By Olivia Crosby
Photography by Dylan Carney and Courtney Ward

There were times when the ultimate dream home for a young family would have been fulfilled by a house in a suburban setting. But as modern career-oriented people are ever-busy, the home-buying preferences for young families have shifted. Austin and Cain McNeil, parents to 17-month-old daughter, Ava, are successfully combining their fast-paced jobs and family life in a setting that allows them to simultaneously enjoy nature’s beauty and an urban lifestyle. The term “busy” is an understatement when referring to this couple. Both work full time. Austin, manager of Wells Fargo Panama City branch and Cain, a real estate investor, and sales, own a unit in one of Bay County’s most sought-after residential condominiums, Harbour Village. From the moment you walk through the large double entrance door of the young couple’s home, there is a feeling of comfort and family.

You are greeted by views of St. Andrews Bay and the St. Andrews Marina. When entering the apartment, the breathtaking views of the water and the sailboats compete with the beautiful décor. A first-time visitor will be torn between taking in the views and admiring the interior while giving attention to playing with adorable little Ava. The McNeils have designed the interior in a color palette of shades of neutral blues and whites, but the home feels warm, inviting, and comfortable. When choosing their furniture and décor, the couple explains “comfort, functionality, and aesthetics” were all important in the process. They combined these features in the interior design and the look is pristine and clean. They give props to their vibrant, “full-of-life” daughter Ava.

Of course, Austin and Cain help with the inviting and hospitable feeling as well, being the perfect hosts with coffee or wine readily offered, depending on the time of day, of course. They are extremely happy with their condo decor and everything it offers. They still have a “wish list” for their home design, with the office and guest room as next projects. The outdoor experience is what Cain and Austin McNeil most appreciate about their beautiful waterfront condominium in Historic St. Andrews. “It’s important to us to be able to relax at home and enjoy downtime,” they remark and explain their favorite “room” in the house is not a room at all, but their spacious balcony. It can accommodate a large group of people. A modern outdoor-sectional and wine bar invite friends and family to relax. Despite the proximity to the lively marina, the balcony offers a tranquil and quiet refuge. The views, of course, cannot be praised enough. “The sun shines directly on the porch around 3 to 5 o’clock in the afternoon,” Cain explains. “With our condo facing west, the sunrise is “gentle” and it is great to wake up to.”

The master bedroom flows and is connected to the balcony and offers an open feeling. This is one of their favorite aspects of their beautifully laid out, open concept, 2,300 square foot home. For Austin, it is perfection to come home after work and enjoy the sunset or sunbathe on the weekend. “I have a better chance of getting a suntan while on the balcony instead of the pool,” she says. This is not only their favorite “room” in the house but their favorite spot to enjoy coffee in the morning. It is perfect for either starting the day or ending the day and that is exactly what the family does. Most weekends you can find Ava, Austin, and Cain either on their balcony, at the pool, or at the condo’s park-like courtyard. Since moving in last November, they have enjoyed and love the amenities their condo offers. The pool is large, and they often invite friends. When they first looked at the condo unit, they had hesitations about the lack of a garden and felt that Ava should have a yard where she could play while growing up. But when they toured the beautiful courtyard it was a game changer–they were sold. It truly offers the best of both worlds.

Ava has an electric cart that she loves to ride, and the courtyard is perfect for it. They chose to live here because it “felt like home,” the couple explains. Cain grew up in this area and they love how it is growing–all while keeping the “historic vibes.” When walking out of the front door, views of downtown St. Andrews present themselves. The courtyard features mature trees, a large grassy area, and beautifully maintained flower beds. During the weekend after sipping coffee by the water, they can easily do it all; go paddle boarding, enjoy the pool, stroll in the courtyard, or ride bikes all through the area. At night they can walk to the local eateries for entertainment and delicious food! Therefore, the couple explains, they love where they chose to live.

When asking the couple how they like their lifestyle, their answer comes easy, “A big reason we enjoy condo living is, it takes away a lot of the hassle of owning a single-family detached house. Our yard and exterior are taken care of, allowing us to focus on work when we need to, and enjoying family time during off-hours as opposed to doing yard work and house chores.” Another big benefit to the condo is the security that it offers. Clearly, living on the water is the icing on the cake for this happy family. Waking up every morning and seeing the water with the natural sunlight is something that the couple says they are truly blessed to be able to witness and they do not take it for granted.

Olivia Crosby

Olivia Crosby is a long-time native of Florida, born and raised in Panama City. Olivia is Congressman Neal Dunn’s Regional Director. She is a member of the Emerald Coast Junior Women’s Club, a member of Bay County Chamber’s Leadership Bay Steering Committee, and a big sister in Big Brothers big sisters program. Prior to joining Dr. Dunn’s team, Olivia has had ten years of experience working in politics and government for the private sector, along with state and local officials. Olivia graduated Florida State University with her Bachelor’s in Political Science and Communications.

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