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About Hammock Bay in Freeport, Florida

Introduction

I know a little something about Hammock Bay in Freeport, Florida because that’s where I live. It’s in Walton County. It’s a great community and I highly recommend it. We also have an onsite real estate agency where you can get more information.

During our November 2022 HOA meeting, Jay Odom, the lead developer for Hammock Bay, noted that with 1700 houses it is the largest community in Freeport, Fl.

Hammock Bay is divided up into communities. The names of the communities range from things like Rhapsody, Whispers, Firefly, Bay Cove, and so forth. There is definitely an HOA here, in fact, some communities have two HOAs. The main HOA’s dues are $168.10 per month in 2022, with a planned $7 per month increase in 2023. With about 1700 homes within the HOA, it makes for a decent size budget. Some communities have a second HOA, and from what I’ve heard, the main purpose of this second HOA is to maintain the yards of communities that people immediately see when they enter Hammock Bay. Basically, the developer, who is still active, wants to make sure the yards look good when potential buyers come in.

Credit: hammockbayfl.com

Each Neighborhood Has Their Own Unique Entrances

One thing I like about Hammock Bay is each entrance to a neighborhood has its own unique signage. For example, Buxton’s Mill entrance sign is the most unique among these, and I’d venture the most expensive.

The Buxton’s Mill Entrance Signage

During the 2022 HOA meeting, a resident inquired about whether the wheel will be fixed so it’d start moving again. Apparently, it was designed incorrectly, but they’ll consider fixing it.

The Trails Entrance Signage

The Sweetwater Entrance Signage
The Firefly Entrance Signage
These photos were taken during the Winter Holidays so you’ll see some Christmas decorations that you wouldn’t typically see the rest of the year.

Pros and Cons of Hammock Bay

Pros of Hammock Bay

When I was looking for a home to buy, I considered a very wide area. All the way from Cantonment, a community just outside of Pensacola in Escambia County, right next to the Alabama border, all the way to…well…Freeport. I have family in the area so I had some anchors I needed to work around. Freeport is fairly far removed from much of the action and doesn’t show up on many people’s radar.

Brand new houses for very reasonable prices

When you look at a site like Redfin, Zillow, and Realtor, and you play around with the filters, you’ll quickly discover Freeport has some brand new houses that go for relatively cheap. My house is very nice, plus I have a large fenced-in backyard. You will not find anything like this in other areas, but go for it and see for yourself.

Actual planning went into this community

While it may be a funny title, it’s true. If you go to Navarre, about half the homes flood often. The builder there just didn’t care, and they continue to build in the area without caring if the home will flood. While it’s an HOA with thousands of homes, I just don’t want to be in a community with constant issues that the HOA will need to pay for needlessly.

I checked out Fort Walton Beach and it seemed the city planners didn’t care who built what, where. You may have a nice 10-house community next to a mobile home park that is falling apart. Don’t get me wrong, I understand there’s value in mixed-used residential housing, but at least it could be planned with some forethought.

You can get a good sense of the community at our local realtor’s website. This is actually the sales center for the developer, but it still works.

Near the beach

Since I hadn’t lived near a beach community before, I had to learn about the two different types of beaches.

Beach type one: These are generally what you think of when you hear of beaches. These are on the open ocean and on the Emerald Coast – a well-deserved name by the way – the water is crystal clear and as beautiful as it can get.

Beach type two: These are beaches in a bay. While you may look at a map and see it connects to the ocean, a beach on the bay is quite different. First, the water is dark. You might think at first this is due to pollution, but it’s actually from tannins from trees. It gives water a very unpleasant feeling.

Hammock Bay is about 30 minutes from the first type of beach – the beautiful shores of Grayton Beach. It’s public access, but the parking is very limited. If you want to go to Grayton Beach, you should plan on leaving your home at 7:30 am to arrive at the opening at 8 am.

Hammock Bay is building a club on the Choctawhatchee Bay, called the Bay Club. Access is included in the HOA dues. While I’m sure it’d be a nice setting, this will be on a beach on the bay, not the open ocean like Grayton Beach. This wasn’t a selling point for me, so didn’t matter to me, but you should be aware of this.

Community

The community is great. While you can always find bad actors in any community, as a whole it’s a great community of caring people. While there are some young people, I would venture 90% of the people here are at least 50 years old, and I suspect this percentage won’t drop by much if we up it to 60 years old.

