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Lake County may lose rural status for USDA housing programs

USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) housing programs have helped thousands of families over the years purchase homes with no money down.  The program was instituted about 40 years ago to promote homeownership in rural areas.  For years, Lake county was considered rural and this has been no doubt a popular financing option.  You could not get this loan in Orlando!

Photo: Lake County Florida Tourism


Now that Lake County is the seventh fastest growing county in the state according to our Lake County Economic Development Department, we may be at risk for losing this loan for our area.  USDA is conducting a review of all areas under its jurisdiction to identify areas that no longer qualify as rural for housing programs. The last rural area reviews were performed in 2012-2013 using the 2010 census data.

Here are the areas currently under review: Lady Lake, Eustis, Tavares, Mount Dora, Clermont, Four Corners.

If you have been considering buying a house with no money down, don’t delay!  Reach out to The Catherine Hanson Real Estate team or contact me, Mary Rhodes, from The Mortgage Firm for more information.

The author of this post, Mary Rhodes, is the Branch Manager/Loan Originator at The Mortgage Firm in Mount Dora. You can contact her by calling 321-689-5754 or

Upcoming Events in Lake County

There is always a reason to explore and have fun in Lake County, Florida. From annual festivals to weekly events, Lake County offers many opportunities for exciting activities. We’ve come up with a list of things to do while you are living or visiting Central Florida. Enjoy these upcoming events in Lake County.


Thanksgiving Grand Brunch Buffet 
Nov. 23 at Mission Inn Resort & Club, Howey-in-the-Hills
Join us for our Annual Thanksgiving Grand Brunch at La Hacienda and Nickers Restaurants here at Mission Inn Resort.Serving endless champagne, mimosas, and live music. $49.99 for Adults, $22.99 for Children aged 5-12 and children under 4 are free.
Festival of Trees 2018 
Nov. 25 – Dec. 2 at Grand Oaks Resort, Lady Lake
The Grand Oaks will be transformed into a winter wonderland of decorated Trees and Wreaths on display each evening. Holiday music, refreshments and nightly activities will make this a fun and festive event. Visitors are invited to vote for charity!
36th Annual Light Up Mount Dora 
Nov. 25 at Donnelly Park, Mount Dora
A Chamber Co-sponsored event. Join us for the lighting of Donnelly Park and Downtown Mount Dora. Don’t miss the spectacular show with Christmas songs, dancers and more. Sponsored by the City of Mount Dora and Mount Dora Area Chamber of Commerce.
Holiday Flea Market 
Dec. 1 – 3 at Renninger’s Flea Market and Antique Center, Mount Dora
The Holiday’s are here and with that comes “help” always adding to the gift list it never ends. So Renninger’s is playing santa! We are having a three day event of yard sale fun! Come out for a fun weekend!
A Christmas Carol 
Dec. 1 – 16 at Melon Patch Theatre, Leesburg
A company of ragtag traveling players, assembled to perform a trunk show production of the classic Christmas story, create a magical world of make-believe, fog, snow, fire, and ghosts, through mime, imagination and wonderful effects!
Christmas Shop Hop and Walk 
Dec. 1 at Historic Downtown, Leesburg
Downtown Merchants welcome shoppers and browsers to a Wine Walk along Main Street in Historic Downtown Leesburg. Each ticket entitles holder to a free glass of wine at each participating shop. Tickets are available at Two Old Hags Wine Shoppe.
North American Preliminary Championships 
Dec. 1 – 3 at Grand Oaks Resort, Lady Lake
A combined driving event is a carriage driving event with three phases of competition that include dressage, cones, and a marathon with hazards/obstacles. Free admission!
Light Up Clermont 
Dec. 1 – 2 at Downtown Clermont, Clermont
This annual holiday tradition includes the community tree-lighting ceremony, old-fashioned Christmas parade through downtown Clermont and an inspiration Lessons and Carols ceremony at the Clermont Arts and Recreation Center. We invite you to make this two-day event part of your holiday traditions!

