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Best Places to Live in Florida

Dori Zinn7-Minute Read
October 09, 2020

Whether you’re heading for retirement or just want to escape harsher winters, it might be time to move to Florida.

 

While retirement might be a good excuse to head south, there are plenty of cities that are great for young families or those looking to expand their families as well as single people looking to meet someone new. A number of Florida cities are some of the best places for single people.

 

Your needs will determine which cities are best for you based on your needs, family size, cost of living and other factors. Here are the top cities in Florida.

Top 10 Cities In Florida

Whether it’s family-focused or has a sprawling nightlife, these Florida cities might be appealing enough for you to make a move.

Port St. Lucie

Part of the Treasure Coast,   It’s where many baseball teams have their spring training and it’s normal to travel to other neighboring cities to catch a game. Right now, the median home price is $251,050 – up 4.6% from this time last year.

Sarasota 

Just south of Tampa, Sarasota is on Florida’s Gulf Coast – the west coast of the state. The 35 miles of beachfront are appealing, especially if you’re looking for stellar sunsets on the Gulf of Mexico. If you’re looking to hit the theme parks, Orlando is a 2-hour drive away.

Lakeland

Lakeland sits between Tampa and Orlando and is, in fact, filled with lakes – 38 to be exact.  Frank Lloyd Wright designed several buildings at Florida Southern College – a school known for its beautiful architecture.

St. Petersburg 

St. Petersburg – not to be confused with the city in Russia – is also on Florida’s Gulf Coast. It’s one of the most dog-friendly cities in the nation and was the first city to build a water reclamation system. The median list price on St. Pete homes is $274,994 – up almost 9% from this time last year.

Tampa

  It’s got plenty of professional sports: the Bucs (football), the Lightning (hockey) and the Rays (baseball). Median list prices in Tampa are up more than 12% from last year, now at $315,012.

Orlando

Orlando is right behind Tampa in population – the state’s fourth-largest . Home to more than a dozen theme parks, including the biggest one of all: Walt Disney World. There are 100 lakes in Florida (sorry, Orlando, Lakeland was incorporated first!) and you can enjoy scenic routes all over the city. It’s also home to Orlando City, a Major League Soccer team, as well as MBA’s Orlando Magic.

Miami 

Miami is home to almost half a million people while still being one of the world’s biggest tourist destinations, seeing more than 14 million of them every year. The city was founded by Julia Tuttle – the only city in the nation founded by a woman. It’s known for its art, nightlife and weather. Suntan lotion was invented in Miami. But it comes with a hefty price tag: the median home price in Miami is almost half a million dollars.

Pensacola

Pensacola is so west that it runs on central time – not eastern, like most of Florida. It’s closer to Mobile, Alabama – an hour away versus other major Florida cities (the state capital, Tallahassee, is about 3 hours away). You can expect quick commutes, pretty beaches and low cost of living in this panhandle city.

Cape Coral

Like many other great Florida cities, Cape Coral sits along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Hope you bring your boat (or get one) when you move since it has the most navigable waterways in the world. Median list prices for homes here are $268,962 – nearly 10% more than last year.

Naples

The southwest city in Florida – not in Italy – is known for its amazing beaches, golf courses (it’s the golf capital of the world) and art. It’s one of the biggest tourist-driven cities in the state and home to some amazing nature preserves.

4 Best Places For Families

If you’re considering Florida for you and your family, there are some cities that are more family-friendly than others.

Jacksonville 

The city of Jacksonville is the largest in the continental U.S. – it’s over 840 square miles. It’s full of rich Florida history and great restaurants. It has the longest-running professional dining theatre in the nation! With all that land, it’s no wonder you’ll get a great deal on a home there. Median list prices in Jacksonville are almost $226,000.

Winter Park

Just outside of Orlando, Winter Park was originally crafted to be a place for wealthy Northerners to escape cold winters. The median family income is $117,264 with more than 90% of the city’s population living above the poverty level. Like neighboring Orlando, there are lots of lakes, even for a city that’s nine square miles. 

Melbourne 

Melbourne is southeast of Orlando and part of Florida’s Space Coast since it’s so close to the Kennedy Space Center. It’s full of rich historical sites, with a portion of the city sitting on a barrier island. The weather is great for most people, averaging 72 degrees and 300 days of sun every year.

