opportunities.

In conjunction with the First Time Homebuyer program, there are two down payment and closing cost assistance programs in the form of second mortgage loans, and up-front cash assistance to help eligible homebuyers cover their down payment and closing costs. Based on the information you provided, you may be eligible to receive ONE of the following:
Florida Assist (up to $10,000 available). For a complete list of income limits by county for the Florida Assist program, click here.

HAMI Program (up to $5,000 available)
The interest rate for the HAMI program is 5 percent.

Three Percent (3%) Cash Option
This option, in the form of cash assistance, provides borrowers with 3 percent of the loan amount applied toward down payment and closing costs.
Florida requires the completion of a Homebuyer Counseling Course for all borrowers receiving First Time Homebuyer Program assistance. Homebuyer counseling addresses vital information such as money management, spending and savings plans. Florida Housing believes that Homebuyer Education will empower you to make more informed decisions and enable you to effectively manage your resources leading to greater financial stability.
Should I Rent My House If It Doesn't Sell?


IF you have had your home on the market for sale without success, you may be tempted to rent your house.  While this is a possible solution for some people, for many it is simply more trouble than they are looking for.  If you find yourself in this situation you might ask yourself "Am I ready to be a landlord?"
Before you rent your home you should answer these questions to be sure you are making the right decision:
1. What will you do if your tenant tells you they cannot pay the rent this month because of other obligations or unexpected expenses?
2. Have you spoken with any attorneys who handle evictions to get a sense of the cost and time involved in evicting a tenant:
3. Will you allow pets?  Cats? Dogs? How many?  How big?
4. How do you plan to actually collect the rent?  In person or by mail?
5. When repairs to the property are necessary who should the tenant call?  Will you be the one doing the repairs?
6. If you are not going to be doing the repairs do you have a list of reliable contractors who can handle these for you?
7. How often will you conduct a physical inspection of the property?
8. Will you advise your current neighbors that you will be renting the property?
9.  Renting your home can be hard for owners when they have a significant personal 'relationship' to the home. (i.e. the only home my children have ever known, my parents home, our home that we put our heart and soul into remodeling, etc) These are particularly hard to rent if the owners cannot stand to see their home not cared for in the way they would care for it.
If you are purchasing a home specifically as a rental, there are no personal memories or feelings in this home, but a previous homestead property may create angst between you and your tenant if they are not as clean as you are, or they may have a pup that digs up those beautiful flower bulbs you and your son, daughter, Mother planted with you. These feeling may play a big role in your comfort level regarding  turning your homestead into a rental. 
Renting out residential property can be a great investment.  However, it does come with challenges.  Be sure that you are renting for the right reasons.........that you want to own an investment property, not that you are hoping to realize a higher sale price in the future by postponing the sale now.
Have questions, or need more detailed advice?  Contact me.  I will be glad to help.
Bethanne Baer
REALTOR - Keller Williams At The Parks

Monday, February 24, 2014

Conway Chain of Lakes Boat Ramps

There are only two public boat ramps on the Conway Chain with the largest on being off Hoffner, just two blocks off Orange Ave. There is no charge for launching however parking is limited. Other access can be found on the map below or by going to So if you are thinking of buying a lakefront home, this chain of lakes is still affordable.

Size and Depth

Lake Conway has nearly 1,800 acres of clear water with a maximum depth of 30 feet and a average depth of 8 feet. The Conway chain is connected by canals which are very shallow and has low bridges that can limit some boats or any boat with a height of 8 feet or more. The largest of the four lakes is Middle Lake Conway. Lovely sunset, beautiful mornings and watersports are the ticket for this lakefront community.

Water Source

Conway Chain of lakes is a land locked lake with no navigation beyond the chain itself. Primary water source is natural rainfall and runoff. Annual water fluctuations vary according to rainfall.


Lake Conway is a urban lake like a lot of Florida freshwater lakes and public bank access is almost non-existent. Private property and high price homes line all of the shoreline. There is wildlife in some of the lakes, but mainly the east lake where there is a small submerged grass island which is home to many birds.


Lake Conway and the Conway Chain has mostly clear water and hard sand bottom with beds of peppergrass eelgrass and hydrilla scattered offshore. Water depths change drastically on this chain and there are many deep water drops and humps.


Water is very clear on all of the lakes in the Conway Chain in some cases water clarity will allow an angler to see to depths of twelve feet are more.

Conway Elementary is one of the oldest schools in Central Florida, tracing its roots back to the original two room Conway School that opened in 1875. The old 1954 building recently gave way to a brand new school that is a state-of-the art facility. One of the traditions they've carried on from the old school is Arts at Conway Day. The entire day is devoted to teaching students about the arts – from opera to television technology.
My three sons graduated from the Conway Schools! I love Conway and the school system is awesome!