Tens of thousands of people move in and out of Florida every month. Notice we included moving out in that figure. Relocating to Florida isn’t for everyone. For as many people that move into the state, a wide range of them opt to move back to where they came once they realize the decision to relocate was a mistake.
Moral of the story, it’s best not to rush your moving to Florida decision. Whether or not you should move to Florida should be a choice that is made after you have spent considerable time understanding how the move will impact all aspects of your life.
What is it actually like living in Florida? What city is best for retirement? There are so many questions you should be asking yourself, and hopefully this guide will help address some of the more pertinent issues. If you’ve already made your decision, skip ahead to find out how you should be preparing for your new adventure.
1. Learn about the pros and cons of living in Florida.
No matter where you end up moving to in Florida, there are certain pros and cons that apply to the majority of the state’s population. Take a moment to process how these factors might influence your daily life now and five years down the road. For instance, can you really tolerate the heat? Though points like this may seem inconsequential, details like weather affect quality of life more than you’d think.
Pros of Florida Living
First, let’s talk about why you should move to Florida. Here are some things that Florida has going for it. Are they enough to make Florida stand out from other states?
- No state income tax is a major perk.
- Housings costs are lower than many parts of the country.
- Enjoy world class beaches and outdoor entertainment.
- There’s no snow and it’s warm all year round.
- Florida residents receive discounts to acclaimed local attractions.
- There are numerous communities dedicated to retirees and snowbirds.
Cons of Florida Living
So why do so many people have such high aspirations for Florida but end up leaving a few years later? Maybe it’s one of these cons that they no longer wanted to tolerate. Can you handle the following?
- Hurricanes and extreme heat and humidity have an impact.
- The state is extremely flat, lacking mountains and valleys.
- There are more tourists and part-time residents than other states.
- You’ll be paying higher insurance costs than other parts of the country.
- Bugs are larger in Florida and there are lots of snakes and alligators.
2. Research the top cities in Florida.
The best places to live in Florida are largely subjective and require each individual to thoroughly weigh the pros and cons. Your choice in city could make or break whether or not Florida becomes your permanent residence. Perhaps the Pan Handle appeals to you or, instead you really prefer living close to the Keys. One bonus of choosing Florida is that there are dozens of worthy cities and metropolitans that will be contenders, all with close proximity to a beach paradise.We’ve highlighted some of the more well known cities in Florida to get your search started. Pick a couple of areas of interest in different parts of the state. Plan on spending at least a few days in each to get a firsthand look at where you might be living.
Population stats are based on 2016 United States Census Bureau data and home prices are pulled from Zillow.
The Pan Handle
With a wide range of military bases in the area, Pensacola is a largely military-friendly community with a relatively small population. Pair that small town feel with access to white beaches on the Gulf Coast and highly rated school systems and this city is an ideal spot for a young family to settle down.
- Population: 53,779
- Median Home Price: $136,300
As the most populated city in Florida and one of the largest in the country, the city limits here include more residents than other metropolitan areas. What does this mean? Finding friends you get along with will be an easy task because you’ll have a wide variety of people from all walks of life living here. Learn more about moving to Jacksonville if what you’re looking for includes bustling and culturally robust city life paired with a cost of living lower than Florida’s average.
- Population: 880,619
- Median Home Price: $154,700
Tallahassee might not be as close to beach life as some other Florida cities, but it has its advantages. Florida State offers this city more of a college-town feel and gives the nightlife in the area a boost. If you love catching a lively college football game or exploring an evolving downtown area, Tallahassee might be the area for you.
- Population: 190,894
- Median Home Price: $168,800
This portion of Central Florida is one of the leading tourist destinations in the country and perhaps one of the most well known and visited areas in Florida. But remember, if you decide to move to Orlando[a], the city will offer you more than just a discounted FastPass to Disney World and other local attractions. The central location makes day trips a breeze.
- Population: 277,173
- Median Home Price: $171,000
Located on the West Coast of Florida, Clearwater is one of the top destinations for retirees in the country. This city has a close-knit community feel and a slower pace of life. Everything from houses to shopping centers are all located near one another, which makes socializing and getting around as a retiree that much easier.
- Population: 114,361
- Median Home Price: $208,400
— St. Petersburg
Just a short drive south of Clearwater is the city of St. Petersburg. Known for its diversity and packed social calendar, it seems like a festival or event is happening every weekend in the downtown area. Enjoy the benefits of living in the Tampa Bay area while being away from all the action (and traffic) in Tampa.
