I’ve mentioned several times the debt I owe to other bloggers who made this journey before us and went on to document it online. Not only were they inspirations that convinced us a move wasn’t a crazy thing to do, they’ve also helped us not go crazy during the moving process with their experience and tips.
I always hoped to interview one of the bloggers I’ve long followed as we closed in on our own move. But with a global pandemic suddenly striking and real estate prices skyrocketing, I started thinking they might not be the best people to talk to as they wouldn’t be well-versed on the current conditions we will be facing, that are so different from what they faced when they moved several years ago.
Thankfully there are always other people moving to Orlando! I recently discovered a couple who made the move and have been posting some great content about it — and they agreed to talk to me about their experience and answer some questions: Dan and Leslie Lowry from Addicted to the Mouse.
There are so many good Disney bloggers out there, but since we only have so much free time in our busy lives it can be hard to try to keep up with them all. I know for me, while I may take in the occasional episode from people I don’t follow if they have an interesting topic for that show, I tend to stick with those creators I already know and like. But occasionally something is so good you can’t help but click that subscribe button!
I can’t remember which video from Dan and Leslie I first saw, but I was hooked from the get go. They were fun, personable, and professional — not in a boring corporate way, but in a way that conveyed they took what they were doing seriously, even if the topic was something enjoyable like Disney. Just as importantly, they weren’t just giving viewers a polished version of Disney or their lives. With shows like “7 Reasons Not to Move to Disney“, “Why is Buying a House Near Disney World So Hard“, “What We Would Have Done Differently Before Buying Our House by Disney World“, and “What It Cost Us to Move Next to Disney“, viewers like me got a real look at what it was going to take to follow in their footsteps. And since they made their move last year, they are much more qualified to give advice on what conditions will be like today than most other bloggers.
They have a sizable library of content already, with their website, podcasts, and a YouTube channel, chock full of answers to questions potential movers might have — including a recent show titled “Answering Your Questions About Living by Disney World“! Even with all that, Dan was gracious enough to answer a few of my questions as well.
JAMES:Thanks so much for doing this interview. Reading about, listening to, and watching other Disney people who have made this move has been so informative and motivational over the years that we’ve been planning. It honestly would have been a lot harder to do without people like you and your wife documenting your journey. And you guys have quickly become one of my new favorites with your extremely helpful videos!DAN:Thanks for watching and reaching out! Ironically, I found your website when we were planning our move, lol.JAMES:That’s nice to hear. While I purposely picked a blog name that I hoped would show up at the top of Google searches, that’s basically been the extent of my promotion of the site. Good to know it worked!
Let’s start with some questions about the first steps in the process. The decision to just pick up your life and leave friends and family to move to Disney is a little crazy! For us it was a long simmering thing, where over the course of several years it went from a fun thing to joke about, to a daydream, to a “what if”, to a “let’s do it”. What was your thinking when you first started considering the move, and how long did it take to get to the decision to do it?DAN:Our first trip to WDW was in July 2012 and I told Leslie to make the most of it because we wouldn’t be going back. By the end of the trip, we were both trying to figure out how to take another Disney vacation. Eventually, we bought DVC and began coming down to Disney more and more. DVC led to annual passes, but if you have annual passes, you feel like you need to plan more trips to use them. It’s a vicious cycle really. Every time we came down, whether it was driving across the Florida state line or getting off the plane in MCO, it just felt right. It didn’t feel like we were on vacation, it literally felt like we were home.
