a newly built neighborhood in Miami, Floria

If you're planning to move to Miami, be ready for high housing costs and an influx of residents during the winter. (Getty Images)

Miami appeals to people for a wide variety of reasons. Some are looking for the ultimate city to retire in, with all the amenities to fill up a daily schedule. Others are drawn to Miami because it offers a global business market that can help set them up for success. Still others value its beaches and consistently warm weather, and see it as the perfect place to spend part of the year – or even just a few weekends to unwind.

But before you move to this coastal metropolis, it’s a good idea to know a few additional details that can help you thrive in your new hometown. Here’s what you should know about moving to Miami before you get there.

[Read: The Guide to Buying a Home.]

Should You Move to Miami?

While there are plenty of lifelong Miami residents, you won’t be hard-pressed to find transplants from other parts of the U.S. or even abroad. Between 2013 and 2017, Miami’s population increased by 3.9% due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While the 10 other Florida metro areas that appear on the U.S. News Best Places to Live ranking in 2019 all had faster growth rates due to net migration, Miami is also the largest metro area in Florida and saw the greatest number of net new residents (228,645) over the five-year period.

Like many other Florida cities, Miami offers ample job opportunities in the tourism industry to cater to the millions of visitors each year as well as a continuously expanding construction and development industry to meet the housing and commercial property demands of its growing population. In addition, Miami’s reputation as a world capital of international business can make it the perfect place to work in trade, manufacturing or finance.

How to Move to Miami

As with any move to a new city, having a job lined up is ideal. However, plenty of people move to Miami after retirement or purchase a second home there while they live and work elsewhere.

When it comes to choosing an area to live in Miami, there are a wide variety of options. There are neighborhoods known for their cultural influence like Little Havana and Little Haiti, trendy parts of the city like Wynwood that offer an active art scene or suburbs like Coral Gables that have more single-family homes. Miami Beach is a popular destination for luxury buyers, who are also attracted to beachfront opportunities north of the city toward Fort Lauderdale. A real estate agent who is familiar with the area can help you find the spot that fits your budget and lifestyle.

“If you’re very indecisive, I would say don’t buy right now. Come in as a tenant and rent, and experience South Florida,” says Jorge Guerra Jr., chairman of the board of the Miami Association of Realtors.

As with any cross-country move, Guerra recommends relocating with a licensed and insured moving company so your belongings arrive safely and within the expected time frame. If you’re planning to buy a home right away, he adds, get preapproved for a mortgage to make any offer more attractive to the seller.

[Read: 12 Packing Tips for Moving to Your New Home.]

Here’s what you should know before you move to Miami:

  • Housing costs are high.
  • It’s more crowded in winter.
  • Spanish is often the default language.
  • It rains more than you may think.
  • Traffic delays are expected.

Housing Costs Are High

If you’re coming from another major city like New York, Boston or San Francisco, Miami’s home prices and rents likely won’t phase you, says Danny Hertzberg, a real estate agent for The Jills Zeder Group, part of Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, in the Miami area.

Hertzberg notes that the area's most active price ranges are at the bottom, where you find most first-time homebuyers, and at the top, where ultra-luxury real estate sells for $10 million or more, though there are naturally far fewer buyers on the luxury end. The median home price in Miami as of February 2020 was $336,400, according to real estate information company Zillow, compared with the national median price of $250,000.

If you’re worried about affording a home, adjust your expectations about the type of property or location you envision. “The further you get out from the center of the city, the prices go down and you get more land and larger homes,” Hertzberg says. “It’s all about where (buyers are) willing to compromise.”

It’s More Crowded in Winter

Since Miami is a popular destination for snowbirds – people who spend winters in the southern U.S. to avoid cold weather and summers in the north to avoid peak heat – you can expect the population to grow between November and April.

“You feel it – the restaurants are busier, the roads are busier,” Hertzberg says. Expect the housing market to follow similar seasonality, with fewer sales in late spring and summer and more buyers in late fall and winter. However, Hertzberg notes that the COVID-19 pandemic led many New Yorkers to Florida, and he expects quarantines and a disinclination to fly to keep more seasonal residents in Miami throughout summer 2020.

Spanish Is Often the Default Language

As a former colony of Spain before it became a part of the U.S., Florida has a long history with the Spanish language, and Miami is also heavily influenced by Central America and South America. Being bilingual will get you through just about any situation, but knowing a few helpful Spanish phrases will work as well. “Make sure you learn some basic Spanish. ‘Where is the bathroom?’ and things like that,” Guerra says.

Latin American influence can be found throughout the city. “It’s not just in the language. It’s also in the cuisine; it’s also in the culture. So when people are moving from a different state (or) a different city, it’s very new to them,” Hertzberg says.