- Population: 260,999
- Median Home Price: $185,000
Moving to Tampa puts you right in the heart of the Tampa Bay Area. Among the many reasons to move there, an active professional sports scene is one of them. You’ll also enjoy a vast array of locally owned restaurants and a ton of festivals. You might also find that the job market is on the upswing here.
- Population: 377,165
- Median Home Price: $187,400
— Fort Myers
This rapidly growing town is located just a few hours from Orlando to the north and Miami to the south. Positioned on the Gulf Coast, the central location gives prospective residents of Fort Myers more day-trip options throughout all areas of the state as opposed to someone who is located further north. The diverse community is packed with expats and loads of cultural experiences that will expand your horizons.
- Population: 77,146
- Median Home Price: $204,100
Rent and housing costs are slightly higher in Sarasota primarily due to its small size, making it a more expensive place to live than many other parts of Florida. Despite being known primarily as a retirement and tourist community, the tradeoff for year-round residents is access to some world-class beaches (i.e., Siesta Key) and activities.
- Population: 56,610
- Median Home Price: $272,800
— Fort Lauderdale
Being family-oriented and having a thriving job market are a couple of key factors that make Fort Lauderdale a hub for growing families and young professionals. Into boating? This city embraces yacht life. In fact, over 40,000 residents opt to live on the water in one of the many waterways. There are so many inland waterways that the area has been referred to as the Venice of America.
- Population: 178,752
- Median Home Price: $289,300
If you’ve ever gone on a typical spring break trip as a young adult, chances are Miami beaches were on your short list of places to visit. Miami is a large metro area and as such, can get bad rap for the touristy and nightlife aspects. Like any city, it has its share of poverty, crime and injustice. However, Miami has a culture unlike any other city in Florida. There are an array of Spanish-speaking cultures, from Cuban to Columbian to Mexican.
- Population: 453,579
- Median Home Price: $303,000
3. Decide whether you will buy or rent a home.
People move to Florida for a multitude of reasons, but most commonly it is for the lifestyle, a slow-paced retirement, or for a second snowbird home. Deciding whether moving to Florida is going to be permanent or temporary will play into whether or not you want to buy or rent a home. You’ll also want to decide whether you want a single family or wish to downsize to a condo.
Housing Market Tips:
- Each housing market in Florida fluctuates based on how many people are moving in and out of the area at a given time. If you don’t want to overpay for a house, wait until there is a lull in movers during the offseason. A competent real estate agent will help you hone in on these opportunities.
- If you buy, make sure you are willing to invest in the property for a few years at least. When you buy when the market is high but decide living in Florida is not for you, you might get stuck with a house that is worth less than what you paid for it when you go to sell.
- If you opt to rent, make sure you know your rights as a tenant in Florida. Becoming familiar with ways the law protects you will help you know what is and what is not acceptable landlord behavior.
4. Narrow down things to do in Florida that you know you’ll enjoy.
As we’ve said before, so many people end up relocating to Florida but move back home a few years later. One of the reasons for this is because these residents never fully integrated their lifestyle with all that Florida has to offer.
Florida is known for its beaches and attractions, but it also has a lot of hidden perks that longtime residents enjoy all year round. Make sure you find activities that speak to you and go out and do them.
Do any of these Florida gems appeal to you?
- Take a relaxing vacation to the Florida Keys or other Florida beach destinations.
- Plan a trip to widely known attractions like Universal Studios or Busch Gardens.
- Visit the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
- Spend time in the Florida State park system.
- Eat fresh seafood and other Florida delicacies at local restaurants.
- Gather some Nascar fans for a weekend at the Daytona 500.
5. Have a plan for dealing with Florida weather and hurricanes.
Another reason so many people end up moving back north is because they decide the weather just isn’t for them. Preparing for intense sun and in worse cases, extreme weather, is so important in your first year of living in Florida. That way, when the weather causes you some concern, you’ll have a good sense of how to remedy the situation.
Tips to deal with weather:
- Make sure you always wear sunscreen. If you’re extra sensitive to the sun, wear a large brim hat and cover as much skin as possible with breathable clothing.
- Make sure your place has AC. Keep an extra unit on hand or some cash for repairs in the spur of the moment so you won’t have to deal with the heat for long. Take advantage of morning and evening activities outdoors and stay inside during the high afternoon.
- Find out if you live in a mandatory evacuation zone for hurricanes. Go over the evacuation routes both on paper and by driving them. Keep a hurricane kit in the house along with necessary storm shutters and a safe with all important family paperwork.