We knew we wanted to expose the kids to more culture and we wanted to travel more. We started going down the path of Financial Independence, not to retire, but to be able to travel as a family. We had made the decision to take a gap year and travel the world in 2022 and were in the middle of making plans when the pandemic hit. We had always wanted to start our own travel agency specializing in Disney and since traveling the world was not an option, we decided to do just that. Moving to Orlando just felt like the most natural and obvious choice for us and honestly, it was the best decision for our family we have ever made.JAMES:I think that feeling of being home is exactly what all of us who long to make the move have felt. Leaving to go to our real homes is always so sad!DAN:Yep! I was worried before we came down that maybe that feeling would fade or it wouldn’t translate from vacation to full-time life here. But it did and it’s wonderful.JAMES:What was the reaction from family and friends when you told them?DAN:By that time, we had been podcasting about Disney for several years, travelled to Orlando three times a year, and had a YouTube channel basically full of Disney travel videos. No one was surprised. Not to say they weren’t said and a bit disappointed that we weren’t going to be close physically to them anymore, but they got it.JAMES:As I said at the start, I’ve been devouring stories from other people who made this move for years now. And you guys seem to be unique in that you bought a house a year before you were ready to move. Most people either sell first then move, or get a temporary rental in Florida during the home selling/buying process. Was that a planed decision on your part or was it kind of forced on you due to market considerations? How did it work out?DAN:It was pretty lucky how it worked out. No, it wasn’t planned at all, but we are so glad it worked out the way it did. We decided to put our house that we owned on the market in September of 2019 with the thought of taking the proceeds and investing them, renting something for 1-2 years that was a lot less expensive, and saving all of that money to use while we traveled the world. We ended up selling the house in March of 2020 and rented a place while everyone was going into shutdown. Lol, we moved ourselves right at the beginning of Covid.
Once we made the decision to move to Orlando to start our travel agency, we knew that we would need to be able show two years of returns to use the business income to qualify for any sort of mortgage since neither one of us would have a full-time W2 job here. Thus, we knew we had to buy a home before I quit my facility management job in Tulsa in January 2022.
We had no interest in renting because of a variety of things, but mainly market factors, the fact that we have a VERY large dog that we knew would be hard to rent with (it was definitely a challenge when we rented in Oklahoma), and we wanted to use the money we had saved to travel the world as a down payment. Originally, we started looking really early because we were going to build new construction, which was estimated at 8 months at the time. (I used to build houses, so I’m really comfortable building a home from scratch.) Anyway, long story, but that didn’t work out and we started looking at resale homes and just happened to find the perfect house for us at the perfect price. It’s like it was meant to be. Anyway, it worked out really well. We owned a home and visited it throughout 2021 and had a place to move right into when we came down for good.JAMES:When we first started looking at houses in 2018, our plan was to buy something on the lower range of our budget, pay it off in ten years, then buy some investment property as we started looking towards retirement one day down the road. During those searches we could literally find wonderful houses all over the Disney area at our preferred price. One of our favorites was a six minute drive from Animal Kingdom, with a beautiful pool overlooking a lake. Today, houses in that neighborhood are almost literally twice as much! Now, we’ve significantly raised our budget, and the investment property idea is off the table! So don’t hold back: how bad is it for average-joe middle-class home buyers down there? Not just price-wise, which we can see from listings, but the overall process itself.DAN:Yeah, that’s very common down here. A lot of people saw prices jump way up because a lot of people have this dream and it takes a while for most of us to actually make it happen. Our house… I’m pretty sure we could sell it now for [30% more]. Not that we would, it’s just what the market is. I don’t really pay attention to the market though. If you’re moving for what we consider the right reasons (i.e., not to buy a home and turn around and sell it and make a fortune) and you’re going to stay in that home for the long haul, it really doesn’t matter what the current market is. If there is a dip after you buy, it will go back up over time. If there’s not and the house continues to appreciate, then that’s great news. Bottom line, you’re still in a home in a place that you love, living your best Disney life. As long as you can afford the payment, the quality of life here makes it worth it hands down… at least in our opinion.JAMES:I’m with you! We’re planning on whatever we buy being our home for the long term. I’ll miss the investment home idea though — and not just for the potential income. There’s no way we could do what you guys do with a travel agency, but it would’ve been fun to help fellow Disney fans one at a time by ensuring they had a Disney friendly place to stay on vacation!DAN:Maybe put that energy into your website and help them that way? I built houses for years and was in commercial facility management for a lot longer. I’ve got to say, I don’t want any part in having a rental home for short term travelers to Disney with the upkeep and maintenance that goes into that.