[See: The Best Places to Live in Florida for Families]

It Rains More Than You May Think

When you think South Florida, you likely picture sunny days spent at the beach. The reality, though, is that it rains pretty regularly. The Weather Channel reports that Miami receives an average of nearly 52 inches of rain per year. Not every day that includes rain will be a day you can’t go to the beach, though, as there are plenty of rainy mornings that turn into sunny afternoons. But if you’re not a fan of keeping an umbrella on hand just in case, you may be better suited to a drier climate.

Traffic Delays Are Expected

You can expect rush-hour traffic in just about any major city. In South Florida, drawbridges throughout Miami and the outer metro area can add even more time to your commute. If you’re relocating from a town that doesn’t see many traffic jams, Guerra jokes that you may want to prepare yourself for a new style of driving: “The way we say ‘hi’ is we honk excessively.”

The Best Places to Live in Florida

Where in Florida is the best place for you?

(Getty Images)

If you’re a fan of warm weather, sandy beaches and plenty of sunny days, Florida probably sounds like a great place to live. But it’s a big state, complete with coastal cities, sprawling, landlocked towns and areas dotted with lakes and canals. That's why it takes some consideration to determine what part of Florida is best for you. Florida is also the third-most populous state in the country, and 11 places in the state are among the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. We’ve compiled the details from the Best Places to Live in the U.S. rankings, which factor in desirability, affordability, access to quality health care and more, to help you decide which major metro area in the Sunshine State is right for you.

Updated on Sept. 16, 2019: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.

11. Miami

11. Miami

Leaving for the Caribbean from Miami International Airport passing over Miami and Biscayne Bay.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 113
Metro Population: 6,019,790
Median Home Price: $247,113
Median Annual Salary: $46,860

The most populous metro area in Florida, Miami sits at the state’s southern tip and is a major tourist destination for its year-round hot weather, vibrant culture and lively nightlife. The Magic City’s desirability is evident in its growth, as the Miami metro area grew by more than 3.9% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, residents spend more than 31.08% of the median household income on housing expenses, including mortgage payments, rent and property taxes. Only San Juan, Puerto Rico, is more expensive to live in among the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Miami.

10. Daytona Beach

10. Daytona Beach

Daytona Beach skyline aerial view.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 99
Metro Population: 623,675
Median Home Price: $192,817
Median Annual Salary: $38,710

Daytona Beach has a population about one-tenth the size of Miami, but that may not be the case for long. Between 2013 and 2017, Daytona Beach grew by nearly 10.35% solely from net migration. Many people who are attracted to this spot on the Atlantic coast are retirees, as the median age in the Daytona Beach metro area is over 47. But the biggest factor contributing to its rank at No. 99 on the Best Places to Live list is the cost of living. Daytona Beach residents spend 27.84% of the median household income on housing, compared to the median 23.58% of all the spots on the Best Places to Live list.

Learn more about Daytona Beach.

9. Port St. Lucie

9. Port St. Lucie

The Crosstown Parkway Extension Project is a new bridge crossing the North Fork of the St. Lucie River in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Construction is expected to be completed by November of 2019.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 78
Metro Population: 454,482
Median Home Price: $211,083
Median Annual Salary: $42,500

Port St. Lucie is growing slightly slower than Daytona Beach, seeing a 10.24% jump from 2013 to 2017 based on net migration. Of the 125 metro areas on the Best Places to Live list, Port St. Lucie also ranks 14th in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, which measures residents’ satisfaction with where they live, their physical health and the area’s economic stability. However, like many Florida metro areas, the cost of living is considered prohibitive for many residents. More than 27.5% of the median household income in Port St. Lucie is spent on housing costs, making it the 11th-most expensive place to live out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S.

Learn more about Port St. Lucie.

8. Orlando

8. Orlando

Sunset on the Boardwalk - Disneyworld

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 63
Metro Population: 2,390,859
Median Home Price: $233,050
Median Annual Salary: $44,410

Home of Disney World and Universal Studios, Orlando draws tourists year-round thanks to its theme parks and warm weather, despite not being located on the coast. But it’s not just visitors coming to Orlando, as the metro area has grown by 9.28% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration. Orlando has no shortage of jobs, but the median annual salary, at $44,410, is still more than $6,000 below the national median of $50,620, which contributes to its relatively high cost of living.

Learn more about Orlando.

7. Lakeland

7. Lakeland

Downtown Lakeland, Florida, US

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 59
Metro Population: 652,256
Median Home Price: $171,967
Median Annual Salary: $40,560

Just inland from Tampa is Lakeland, which isn’t coastal but is appropriately named for the lakes that dot the area. Lakeland ranks sixth out of the 125 most populous metro areas for its low rates of murder and property crime – and is the safest Florida metro area on this list. Additionally, Lakeland has grown by about 9.91% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration alone. Lakeland’s job market, however, appears to struggle to meet demand, with an unemployment rate of 4%.

Learn more about Lakeland.

