ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – When Walt Disney announced in 1965 he had picked Central Florida for his “Florida Project” that would ultimately be Walt Disney World, the population in Florida was 6.1 million people. Today, it’s more than 21 million people.
The population has been tripling in size over the last 50 years, and it hasn’t stopped. So much so, News 6 learned there are entire real estate companies in Orlando catered to people who are making the move to Central Florida just to be close to Walt Disney World.
“Welcome to my Disney home,” said Jessica Aribu, welcoming us into her new home in the Meadow Woods area of Orlando. “You are welcomed by my Disney mat.”
Inside her home, though Mickeys are hidden on teapots, Aribu can’t hide her love for Walt Disney World.
“It’s a way of life. For me, it’s a really big deal, we moved here just for that,” Aribu said.
Aribu, her husband David and son Elias, named after Walt Disney’s middle name, moved to Central Florida just to be close to Walt Disney World.
“Being here now, knowing I’m just 25 minutes away from Disney, I still am still in moments where I am in disbelief. Am I really here? No, I am really here.”
Before, the family was living in a smaller Miami home making trips to Orlando every month. Aribu’s dream to move to Orlando was within reach when her and her husband’s job allowed them both to permanently work remotely.
“Initially, I’m going to be entirely honest - I was terrified,” David Aribu said.
The move was made easier, however, through realtor Sean Faulk, part of the Moving to Orlando team, a YouTube channel considered a spin-off of the popular channel, The Dis.
Faulk was working for The Dis when he noticed the interest and demand for people actually making the move to Orlando growing, even more during the pandemic. So he started making videos for Moving to Orlando.
“Hey everyone, I’m Sean Faulk, your expert in helping you move to the Orlando-area and live your Disney dream,” he can be heard saying in a video spotlighting a house near Margaritaville. “We are 8 minutes from Animal Kingdom, about as close as we are going to get.”
Faulk and his Moving to Orlando partner, Pete Warner, began posting more videos giving tours of homes near Disney, at all price ranges, as far as Davenport and as close as behind the Disney parks.
“Some people are Disney fans and want to live within an hour of the parks,” Faulk said. “Other people are like, we need to be able to see fireworks from our back porch so if we can’t see fireworks out the backyard, we’re not buying.”
As Faulk began posting the videos, demand instantly grew.
“Within like three weeks,” Faulk added.
Faulk, being the only realtor originally on the Moving to Orlando team, needed to find a brokerage to partner with. Enter Forever Magic Realty, a rebranded realty company ran by Latoya and Nick Cotton. Both have several companies selling Disney Vacation Club homes but also started to see a demand in people deciding to move here just for Disney.
“It was just kind of like spraying a little pixie dust,” Nick Cotton said of their company rebranded with a hidden mickey on its key. “Over time, we started seeing a trend. We had a real estate company this whole time, however we noticed that our business is already associated with people doing this very thing, so why not perhaps rebrand it.”
Both the Moving to Orlando and Forever Magic Realty team noticed the pandemic accelerated things, as families, like the Aribu family, began to work remotely. The residential sales departments for both companies went from roughly $20 million to $40 million since the pandemic began, doubling in sales for people purposely moving to Central Florida, Nick Cotton added.
“It’s amazing, right?” Latoya Cotton said. “I mean, what other companies, do you know where people are like, ‘Yeah, I want to move to be close to Coca-Cola?’”
“It’s been awesome and with our rebranding, with our great partners with Moving to Orlando, and just with everything else, the growth, it’s remarkable,” Nick Cotton added.
And for the Aribu family, it’s now home.
“It doesn’t make me think I’m crazy or alone in this,” Jessica Aribu said. “I don’t know, it’s literally a dream come true.”