Halloween: MYTH or FACT?

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As we near the spookiest holiday of the year, many myths arise about the impending dangers of Halloween night and Halloween candy. All over the news, stories are broadcasted of how to protect your children, and who wouldn’t want to be informed and extra cautious? But are these claims about poisoned lollipops or candy bars with razor blades grounded in truth? See the breakdown below for some Halloween debunking from the Mike Rance Team before the big night!

Trick or treat?

Myth: Your children’s candy may be poisoned.
Fact: There have been no documented cases of strangers poisoning Halloween candy. All known cases have turned out to be hoaxes. However, danger can arise from allergies or dietary restrictions. Parents, keep an eye on what your children may be getting in their bags. Always remember that even if a product doesn’t contain nuts, it could have encountered an area in production of cross-contamination with nuts. Any sugar restrictions should be carefully monitored. And lastly, if your neighbors love to hand out delicious homemade baked goods, make sure you ask them what is in them so as to avoid any accidental consumption of an allergen. Other than these risks, the most discomfort a child will feel from Halloween candy is from eating too much at once!
Reality: Allergens aren’t only in the food we eat, but the products we come in contact with. Costume fabrics and face and body makeup may give the wearer an adverse reaction. Always test out face paint or other make up on a small patch of skin before applying in full. Costumes can also cause adverse reactions here in Florida due to almost year-round heat. Make sure plenty of water is accessible for neighborhood trick or treating and that warm or thick costumes are breathable.

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Myth: There could be razor blades in your children’s candy.
Fact: No documented cases of children being injured by candy with razor blades inside, either. It is important in the Halloween hype to remember that most people aren’t out to hurt your children. Even child predators are not calculated to be a higher risk factor on Halloween than any other day – some states have curfew laws for sexual predators, requiring a lights off policy and a posted “No Candy” sign. Experts advise Halloween-ers to treat the day like any other day, applying the same key rules of safety (Ex: don’t talk to strangers).
Reality: Even if your neighborhood is crawling with mummies, monsters, and cowboys (and girls), remind your kids that roads are still roads, and cars will be passing by. Sadly, the risk of getting hit by a car is more than double on Halloween, as more people, adults and children alike, are out and about in ways they may not be usually. Educating your kids on the right way to look before crossing and actually cross the street can make a huge difference on Halloween night.

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Don’t forget the pet! Your furry children also need some looking out on Halloween. If you don’t plan on taking them out – on a leash, of course – with you in a cute costume to trick or treat, make sure they don’t get out when you open the door to give out candy, and if they do bolt, having your pet micro-chipped might be a good idea. Also, chocolate might be a delectable treat for humans, but for your pet it could mean a trip to the hospital. Keep your Halloween bounty secure and away from reach of your pet!

Have a Happy Halloween, from the Mike Rance Team!

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St. Johns River: A Closer Look

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The longest river in Florida, the St. Johns River, clocks in at 310 miles long, an impressive presence in a state that is only 500 miles long from its most distant points. Still, the St. Johns River is nothing compared to the longest river in the United States (hint: it’s not the Mississippi!). The Missouri River spans 2,341 miles across seven states. That’s more than seven St’ Johns Rivers long!

A unique feature of the St. Johns River is that it flows north. Or so we thought – actually, more than 245 known rivers flow north, a feature resulting more from topography and gravity than the magnetic forces dictating what is actually “due south” or “due north.” Rivers will always flow from higher altitudes to lower altitudes and always in the direction of least resistance, regardless of compass direction. Nonetheless, the St. Johns River is one of them!

upper basinThis river begins in Indian River County as a marsh appropriately called St. Johns Marsh. The St. Johns River is slow-flowing (sometimes called a “lazy river” or rather “liquid chameleon”), and starts with barely any drop in elevation – the marsh actually ebbs and flows with the influence of nearby tides. The St. Johns River hits its first bit of stride one county north of its origin as it gains some traction and widens to a navigable waterway – but just as quickly the river dips back to its narrowest section of near impassible marshland, all within the upper basin – the first of three basins along the St. Johns River. One of the most famous lakes in the upper basin is Lake Hell n’ Blazes, named as a tribute of the frustrated curses of early navigators muck, weeds, and “floating islands” of the St. Johns marshes. Most of the upper basin wetlands are fed by rainwater and therefore water levels fluctuate with the seasons, making navigation unpredictable and airboats the most reliable form of transportation.

sanfordThe middle basin encompasses the Central Florida counties of Orange, Lake, Volusia, and Seminole counties. The river creates two of the largest lakes of this basin, Lake Harney (9 square miles) and Lake Monroe (15 square miles). The town of Sanford lines the south side of the lake with its downtown area, offering public dock access to commuters by boat. This middle basin, also passing by Central Florida towns Debary and Deltona, has some unique features such as a significant tributary, the Wekiva River, the largest black bear population in Florida, and a thriving population of non-native rhesus macaque monkeys. Lake George, the second largest lake in Florida, and the Ocklawaha River, St. Johns largest tributary, are also found in the middle basin.