6. Tampa

6. Tampa

Skyline of Downtown Tampa, Florida, US

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 56
Metro Population: 2,978,209
Median Home Price: $199,717
Median Annual Salary: $46,080

Ranking No. 56 on the overall Best Places to Live list, Tampa is experiencing a similar population boom to most other places in Florida, having grown by 7.93% from 2013 to 2017 due to net migration. Located on Tampa Bay, which is connected to the Gulf of Mexico, Tampa draws many retirees to its shores and has a median age 42. The Big Guava, as Tampa is known, is slightly more affordable than many other Florida metro areas, but residents still spend more than 25.53% of the median household income on housing.

Learn more about Tampa.

5. Jacksonville

5. Jacksonville

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown city skyline on St. Johns River.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 42
Metro Population: 1,447,884
Median Home Price: $174,658
Median Annual Salary: $45,760

Located near Florida’s border with Georgia along the Atlantic coast, Jacksonville ranks No. 42 on the overall Best Places to Live list. Jacksonville ranks 14th out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. for college readiness among high school students, based on information from the U.S. News Best High Schools rankings. With a population closing in on 1.5 million people, the Jacksonville area grew by just over 6.88% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Learn more about Jacksonville.

4. Pensacola

4. Pensacola

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 37
Metro Population: 476,702
Median Home Price: $175,875
Median Annual Salary: $41,200

The only Florida panhandle metro area on the list, Pensacola sees less growth due to net migration than many other metro areas in Florida. But it’s the 15th-most desirable spot out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., according to a SurveyMonkey analysis of 2,000 people throughout the country who were asked where they would prefer to live. And its location farther from Florida hot spots that draw the most tourists helps keep the cost of living down, with residents spending just 23.79% of median household income on housing.

Learn more about Pensacola.

3. Fort Myers

3. Fort Myers

Florida Fort Myers colorful facades and palm trees in USA

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Best Places 2019 Rank: 35
Metro Population: 700,165
Median Home Price: $219,200
Median Annual Salary: $41,380

While Fort Myers ranks No. 35 on the overall Best Places to Live list, it ranks No. 2 on the Best Places to Retire list. It’s no surprise that Fort Myers is a popular retirement destination, with its median resident age of 47.8 years. Fort Myers is also growing at a fast clip – by 14.42% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration – and it is the second-fastest growing metro area out of the 125 spots on the Best Places to Live list, after Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Learn more about Fort Myers.

2. Melbourne

2. Melbourne

Cumulous nimbus cloud as background for a beautiful day at the beach in Florida.

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 25
Metro Population: 568,183
Median Home Price: $198,425
Median Annual Salary: $48,240

Ranking No. 25 on the Best Places to Live list, Melbourne is the second-best metro area in Florida. Melbourne’s high school students rank fourth out of the 125 most populous metro areas for college readiness, with only San Jose, California, Miami and Reno, Nevada, ranking higher. Like everywhere else in the Sunshine State, Melbourne is growing rapidly based on net migration, with a population growth of 8.74% between 2013 and 2017. The median age of residents in Melbourne is 47.1 years.

Learn more about Melbourne.

1. Sarasota

1. Sarasota

(Getty Images)

Best Places 2019 Rank: 18
Metro Population: 768,381
Median Home Price: $237,260
Median Annual Salary: $42,680

Ranking No. 18 in Best Places to Live and No. 3 in Best Places to Retire, Sarasota has a median age over 51. Retired or not, the area has plenty of new residents, as Sarasota grew by 13.1% between 2013 and 2017 due to net migration. Additionally, Sarasota ranks second out of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S. in the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. Living in Sarasota is pricey, however. Residents spend 25.51% of the median household income on housing costs.

Learn more about Sarasota.

The Best Places to Live in Florida include:

The Best Places to Live in Florida include:

(Getty Images)

  • Sarasota.
  • Melbourne.
  • Fort Myers.
  • Pensacola.
  • Jacksonville.
  • Tampa.
  • Lakeland.
  • Orlando.
  • Port St. Lucie.
  • Daytona Beach.
  • Miami.

See rankings.

Read More

Tags: real estate, Florida, Miami, housing, housing market, home prices, new home sales, existing home sales, pending home sales, renting, moving

Devon Thorsby is the Real Estate editor at U.S. News & World Report, where she writes consumer-focused articles about the homebuying and selling process, home improvement, tenant rights and the state of the housing market.

She has appeared in media interviews across the U.S. including National Public Radio, WTOP (Washington, D.C.) and KOH (Reno, Nevada) and various print publications, as well as having served on panels discussing real estate development, city planning policy and homebuilding.

Previously, she served as a researcher of commercial real estate transactions and information, and is currently a member of the National Association of Real Estate Editors. Thorsby studied Political Science at the University of Michigan, where she also served as a news reporter and editor for the student newspaper The Michigan Daily. Follow her on Twitter or write to her at dthorsby@usnews.com.

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