Jennifer Bush's roots are firmly planted in Countryway. She grew up in the sprawling neighborhood of more than 1,500 homes on tree-lined streets that wind around ponds and small lakes just north of Old Tampa Bay.
So, it just made sense that when she and her husband, Jay, got married in 2009, that's where they would look to buy a house. With the help of her stepfather, Jim Sacarello, a real estate agent who also lives in Countryway, where he is chairman of the landscape committee, they found a perfect place — a 2,200-square-foot house with four bedrooms and a cozy back yard. It was perfect.
Until, that is, they added a new sprout, J.W., to their family tree.
"When I had him a year ago, all of a sudden the house shrank," the 32-year-old nurse practitioner said, emphasizing her words with her hands, which she held in front of her, narrowing the distance between her palms.
And so their house hunt began anew, the urgency being a rush to take advantage of the favorable housing market. With the familiarity that once drew them to the neighborhood replaced by a desire to keep the baby near his grandparents, they house-hunted only in Countryway. It's a well-kept development of nice single-family houses.
Late last year, they hit the jackpot and are now living in their second Countryway home, a very large 3,457-square-foot, two-story house in the Estates, one of the neighborhood's 20 separate subdivisions.
The house has five bedrooms — including a huge master — and 2 1/2 bathrooms. There is a caged pool and plenty of back yard beyond it that can be used as a play area for little J.W. and Brandy, their spunky bichon frise-King Charles Cavalier spaniel mix. They already have started remodeling, replacing carpeting with hardwood flooring and dated kitchen counters and cupboards with granite and upgraded cabinets. A huge island with a wine cooler replaces a much smaller one. The kitchen and the family room are across the back of the house and look out over the pool.
Residents pay two separate HOA fees — one to Countryway itself (the Bushes pay $300 annually) and one to the subdivision in which they live ($200 for the Bushes). The fees help pay for community park and recreational amenities, including basketball and tennis courts and baseball and soccer fields.
It's always been a place for families, Sacarello said, and the neighborhood, built in the late 1980s and early 1990s, is turning over with many young families moving in again.
And, when it's time for J.W. to go to school, he's headed to all A-rated ones, Lowry Elementary School (located within Countryway), Farnell Middle School and Alonso High School.
With access off W Waters Avenue by way of the Veterans Expressway, Countryway is 15 minutes from Tampa International Airport, a short drive to shopping malls and 14 miles from downtown Tampa.
It's in northwest Hillsborough County, near the Pinellas County line. "If a couple works both places, it's ideal. And you get more for your money than you do south of (downtown) Tampa," Sacarello said.
Patti Ewald can be reached at [email protected]