25th Annual Mount Dora Christmas Walk 
Dec. 1 at Downtown Mount Dora, Mount Dora
A family friendly street party in downtown Mount Dora featuring live music, dancing, shopping and Santa. Sponsored by the City of Mount Dora and the Mount Dora Area Chamber of Commerce.
Quarterly Bird & Butterfly Survey 
Dec. 2 at Pasture Reserve, Groveland
Opportunity to assist in surveying birds & butterflies that inhabit our parks & reserves. Binoculars are required, experience is helpful but no necessary.

50th Annual Main Street Christmas Parade 
Dec. 2 at Historic Downtown, Leesburg
Festivities start at 3pm with live performances, festive foods and more. Parade kicks off at 6pm. Parade applications available online.
Lady Lake Christmas Parade 
Dec. 2 at Old Dixie Hwy, Lady Lake
Lots of fun for everyone.

A Christmas Carol 
Dec. 3 – 10 at Melon Patch Theatre, Leesburg
A company of ragtag traveling players, assembled to perform a trunk show production of the classic Christmas story, create a magical world of make-believe, fog, snow, fire, and ghosts, through mime, imagination and wonderful effects!
Light Up Venetian Gardens and Christmas on The Water 
Dec. 3 at Venetian Gardens, Leesburg
View the holiday display of lights at Venetian Gardens sponsored by the City of Leesburg. Family fun activities and food, then stay for the annual lighted boat parade. Light Up info 352-728-9885, boat parade 352-326-8274
Wine & Chocolate Festival 
Dec. 8 – 10 at Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards, Clermont
Wine and Chocolate is the theme for this very special event at this seasonal time of year. Local Artists and Crafters are invited to display their work. Enjoy live music by incredible bands on outdoor stage throughout the entire weekend.
3-Day Eventing Schooling Show 
Dec. 8 – 10 at Grand Oaks Resort, Lady Lake
FREE ADMISSION! Open to the public… spectators welcome. For more info visit
Light Up Lady Lake 
Dec. 8 at Log Cabin Park, Lady Lake
Lots of fun for everyone.
Quarterly Bird & Butterfly Survey 
Dec. 9 Ferndale Preserve, Minneola
Opportunity to assist in surveying birds & butterflies that inhabit our parks & reserves. Binoculars are required, experience is helpful but not necessary.
Florida Lakes Symphony Orchestra O Holy Night 
Dec. 14 at Epiphany Celebration Anglican Church, Eustis
The Annual Symphony Christmas Concert is always a favorite with beautiful Christmas selections and guests and wondrous surprises: Nutcracker Suite etc.
Luminary Night 
Dec. 14 at Log Cabin Park, Lady Lake
Come out bring the family and have a good time
Wildlife Night Hike 
Dec. 15 at Ellis Acres Reserve, Paisley
Join parks’ staff to learn about the animals who inhabit this preserve. Early mornings and evenings are great times to view wildlife.
Christmas Grand Brunch Buffet 
Dec. 25 at Mission Inn Resort & Club, Howey-in-the-Hills
Join us for our Annual Christmas Day Grand Brunch at La Hacienda and Nicker’s Resturants here at Mission Inn Resort. Serving Endless Champagne & Mimosas + Live Music $49.99 Per Guest $22.99 Children ages 5-12 Children under 4 FREE
Mike Stone Invitational 
Dec. 27 – 29 at Mike Stone Soccer Complex, Tavares
This is a high school soccer tournament which is held over three days. It is made up of teams from all over the state and often with one or two teams from out of state. To date, it is the largest high school soccer tournament in Florida.
New Years Eve Grand Brunch 
Dec. 31 at Mission Inn Resort & Club, Howey-in-the-Hills
Join us for our New Years Eve Grand Brunch at our La Hacienda Restaurant here at Mission Inn Resort.$49.99 per guest and $22.99 for children ages 5-12. Children under 4 are free.