North of the Ocklawaha River to the Atlantic Ocean comprises the lower basin, where the St. Johns River grows exponentially wider. In this basin, the river hits its widest point at up to 3 miles across, an opportune feature used for shipping. Some of the oldest modern cities in Florida are in this basin section of the St. Johns, and the final 35 miles runs straight through historic Jacksonville, finally feeding fresh water out into the salty ocean.

Ocklawaha-PrairieAreas of the St. Johns River have long been populated, Paleo-Indians being the first peoples to arrive on the Floridian peninsula about 12,000 years ago when the ocean was 350 feet lower and the land mass was twice its current size. It wasn’t until 5000 years ago when climate change allowed archaic humans to inhabit the area around what we know today as the St. Johns River. The transition into settled groups and centuries of agricultural cultivation led to population increases and formations into what would eventually be known as the Timucua, the indigenous peoples that the European settlers would encounter.
Today, the St. Johns River is in constant flux from rapid overdevelopment at the beginning of the 20th century and excessive pollution. Restoration efforts are underway in the area to return the river to its natural, healthy state. Such efforts led to the St. Johns River to be labeled as an American Heritage River by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1998.

List of lakes along the St. Johns River:
Blue Cypress Lake (origin)
Lake Hell ‘n Blazes (also Helen Blazes or Lake Helen)
Sawgrass Lake
Lake Washington (home to a colony of Atlantic stingrays among other marine species)
Lake Winder
Lake Poinsett
Ruth Lake
Puzzle Lake (where boat routes can and do change seasonally)
Lake Harney
Lake Jesup (no natural flow from the river to this lake)
Lake Monroe (Green Springs Park, a green hued sulfur spring, on north shore)
Lake Dexter
Lake George (Blue Spring State Park, winter home for manatees)
Doctors Lake (actually an inlet, not a true lake)

homes for saleAs of Friday Oct 23, 2015, 67 properties along the St. Johns River are available for the homeowner that wants the authentic Floridian lifestyle – flush with native wildlife and beautiful scenery. Navigable by boat, airboat, kayak, paddleboard, and more from private and public docks and parks, the St. Johns River gives you the opportunity to live the riverfront life you’ve always dreamed of.

Contact the Mike Rance Team today to take the next step toward finding your Central Florida dream home along the majestic and historic St. Johns River!

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Staging your Home to SELL: 6 Ideas for the Fall Season

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As we float into the fall season, thoughts of autumn leaves, comfy sweaters, pumpkins and pumpkin-flavored everything are at the forefront of peoples’ minds. And guess what – that includes buyers! Staging your home with a few seasonal decorations makes potential buyers feel cozy while daydreaming of spending the holidays in their new home. Showing off some autumn charm will help buyers picture themselves curling up with their loved ones by a fireplace, carving faces into the perfect pumpkin, and smelling hot cider or fresh apple pie cooking in the kitchen. The care and effort you place into your décor to make a homey impression will be noticed and appreciated by a prospective buyer. Take some of these tips and suggestions to get your house sold this fall!

fall decor 21. What says “fall” to you?
Fall can mean a lot of different things to different people, but some ideas are typically universal – pumpkins, of course, lots and lots of pumpkins (don’t forget those off-color white ones!); an overflowing cornucopia (that fog-horn looking wicker basket full of fruit – tip: use fresh fruit!); anything turkey (or are you more of a holiday ham person?); and arrangements of autumn leaves (perfect in vases or a cute decorative wreath). For fall-themed decorations, sticking with the basics with reach that warm, fuzzy spot in the biggest number of buyers!

2. Use your fall color palette! This one is a given. We all love when the warm tones of fall come out so take your cues from the changing of the leaves – deep reds, burgundies, caramels, goldenrods, pumpkin oranges. Used strategically, these colors can be game changers for the feel of your home. Use more muted or lighter colors for larger features like fresh painted walls, and save the bold for accent pieces, such as wall curtains or decorative pillows. Carry the theme into other rooms with decorative hand towels in the bathroom or cozy throw blankets in the bedrooms. From dull and boring to warm and colorful with just a few easy touches!