- Make sure your home has the proper insurance to cover you against flood and wind damage.
6. Find a job in the Sunshine state.
Having a job in hand that you’ll be able to tolerate is very important before making the decision to move to Florida. It’s easy to take a risk and make your dream move without a job, but it will make settling for undesirable work that much more likely.
Popular Florida Industries and Companies:
- International trade
- Health sciences
- Aerospace and aviation
- Marketing and sales
Tips for Job Hunting Out of State:
Finding a job before you relocate is not easy, but it’s also not impossible. Keep these pointers in mind when you’re in the middle of your job hunt.
- Don’t put your out of state address on your resume. For some recruiters, this could be a red flag and your resume could be pushed to the bottom of the pile, even if you’re the most qualified applicant for the position.
- Request a Skype call for your first interview and be upfront with your intention to move to Florida at this time. Give them a timeline for the move so they are assured you’re serious about relocating.
- Budget for travel expenses to meet potential employers in person before being given an offer letter. You will most likely be expected to pay for this trip unless you’re being scouted for a position.
- Work with a recruitment company that can find you the best jobs based on your specific skill set and experience.
7. Research Florida schools with a focus on Bilingual education.
As most parents know, there can be a large discrepancy when it comes to the quality of public education. Even high schools within the same district can have a difference in funding which can impact a student’s educational experience.
When moving to Florida, you’ll be faced with whether or not to send your kids to private or public school. Your zip code will be the single most important factor when sending your kids to public school unless your district uses a lottery or testing to place students. Do your research before you pick a neighborhood.
One thing to ask potential schools is about their bilingual education programs. Florida has a large Hispanic population, so learning Spanish at a young age will be an asset both in a social sense and for a number of jobs.
Large Florida Public School Districts:
- St. John’s County School District
- Hillsborough County Public Schools
- Miami-Dade County Public Schools
- Duval County Public Schools
Top Florida Universities:
8. Make friends with snowbirds and retirees.
The seasonal influx of snowbirds and retirees will be very apparent in certain communities in Florida. But live in Florida long enough, and you’re bound to make friends with a few. There’s nothing wrong with living in a transient community, but there are certain things you’ll notice, like the influx of traffic during the busy tourist seasons as well as when the snowbirds arrive.
If you’re considering moving to Florida as a snowbird, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Install a WiFi connected thermostat to both properties so you can check in on the temperature of your home when you’re away. This is especially important if one of your residences is located in an area with below freezing temps in the winter.
- Install hurricane shutters on your home before your departure for the year if you won’t be in Florida during hurricane season. This is one less thing you have to think about doing if you’re far away during a bad storm.
- It might be worthwhile to establish residency in Florida, especially if you’re coming from a state with higher income taxes like New York. If you spend more than 183 days in Florida, in most cases you might be able to skip out on income tax payments in your original state. Check with your state for specifics. For Florida, you’ll need to file a Declaration of Domicile to declare that the sunshine state is now your primary residence.
- Make sure you have all your paperwork in order when you’re a seasonal traveler. Keep copies of medical records and make sure your bank and credit card companies know you’re away so you don’t get a bunch of fraudulent charge warnings when you first arrive in Florida for the winter.
9. Become an official resident of Florida.
Once you have decided moving to Florida is the right decision for you, it’s time to make it official. If you plan on spending the majority of the year in Florida, you’ll want to become a resident and reap all the benefits that come along with that.
Here are some steps you should take once you make your move:
- Sign up for a Florida driver’s license or identification card. Luckily, if you already have a driver’s license from another state, you won’t need to complete a driving test. When you visit the DMV, you’ll need your current driver’s license and one other form of identification, like a passport or birth certificate. You’ll also need a social security card and two items that confirm your Florida address, like a utility bill or an apartment lease.
- Update car insurance to reflect your new address and register your car. You’ll want to call your car insurance company and contact the local tax collection office to update your insurance, title and registration. Get this process done within ten days of your move.
- File your taxes in two different states. After the relocation process, you might need to file taxes in two different states if you have earned income in both places throughout the year. Each state has different regulations, so you’ll likely need the help of a tax advisor to walk you through this process.
10. Make your move stress-free using a relocation checklist.
There’s a lot to do when relocating across the country. The most effective way to stay on task is to create a checklist of action items. Break down your checklist into week sections, starting with four weeks out. It’s helpful if you also mark important dates on the calendar, like when the utilities will be shutting off and when you need to do other tasks like renting a temporary storage unit nearby.