At the southeastern tip of the continental U.S., Florida draws people with its warm weather, sandy beaches and world-renowned tourist attractions. But visiting Florida on vacation and becoming a local are two different experiences. Here’s what you need to know about moving to Florida and what to expect when you get there.
Should You Move to Florida?
Whether you’re planning to retire in Florida, move there for work or relocate to be closer to family, know that you’re not the only one moving there. Of the 125 most populous metro areas in the U.S., 11 are located in Florida, and nine of them are among the 25 fastest-growing by population due to net migration, based on census data between 2013 and 2017.
There are a wide array of places to choose from in Florida, and they may or may not be near the ocean or alligators. Miami, in South Florida, is the eighth-most populous metro area in the U.S. and is known as a global hot spot for major international business deals. Meanwhile, in the Panhandle you’ll find cities like Pensacola and Tallahassee that offer a completely different, small-city vibe.
You’ll also find beach cities and inland lake towns that may provide a convenient commute for your new job, an ideal spot to work in the tourism industry or simply a place you’d like to raise a family or retire.
How to Move to Florida
If you’re planning to be a part of the workforce in Florida, it may be a good idea to have a job lined up before your move. While Miami is the center of international commerce in the state, in Orlando you’ll find that major amusement parks like Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando Resort are major sources of employment.
If you’re unsure which part of the state is for you, consider renting to experience a city for a year or six months, and repeat the process in places like Tampa, Daytona Beach and Jacksonville, among others. After extended stays in a few spots, you’re likely to find the place you want to call home permanently.
A large share of born-and-raised Floridians are renters, which can in a way make buying a home a bit more challenging if you’re looking for a property at an entry-level price, explains Natalie Carmichael, a Realtor for eXp Realty in Pensacola. “That leaves you with investors buying up all these properties (with) cash for barely anything and then flipping them,” Carmichael wrote in an email.
Here’s what you need to know about moving to Florida:
- The cost of living depends on where you live.
- Different parts of the state offer different lifestyles.
- It’s a retirement destination.
- Construction is booming.
- Hurricanes happen.
The Cost of Living Depends on Where You Live
Just about every large city in Florida offers the full gamut of housing, from studio apartments to luxury waterfront villas. Some cities, naturally, will offer a lower cost of living than others. Miami is one of the most expensive places to live in the U.S., requiring more than 31% of the area's median household income to cover housing costs – and it's the second-most expensive place to live after San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the U.S. News 2019 Best Places to Live list.
In Sarasota, home prices continue to rise steadily – between 5% and 7% annually in recent years, says Roger Pettingell, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Realty based in the Sarasota area. He compares it to other cities in Florida such as Naples and Palm Beach, with attractions ranging from golf to opera, but without the price tag. “It’s still been, relative to those other areas, very affordable,” Pettingell says.
A major draw for people looking to move to Florida for work is the fact that there’s no state income tax, which means you'll have more income to cover your rent or mortgage payments and utilities.
Different Parts of the State Offer Different Lifestyles
Many describe life in the Panhandle as completely different from South Florida – the same with inland versus coastal cities. With its location in the Panhandle, Pensacola is more connected to nearby Southern states than spots on the Florida Peninsula. “In Pensacola you can go to Biloxi (Mississippi) in a couple hours and go to the casinos, or drive to Atlanta, or take a day trip to New Orleans,” Carmichael says.
The different vibes you might get throughout Florida are, in part, based on where people are visiting or moving from, Pettingell says. Before air travel became the norm for vacationers, many people would pick their Florida destination based on the highway they’d take to go south – so people from the Northeast taking I-95 would end up on the east coast of the state, while Midwesterners taking I-75 would end up on the Gulf Coast.
Florida cities adapted their personalities to fit where the population is coming from – the Gulf side may be a bit more slower-paced than the Atlantic side, for example – and you’ll find people naturally drawn to the cities that match their lifestyle, Pettingell says. “Somebody that comes to see (Sarasota) would not equally like going to Boca (Raton), and vice versa,” he says.
It’s a Retirement Destination
It’s no secret that Florida is a prime destination for retirees and those planning to retire soon, as well as people looking to avoid cold winters and take advantage of outdoor activities. While young professionals and families are attracted to Florida’s benefits, the median age of the state skews slightly older. More than 20% of the state’s population is over 65, according to the census, while just 16% of the entire U.S. population is over 65.
Construction Is Booming
Florida is a fast-growing state in terms of population, and the residential construction industry is working hard to keep up with demand.
In 2019, there were authorized construction permits for 154,302 residential units in the state of Florida, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, which is more than the entire Northeastern U.S. The only state with more construction permits in 2019 was Texas with 209,895. Construction on a large scale helps to keep the cost of living in many fast-growing cities from increasing too fast and pricing people out of the market.
When a hurricane is expected to make landfall in the U.S., Florida is frequently in the path of the storm due to the fact that it's a peninsula located between the Gulf of Mexico and the open ocean. Hurricanes have devastated many parts of Florida in the past, though it’s not necessarily an annual occurrence if you stay in one place.
Previous hurricane damage can drive up your cost of living. Carmichael notes that beachfront condos in Pensacola, for example, come with high homeowners association fees based on increased insurance premiums following hurricanes Irma and Michael in 2017 and 2018, respectively. You should take precautions to protect your home against hurricane damage and heed instructions from authorities when a hurricane is expected to make landfall.
Where in Florida is the best place for you?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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:
- Fort Myers.
- Port St. Lucie.
- Daytona Beach.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
May 11, 2020
U.S. News analyzed the 150 most populous metro areas to rank places to live by category.