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LIFE IS A VACATION

Homeowners say all the activities and amenities at Southshore Falls make it seem like a resort.

In the southwest corner of Hillsborough County, the gated community of Southshore Falls is home to almost 500 families who like being tucked away and yet close to everything.

"We are centrally located," homeowner Hank DeOca says. "We can get anywhere from here in an hour."

Southshore Falls, which will have 866 homes when the development is completed, is a 55-plus Del Webb community off U.S. 41 in Apollo Beach.

The neighborhood offers several home style options. New freestanding homes, which range from 1,730 square feet to 2,278 square feet, are available for $186,990 to $206,990. New villas are available in two- and four-unit clusters that sell for $139,990 to $169,990.

Homes in the community are selling despite the drop in the housing market, with 483 single-family and villa homes sold since the start of the development in 2005, according to sales associate Scott Teal. "We've been able to sustain ourselves."

Home options and price points are just part of the appeal. "People come here because of the lifestyle Del Webb provides," Teal says. "It's like being on a vacation inside their community."

The view from the clubhouse confirms that. The back doors open up to a pool area as beautiful and lush as any tropical resort. There are two large pools, a lagoon pool and a resistance pool in which the water constantly moves for residents who want water exercise. Tennis courts and another pool elsewhere within the community are in the plans, Teal says.

Southshore Falls is a traditional neighborhood rather than a destination market, he says. That means it's in an area in which the population does not swell in the winter and shrink in the summer.

The community does attract buyers from many states but half the buyers are Floridians. A map on the clubhouse wall shows that 276 residents are from Florida. The next largest contingents by state are Ohio (17), New York (16) and Massachusetts (15). Teal says about three-quarters of Southshore Falls residents live here all year.

"There are tons of things to do here," says Barbara DeOca, Hank's wife. She said they use the pools when it's not too hot. When it is, they gather with other residents in the clubhouse to play bridge, euchre or pinochle. They also have dinner and wine parties. Sometimes buses take residents to Tampa Bay Rays games or other outings.

"It's not really about the houses," Teal says. "I mean the homes are important, but people move here for the lifestyle the community has to offer."

"You have to look at a community like this," Barbara DeOca says, "and ask yourself if this is a community if - God forbid - we would be happy in if we became widowed."

Apparently it is.

"We're here for the duration," Barbara DeOca says.

Patti Ewald is a freelance writer based in Gulfport. She can be reached at pattiewald@gulfcoastwriter.com.

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Hank and Barbara DeOca

Their home: A two-bedroom, two-bath paired villa with 1,650 square feet. It also features a water view of a creek that Barbara calls her bird sanctuary. They like being on a cul-de-sac because, according to Hank, it feels as if they have a bigger slice of the pie.

When they bought: Late 2005.

Current value (fromZillow.com): $142,500.

Why they love it: The DeOcas say their home is in a great location: They can easily get to Tampa, Sarasota or the beaches, and shopping and banks are nearby. Not that there's much need to venture far from Southshore Falls, they said. "There are tons of things to do at the clubhouse or we can hibernate in our house and read and watch TV," Barbara said. "We go to dances and Friday night movies." She has joined residents for line dancing, yoga and dinner and wine parties. Another perk gives them time to do these things: They don't have to work in the yard. Lawn care and basic cable are included in a monthly $247 homeowner fee.

* * *

PAT CLARK, Southshore Falls lifestyle manager

"There's a new gazebo near the lake where people gatherwith a bottle of wine in the evenings to watch the sunset."

HANK DeOCA, Southshore Falls homeowner

"Why go to Cancun when you live in a resort?"

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LISTED AT $245,000

SINCE FEB. 2010

204 Mystic Falls Drive

3 bedrooms, 2 baths 1,631 square feet

Built in 2006

This one-story, end-unit villa features a kitchen with stainless steel appliances, granite countertops and 42-inch cherry cabinets, an extended screened lanai and plantation shutters throughout. It also has a separate formal dining room and split bedroom plan and is on a cul-de-sac. (Anne Eaton, Century 21 Beggins, (813) 645-8481)

* * *

LISTED AT $212,000

SINCE FEB. 2010

140 Silver Falls Drive

3 bedrooms, 2 baths

1,713 square feet

Built in 2006 This single-family model home comes fully furnished. It features an extended, enclosed lanai, a den with closet (making the third bedroom), Corian countertops, diagonal tile, custom window coverings, water softener and more. The home sits on a cul-de-sac not far from the entranceway and just a block from the clubhouse.(Diane Allers, Coldwell Banker Dolphin Realty, (813) 545-0267)

* * *

LISTED AT $230,000

SINCE JUNE 2009

336 Silver Falls Drive 2 bedrooms, 2 baths

1,933 square feet

Built in 2006 This single-family home features an oversized lanai overlookinga pond, master bedroom with pond views and two spacious closets, 42-inch cabinets with crown molding, granite countertops and stainless appliances in the kitchen. The second bedroom has a private bathroom and French doors that open to an office-den. (Kenny Schaaf, Century 21 Beggins, (813) 645-8481)

* * *

LISTED AT $218,900

SINCE JAN. 2010

5729 Sunset Falls Drive

2 bedrooms, 2 baths

1,908 square feet

Built in 2008 The Sutherland model single-family home features a master suite with two walk-in closets and tiled walk-in shower, a kitchen with granite countertops, upgraded appliances and both an eat-in area and breakfast bar. An extended, screened lanai is surrounded by sliding glass doors that open into the home. (Peggy Diaz, Keller Williams South Shore, (813) 403-9009)

* * *

STARTING FROM $139,990

2 bedrooms, 2 baths

1,448 to 1,602 square feet

Available in August Both the Seagrove (1,448 square feet) and Cascadia (1,602 square feet) models are available in these attached villas. The Seagrove features an open layout with a combined living and dining room, kitchen with breakfast nook, den and covered lanai. The Cascadia features a similar floor plan with laundry room. (Scott Teal or Leslie Rothschild, Dell Webb at Southshore Falls, (813) 645-5749)

* * *

STARTING FROM $201,990

3 bedrooms, 2 baths

2,165 square feet

Available now; new phase opens Sept. The Laguna model features a formal dining room, a living room anda family room plus a designer kitchen with breakfast nook. The kitchen offers access to a covered lanai. Also at the rear of this split-bedroom plan is a master suite with bath and walk-in closets. A home office-den can be made into a fourth bedroom.(Scott Teal or Leslie Rothschild, Dell Webb at Southshore Falls, (813) 645-5749)

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