Find your dream home in Lake County, Florida

4th Annual Punkin Chunkin Contest at East Lake County Library

You don’t have to travel far or spend a lot to experience the drama and excitement of medieval Europe right in your own back yard. The 4th Annual Punkin Chunkin contest was held at the East Lake County Library in Sorrento. Several well organized and enthusiastic teams set up their trebuchets and catapults in order to see who could come closest to the castle (actually a 30 gallon garbage can in disguise) 100 feet away. The projectile was an orange object known as a pumpkin! The teams competed in several categories; closest to the castle, best decorated artillery, best costumes and the “best” decorated gourd (pumpkin).
If you are not familiar with the trebuchet (ours is known as the “Hanson Hurler”), it is an engineering marvel that transfers potential energy into kinetic energy and launches an object a great distance. The design is a classic STEM project of the Middle Ages. By the way if you are not familiar with STEM, ask an elementary or middle schooler. They know all about Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — all key skills used by the backyard engineers, mathematicians, scientists and physicists that built our machine. It was a well orchestrated activity, with half the family designing the frame and the other half building the arm. Once complete, many of the grandchildren did a marvelous job of painting both the trebuchet and each other! This was a fun family activity that continues each year. We spend the morning fine tuning the Hurler, compete, and then we think about how we can improve our machine for next year. Now that is excitement!

This year the “Hanson Hurlers” were able to capture 1st place in the most accurate category as our second toss landed just ONE (1) foot from the target! We also took home the trophy for the best decorated structure (see how that paint job paid off). However, the real winners were those members of the family that had fun getting ready for, participating in and then sharing the activity. Stay tuned to learn of the date for next year’s event so you to can become part of all the excitement.


Free Wi-Fi during Hurricane Irma

Free Xfinity Wi-Fi is being offered at select sites in Florida during Hurricane Irma. The Wi-Fi is offered at various indoor and outdoor hotspots, including businesses, parks and shopping districts. Xfinity hotspot locations are listed online.

How do use the free Wi-Fi:

  • Once in range of a hotspot, select the “xfinitywifi” network name in the list of available hotspots and then launch a browser.
  • Xfinity internet customers can sign in with their usernames and passwords and they will be automatically connected to Xfinity WiFi hotspots in the future.
  • Non-Xfinity internet subscribers should visit the “Not an Xfinity Internet Customer” section on the sign-in page to get started. Non-customers will be able to renew their complimentary sessions every 2 hours through September 15.

To help our agents prepare for Hurricane Irma, we will have limited office hours today through Monday. We are always available at 352-383-3772 or Please plan ahead and stay safe!

For more information, visit Lake County’s hurricane guide.

Walk to support Easter Seals of Central Florida

Please join Easter Seals and team members from Catherine Hanson Real Estate, Inc. at Camp Challenge for a family fun walk around the nature trail and an authentic camp experience complete with carnival games, tie-dye, and arts and crafts. Walk With Me is Easter Seal of Central Florida’s signature fundraising event giving children and adults with disabilities the opportunity live, learn, work, and play to their full potential. We are proud to sponsor this event and hope to see you there!

WHEN: Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
WHERE: Camp Challenge
$10 Registration (Includes t-shirt, carnival games, and goody bag)
FREE for children 10 and under
*Food and extra activities available for additional fee*

Visit to sponsor, start a team, or volunteer.

Mount Plymouth Historic Bike Loop

Hop on your bike to discover the new and beautiful Mount Plymouth Historic Bike Loop in Lake County, Florida. You can bike for miles through the peaceful neighborhood while learning about the natural and historical sites in the area.

The Historic Bicycle Loop winds through Mount Plymouth using existing neighborhood streets. In the future, this Loop will connect to the Wekiva Trail, which will traverse right through Mount Plymouth-Sorrento.

On this route, you’ll discover the entrance to the old Mount Plymouth Hotel, Gingerbread Houses designed by Sam Stoltz, beautiful natural surroundings and more.

Mount Plymouth Historic Bike Loop Map

DeLand Wins America’s Main Street Contest

For the second year in a row, Independent We Stand has awarded more than $25,000 in cash and prizes, plus a brag-worthy title, to one deserving Main Street program. The America’s Main Streets contest celebrates local communities across the country, while recognizing the groups working to keep them vibrant. This year, MainStreet DeLand of DeLand, Florida, claimed the top spot in IWS’ America’s Main Streets contest.