As far as how bad it is for home buyers… can you clarify this question? Do you mean like the process of getting an offer accepted or like costs of everything aside from the home purchase or what?JAMES:I basically meant everything other than price. We just met our realtor for the first time and she was telling us all the great things about selling a house right now, but half my brain was thinking every positive thing she is saying is going to be a negative when we need to buy: 70% of houses are selling above asking price, 80% of houses are selling in three days, etc… If that’s how things are here in Tennessee, I assume it’s comparable or worse for buyers down there!DAN:Ah, gotcha. Yeah, you’re right. The benefits as a seller are the drawbacks as a buyer. The good news is if you have to overpay in Florida, you should be overpaid in Tennessee… at least hopefully. The market is starting to shift with the Fed increases interest rates and staring down a potential recession.JAMES:If you could send a ten second message back to yourselves in Oklahoma before the moving process started to warn yourselves about something or to try to get past you to change something you did, what would that message be?DAN:Hmm, great question. Maybe to be sure to rent a UHaul with cruise control, lol. Honestly, everything worked out so perfectly and fell into place, we could not have planned it any better. I wouldn’t change anything about the timing of when we bought or how we moved or anything.JAMES:I think by the time we purge everything we may be able to rent a truck and move ourselves as well. I know you’re joking, but that’s a great tip that I never would have thought to check before hand!
Let’s move on to some questions about what life is like after the move. What was your first night/week finally moved into your new home in Florida like?DAN:Amazing, lol. It was surreal (still is) to live in the place that we would for a decade dream about visiting and do everything we could to go to. We are still finding fun ways to merge our daily lives with the magic. Leslie and I love to get out everyday and exercise, which we usually do around the neighborhoods we live in. We recently drove over to the TTC and parked and then walked from the TTC through the Poly, through the Grand Floridian, through the Magic Kingdom main entrance, and over to Contemporary. Then we turned around and walked back. It took 90 minutes to walk five miles and we were smiling the whole way.
We just traded our car in for a Jeep and the top is pretty much off all the time. We’ve started driving through Disney property about 4 or 5 nights a week, just the two of us. It’s fun little break and a cool way to just hang out for 30-40 minutes, listen to music from when we were teenagers and feel like we’re on vacation. It’s awesome.JAMES:Nice! After almost two decades of driving minivans to tote the kids around, I recently traded in for an old convertible specifically so my wife and I can do things like that when we get there!DAN:It’s amazing. You’re going to love it.JAMES:In our last few research trips, we were surprised at how easy it was to get around without ever getting on I-4. Is that actually something we should expect, or is I-4 going to be much more necessary as locals?DAN:Oh heck no. We never get on I-4. I take that back – we do when we go to the airport. Other than that, we never do. Of course we live on the correct side of it for what we do. As long as you live on the west side of I4, north or west of Disney, you can get most places using back roads or toll roads.JAMES:Our temporary apartment and my wife’s job are a relatively simple 12 mile/15 minute drive apart, down two toll roads that are never crowded she says. Is relying on toll roads everyday to avoid busier roads sustainable as locals? Or is that going to get painfully expensive?DAN:Mmmmm… toll roads can add up. I had to go from Windermere where we live to downtown Orlando for jury duty (lol, yeah, they already got me) a few weeks ago and I want to say it was around $4 each way in tolls. But we hardly ever get on toll roads. Going to kids schools, local stores, the gym, Disney and Universal, we use back roads for all of them. We give ourselves a little extra time and just take these free roads along with everyone else. Takes a little more time, but we love the scenery.JAMES:You’re in Windermere? We watched your house tour and I would not have guessed that. We really liked the area for its proximity to Disney, but so many of the houses we saw seemed to be older and lacked lanais or pools. Maybe we were wrong!DAN:The town of Windermere is really small with older REALLY PRICEY homes. We live on the outskirts of Windermere. It’s a Windermere address, but feels it’s more Horizon West than Windermere proper. We love where we landed.JAMES:Speaking of nice places to land, I have a possible suggestion for you guys to visit that I haven’t seen in any of your videos yet. Our apartment is in Celebration, which as Disney fans I assume you know the history of. There’s no way we can afford to live there permanently. But when we had the chance to get a temporary place there for just a tiny bit more than what other places were charging, we had to jump at it! It’s a beautiful place to visit. The downtown wraps around a lake, and reminds me so much of a real life Disney Springs.DAN:Thanks for this!! We’ve been meaning to get over to Celebration, but haven’t yet. We definitely want to soon. There is just so much to see, do, and explore here. Coming from Oklahoma, where there really isn’t that much to do, living here is awesome. I don’t think it would be possible to ever run out of things to do.JAMES:This. Exactly! I joke that here in Tennessee it takes us 20 minutes to decide between the same three places to go. Very much looking forward to being able to try something new anytime we want to.