fall decor3. “This is my haunted house.” Halloween is great occasion to change up your look, but the same shouldn’t be applied to your house. When you’re selling your home, it is not key to follow the same mantra as your Halloween costume (a tacky “This is my Halloween costume” printed shirt!) Your home is not a substitute haunted house, and buyers should not be scared when they walk in (cross your fingers for those inspections!). Don’t use fake cobwebs, especially outside, as they can be difficult to remove and may make your home or property look messy. Don’t try to scare your buyers with a skeleton that screams when it senses motion nearby or a hand that pops out of a bowl of sweets. Don’t use fake caution tape or wooden boards on doors or windows, as it could give the impression that the house isn’t up-to-snuff – say NO to anything that draws attention to possible flaws or puts buyers on edge! Instead, keep your Halloween decorations to a tasteful minimum. A vase or other arrangement of bare branches as a centerpiece or mantel accessory can give the desired spooky feel. Various antiques such as an old rake or a vintage lantern can also give that eerie appeal in a refined way that will please future buyers. Even fake blackbirds or crows can be placed strategically as classy Halloween decorations!

apple cider4. Those sweet fall smells… Pumpkin spice, apple pie, cinnamon sticks. These are just a few that when asked what smell reminds you of the fall season, most people would probably answer. A nice aroma in a home during a showing is pleasant and charming. Something as easy as a scented candle or cinnamon broom (decorative and sweet!) is inviting to buyers. Other ideas (with more effort) could be leaving fresh baked gingerbread cookies or a pitcher of apple cider with cups waiting on the counter as a refreshment (kill two birds with one stone!). Side Note: Some buyers may not appreciate a certain scent the same way you do, or they may be allergic! Take these risks into account when considering staging your house with a fall aroma, and make sure if you do choose to use a scent that it is not overwhelming (a.k.a. test it out beforehand!)

5. Focus on the fireplace. This is pretty straight forward, too. Why wouldn’t you focus on a place of warmth in the face of upcoming cold weather? (Orlando does get cold, guys!) Staging furniture around the fireplace is an easy way to create a fall story with the room. While actually lighting the fireplace may be a bad idea for safety or just convenience, some fall decorations such as a cute pile of pumpkins or a fall banner can give the right attention to a fall staple.

6. Don’t overdo it. The most important advice of all. The attaché “less is more” is definitely true here. You still want your home to be remembered for its features – aka “the home with stainless steel appliances and a great porch for entertaining” and not “the house with papier-mâché pumpkins in every room!” And remember, over-decorating can also get expensive. Don’t break the bank!

Luxury: The Butler Chain of Lakes

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The Butler Chain of Lakes of the esteemed, luxury community of Windermere, Florida is often pictured as spread side to side. But in fact this chain of lakes – connected by an intricate system of canals – runs north to south, Lake Down and Lake Butler being the northernmost bodies of water in the chain.

The Butler chain is believed to be a product of karst topography, a natural occurrence that happens as limestone or another soluble rock is dissolved by water, forming sinkholes. (Limestone is a main component of Florida bedrock.) Over time, these sinkholes formed what is today the beautiful Butler Chain of Lakes.

butler 6This spring-fed chain is noted for its crystal-clear water quality and high fishing potential year-round, specifically largemouth bass. “Bird Island,” the Audubon society’s 32 acre wildlife preserve on Lake Butler, is a popular spot for boaters to anchor near for watersports, bird-watching, or a simply day out on the lake (do not go on the island – it is off limits as a sanctuary!). Lake Butler is the largest of the Butler Chain of Lakes, covering 1,665 acres and offering peak opportunity for waterskiing and other watersport activities. The only public access to the Butler Chain of Lakes is available through RD Keene Park at Lake Isleworth by a small daily fee or yearly membership. However, residents of Windermere can enjoy a residents-only boat ramp directly onto Lake Butler.

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The Windermere area is sometimes referred to as Central Florida’s new-money address, and as such boasts some of the most valuable property in the area, including lakefront property. The town of Windermere, however, prides itself on its reputation as a pleasant community, with both old and new homes and many intentionally unpaved, natural streets preserving the lake town in a canopy of oak and cypress trees. The draw to living lakefront in Windermere is clear. As of September 30th, these are the results that meet our criteria for lakefront homes on the Butler Chain of Lakes.

butler chainActive – 64 listings
List Price $424,900 to $15mil
816 to 13,670 Square Feet
1 bed, 1 bath to 8 bed, 8 bath, 2 half bath
51 properties with private pools

Active with Contract – 3 listings
List Price $750,000 to $1,579,000
1,944 to 4,182 Square Feet
3 bed, 2 bath to 4 bed, 4 bath, 1 half bath
1 property with private pool

Pending – 5 listings
List Price $440,000 to $3,495,000
2,827 to 8,330 Square Feet
3 bed, 2 bath to 5 bed, 6 bath, 1 half bath
3 properties with private pools

Sold – 26 listings
List Price $399,000 to $16.5mil
Sold Price $365,000 to $8.25mil
1,013 to 21,515 Square Feet
3 bed, 1 bath to 9 bed, 11 bath, 4 half bath

*Review our tips for buying lakefront property before you buy.

Contact the Mike Rance Team today and make the Butler Chain of Lakes your lakefront reality!