For example, most people decorate for Halloween and Christmas, just to give the community an active and engaged feeling. But to me, the biggest hint is the lunch the community put together for Thanksgiving. None of it was run by the HOA, it was all community driven by volunteers from the community. From the pictures and comments I saw, there was a lot of food and huge participation. The idea behind it was for people who weren’t having dinner with other people otherwise, so it was a beautiful gesture.

Cons of Hammock Bay

HOA is entirely controlled by the developer

I owned two primary houses before this one in Hammock Bay. So while I was curious about how HOAs work while development was underway, I found out the hard way. Despite there being about 1700 homes owned by homeowners, and we all pay HOA dues, we have zero say in how the HOA is run. Of all the ‘cons’ of Hammock Bay, this is the one that rubs me the most, particularly since I wasn’t told about this. While some residents think it’s a good thing, and there may be advantages to this as well, I feel that given the number of dues-paying homeowners, we should have more say in our community.

Admittingly it does appear the developer (Jay Odom) is doing a good job managing the HOA, as it appears he is looking out for what’s best for the long-term benefit of the community, and well, to the developer as well who continues to build in the area.

ARB Fees

This is the first HOA I’ve lived in that wants to charge for submitting changes to the Architectural Review Board. The fees are new and caught residents by surprise. We had an HOA meeting with the builder on Oct 26, 2022, but the introduction of fees for improvements wasn’t brought up by the developer. However, on Nov 8, just two weeks after, we received a notice that we’ll have to pay a fee to make a request to the ARB.

Partial List of ARB Fees

Located next to Eglin Air Force Base

Eglin Air Force Base is the largest air force base in the world, and you may hear the occasional jet flying by, but that’s not why I’m mentioning the base.

Not only jets but also Naval School Explosive Ordnance Disposal is located there. You’ll hear an explosion about once every two weeks, for just about 5 seconds, but it’s enough to have posts on our community’s Facebook page inquiring about the sound. A popular response is that it’s the “sound of freedom”.

CenturyLink, our Internet service provider

Now, before I say anything negative about CenturyLink, the sole Internet provider for Hammock Bay, I would like to give them kudos. Most companies wait until after you’ve signed up before they start treating you like trash and doing everything they can to brush you aside. Not CenturyLink, they treat you like trash even while trying to sign up.

My own experience, coupled with the constant posts on our community’s Facebook page, show that CenturyLink simply doesn’t have its act together. And why should they? They have a monopoly on providing Internet to Hammock Bay. For example, I had scheduled an Internet connection when they simply didn’t show up and didn’t reach out before or after the appointment. When I called up about this no-show, they stated that the prior occupants (i.e. sellers) still had an account with them, so they couldn’t activate my account.

So after getting that sorted out, I was told by their customer service that they can’t create an account for me and that I should wait two weeks for it to resolve itself. I work from home, plus I surf the web instead of watching cable, so this was a no-go for me, plus it simply made no sense. I insisted on speaking with a supervisor (this is over chat instead of over the phone, you’ll get disconnected often if you try calling them), and the customer service rep kept trying to get me to end the chat before the supervisor appeared. I finally got a supervisor and they got me signed up with an appointment for a connection. That whole chat session lasted over 2 hours.

Even today I still see two accounts when I log into CenturyLink, a minor annoyance but I’m not going to correct it (I only have one connection) for fear they’ll remove the wrong account.

Freeport is small

There’s no other way to say it – Freeport is pretty small. Not even a Walmart. If you want to go to Walmart, you’ll have to drive for 30 minutes. Sam’s Club is 45 minutes away, and Costco is a good two hours away in Tallahassee. We have one main grocery store – Publix – and while I don’t do price comparisons, I do suspect they take advantage of the remoteness by raising prices. The good news is the area is seeing a small boom in new businesses and restaurants, which is something I counted on in my calculations on whether to move here.

Summary

I am glad I moved here. Overall I think it was a great decision, and despite buying after the high appreciation during Covid, I have still seen a good build-up in my equity.

The community is pretty much the best you can hope for. I really like my neighbors, and as long as you’re respectful, I think you will as well.

It’s a growing community of supportive people. We have new housing, and as far as I’m concerned, this community has a bright future ahead of it.