Of course with the right house, who needs to go out! In 2018, a pool was not on our must-have list… but over the years of virtual house hunting is has definitely jumped onto it! We have absolutely zero experience with pools. What is involved in maintaining them, and what expenses should we expect?DAN:This is our second pool home. Our first pool had a hot tub with two pumps, a giant filter, and a pretty sizable heater. It had a spillover waterfall edge from the hot tub into the pool area, which the tile busted off every other year because of Oklahoma freeze-thaw. We also had to close the pool every winter there.
Here, it is MUCH easier. We don’t have a hot tub or a heater, which cuts down on maintenance and repairs. And we pay a company to maintain it for us. They come out once per week and balance the chemicals, brush the walls, and clean the filter every so often. We pay them $100 per month. Of course you could save that and do it yourself for 30 minutes a week or so, but it’s nice to not worry about it when we go out of town. We love our pool, but we also wouldn’t have one without the birdcage around it.JAMES:Ha, took me a split second to get that! Never heard lanais called that before!DAN:Worth its weight in gold. Amazing.JAMES:In Tennessee (and Oklahoma I’d presume) there really isn’t some overarching thing that might bring potential friends together, other than sports teams maybe. Is that different around Disney? Is a love of Disney like a secret handshake that makes meeting other like-minded people easier? Or is it no different than trying to make friends as an adult anywhere else?DAN:It’s the same and it’s different. In Oklahoma, we had friends that we knew from church, work, heck – even still had some friends form high school there. But, we rarely saw them or went out with them. We were so busy with work and kids that we never wanted to do much outside of the house whenever we weren’t dealing with work and school/kids.
Here, we have never been so social in our lives. There is so much to do here and it seems like there is always someone wanting to do something. Everyone travels to Orlando. There is always someone we know coming down that wants to meet us for a drink or say hi in the parks or something. We have made a few friends here and that part is the same with one caveat. There are a ton of transplants here, so I do feel like everyone is a bit more open to meeting new people because most everyone was new here once too. And, if you have a love for Disney, that helps too.JAMES:How long did it take to start feeling like a local? Is there anything that still makes you feel like an outsider?DAN:I’m not sure I feel like a true local yet. Learning the streets definitely helps for sure. We moved the day after Christmas and Leslie stayed here with the kids to start the spring semester, but I had to go back and work the month of January. So, I’ve only lived here full time for not quite six months. It does feel like home, but it is also still surreal. Honestly, I love that feeling and hope it feels surreal for a while longer.
It puts a huge smile on my face everyday.
Thanks again to Dan for taking the time to answer some of my questions. I seriously probably could have asked a hundred more, but that’d be taking away from the time he could better spend with his wife on their wonderful show where they help a lot more than just a single person at a time! Be sure to check out their website Addicted to the Mouse, podcasts, and YouTube channel for more great information about moving to Disney — and a whole lot more! They also do park reports, restaurant reviews, and cover Universal in depth as well.
If you’re ready for your next research trip to Florida to prepare for your move, or if you’re not quite ready to commit to that yet but all this park talk has got you needing a Disney fix, Dan and Leslie also run a travel agency called Fantastical Vacations. Who better to help you with your addiction to the Mouse than a couple who picked up their lives and moved halfway across the country to fuel theirs? Their agents can help you plan your vacation, ensure you get the best price, and fix any problems that arise — all at no cost to you! That’s right, having an expert help you out during the entire process costs exactly the same as doing all that work by yourself. So if you’re heading to Orlando, or any of the other destinations they work with, there really is no reason not to see what Fantastical Vacations has to offer.
And now, let me give you a heads up about July… it’s going to be busy! Next week my son has a dental appointment to get braces, my dad is having a minor surgery, a company is coming to cut some trees in our yard, the flooring is being delivered, and there’s a national holiday! The week after that, my kids and I are going to Orlando to visit my wife and celebrate my birthday at the parks. And after that, I’ll only have two weeks to get everything else done to get the house ready to sell if we want it on the market by the beginning of August.
I will try very hard to get an update posted on how all that is going. But if time gets away from me and I forget, at least you’ll hopefully understand why!
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