Valrico

Outside of Tampa but still in Hillsborough County, 30% of Valrico’s homes had children in them. It’s got a small-town feel without feeling too spread out – there are less than 40,000 residents. The median home values here are $220,000.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Where To Move In Florida

Moving isn’t for the faint of heart and shouldn’t be done on a whim. As you’re preparing a Florida move, consider a few important factors first.

Affordability

Even the most beautiful cities with the best schools and delicious food come with a price. Cost of living should be one of the biggest parts of your consideration.

 

If you’re moving for a job, what’s your new income like? How much will it cost to move and will you be able to recoup that money while also paying for your new home? Do you have enough to make monthly home payments but also pay for utilities, food, transportation and other related costs? Cost of living could be the differentiator between living in one city versus another.

Crime Rate

Many cities share neighborhood safety information or you can search online for crime rates in your potential neighborhood. It’s a good idea to find people living in the city or surrounding areas to gauge how secure the city is.

 

While some neighborhoods might have great home prices, look at other factors when evaluating your dream home. If you hear from people that they don’t feel safe, or have a high level of crime, your decision might be made for you. On the other hand, if crime rate doesn’t bother you, or you have a plan to keep your home and family safe, you might be able to score a great deal on a home.

Unemployment Rate

Many people relocate because of a new job, but how secure will yours be? Check out the unemployment rate in your new city and see how others fare. Is it on the rise? Are local businesses and establishments closing? How are they surviving?

 

If you’re exploring a new city and hoping to get a job once you get into town, a high unemployment rate can be a huge turnoff. It’s better to move with a job than without one, but if your circumstances don’t allow that, make sure you have enough employment opportunity once you get there.

 

Also take a look at household median income. Are most families earning a solid or even stellar income? Use this as your potential guide to figuring out what you may earn. While industries and different levels of management have their own salary ranges, location also factors into that. For instance, if you’re a manager in San Francisco, you stand to earn more than directors in Sioux Falls simply because of the cost of living.

Public Schools

Whether you’re moving your family or planning to start one after you settle down, public schools are a major factor for many people. The success of a school directly impacts the success of its students – and parents want their kids to be at the best.

 

And public schools matter even if you aren’t planning to start a family. If the time comes when you’re ready to sell your home, potential buyers might be turned off by neighborhoods that are near poorly performing schools or in districts that don’t fare well. Along with that, potential buyers evaluate school districts regardless of family size because they know how it impacts home sales.

 

While you may have plans to send your children to private or charter schools – or not have children at all – don’t miss evaluating public schools when reviewing your new city.

Local Attractions

Your home is in and of itself a major factor, but what’s outside your home is also important. Consider things like:

 

  • Beaches
  • Parks
  • Shopping
  • Nightlife
  • Restaurants
  • Kid-friendly activities

 

And also think about other factors, like commutes, cost of attractions and reviews from other locals. For instance, if you’re considering moving to Orlando, what do residents say about traffic around the theme parks? While it’s nice to be close to Disney, you probably won’t be going every day. But your commute might bring you close to them every day.

The Bottom Line

As you’re browsing through Florida homes for your next big move, don’t buy one on a whim. Instead, thoroughly research what makes a city great, like cost of living, qualify of life, access to amenities, public schools, healthcare and more. What’s important to you? Use that to determine where you’re heading next.

 

While surrounding areas, like parks and restaurants, are important, remember that your home is the biggest part of your move. Don’t get distracted and instead, use those factors as supportive material. When it comes to house-hunting, you’ll still need to evaluate future homes based on your needs, like if the home has newer appliances, a spacious garage, a backyard and updated electrical. Check to see if there’s enough space for your family – or potentially growing family – and evaluate costs to see if it’s move-in ready or will need updating and renovations.

 

If you don’t have enough cash on hand to make the big jump to buying a home in Florida, you may want to consider holding off until you’ve got a sizeable down payment plus any extra funds to help ease move-in costs. Whether this is your first home or fifth, there’s never going to be a shortage of preparedness when it comes to home buying. Make sure you’re ready to buy your new home, both financially and otherwise.

Get the right home loan for you.

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn is a personal finance journalist for more than a decade. She loves helping people learn about money, covering topics like credit, debt, investing, banking, real estate, jobs & careers, budgeting, college affordability, financial literacy, borrowing and more. Her work has been featured in CNET, Wirecutter, Quartz, Forbes, Bankrate, Credit Karma and others.