Situated about 30 miles north of Orlando, DeLand is one of Florida’s “small-town treasures.” The city is home to about 27,000 residents and the historic campus of Stetson University. MainStreet DeLand has served the community for more than 30 years, blending the city’s historic roots with the 21st century. The award-winning Main Street program organizes regular events, such as a growers and makers market and small business meetings. MainStreet DeLand was even the first program in Florida to earn the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street designation.

“MainStreet DeLand has worked long and hard to reinvigorate the downtown. At one point over half of the downtown buildings were vacant. Now it is clearly the pride and joy of the community.” said Bill Brunelle, co-founder of Independent We Stand. “The purpose of the America’s Main Streets contest is to highlight the type of leadership and longstanding commitment to community that MainStreet DeLand provides.”

As the contest’s ultimate winner, MainStreet DeLand will receive $25,000 cash, plus a series of prizes intended to make community revitalization easier.

Additionally, MainStreet DeLand will work with Independent We Stand on a “Main Streets Make Us Better” event. The event will take place on July 1, during DeLand’s annual Firecracker Festival. The Main Street-themed event will give the local community an opportunity to celebrate the contest win and reenergize its support for the downtown program.

The full article appears on

Catherine’s Corner: Business Women of Style

My daughter, Leslie, and I are proud to be chosen as Businesswomen of Style by Lake & Sumter Style Magazine. We love that we have the opportunity to work together to grow Catherine Hanson Real Estate, Inc. It’s a family business, and one we are very passionate about. We hope to see you soon!

Mount Dora Ribbon Cutting

Our newest Catherine Hanson Real Estate, Inc. location is now open in Mount Dora, Florida. Please stop by and say hi the next time you are in town: 346 Dora Drawdy Way, Mount Dora, FL 32757.

A special thank you to Mount Dora & East Lake Chambers of Commerce for your support. Thanks to our generous partners who donated door prizes: The Closing Boutique; First International Title – Kim Mahoney; Chelsea Title – Angela Sheppard.

Catherine’s Corner: New Office Opens in Mount Dora

Sometimes opportunities present themselves — and you have to act fast. When we saw the potential for growth in Mount Dora, Florida, we trusted our instincts and opened a new office at 346 Dora Drawdy Way. We are very excited to return to this beautiful town!

I have been most fortunate in the real estate business thanks to many of you. We have survived the downturn that started in 2007. I was able to consolidate and hang in there during the tough times. Then, a couple of years ago, my daughter, Leslie, became interested in the business and has become a key member of my team. She has learned the ropes quickly and has taken over some of my duties. I am proud, thrilled and less stressed to have my daughter working with me. She grew up on our dairy in Sorrento, went to school Mt. Dora and lives east of Eustis. She knows East Lake County and Mt. Dora well.


A couple of months ago, we started to explore the idea of opening an office again in Mt. Dora (I had one there for several years before 2007). And then things started to fall into place: a couple of top notch sales associates agreed to place their license with us, a small office on Dora Drawdy Way (close to Goblin Market) became available and, fortunately, the market is moving forward again. On February 1st, the stars aligned and Catherine Hanson Real Estate, Inc. opened in downtown Mt. Dora. We are excited to have a presence in the city as well as the county. When you are in town stop by and say hello to Lisa Dyson and Mike & Mandy Specchio, Jean & Tim BarlowGraham Biles and Misti Winters. They would love to visit and get to know you.


If you know of someone looking for a residence or even commercial property in Mt. Dora, please keep us in mind. The same personal touch and sincere concern found in our Sorrento location exists in the Mt. Dora office as well. We are a homegrown family business that began in 1989 when I started Catherine Hanson Real Estate, Inc. from my home and constructed the building in Sorrento that same year. We are one big family that is committed to serving the residents and potential residents of East Lake County with competence and enthusiasm.


See you soon!