If Miami could be summed up in two words, many residents would attest that it is not boring, which might be why the city makes for such a popular vacation destination. However, whether or not permanently moving to Miami is right for you depends on several factors.
For starters, who lives there? Some 430,000 people call the city of Miami home. Beyond that, nearly 2.8 million people live in Miami-Dade County, a much larger geographical area that encompasses dozens of independent municipalities. Almost 60% of the population was born internationally, with the vast majority of those residents being Hispanic.
In some respects, Miami couldn’t be more different from cities like New York and Chicago. Miami, Florida’s culture is as colorful as it is jarring at times. Unlike movers to most well-known cities, many transplants from other parts of US move to Miami to explore the vibrant nightlife and beaches rather than to advance their careers.
If beautiful beaches, upward mobility, cultural diversity and warm winters matter to you, the benefits of living in Miami might change your life for the better. But how do you know if Miami is the worst place to live for you? If crime, low wages and an overall standoffish attitude resonate negatively with you on a deep level, you may want to reconsider moving to Miami.
Every city and the surrounding areas offer to its residents a particular experience, but ultimately the area you choose to live is what you make out of it. What are some reasons people flock to or stay away from this area? We’ve explored some pros and cons of living in Miami to help you decide whether moving here is right for you and your family.
1. There are weather-related benefits and drawbacks.
For most long-time residents, the benefits of living in Miami outweigh the risks. And there are risks. Consider that every year, Miami residents must watch out for hurricanes and tropical storms from June through November.
This hurricane-preparedness means keeping stocked essentials, having escape plans and planning for any worst-case scenario. No doubt about it, living in a hurricane zone can be stressful at times. Aside from hurricane season, there are other weather-related factors that come along with living in Miami.
Factors of Living in Miami
- During the summer, blazing heat and humidity can make it a near requirement to have air conditioning.
- Because of the discrepancy between the outside heat and inside AC, many will need to wear long sleeves inside.
- Any weather below 75 degrees feels chillingly cold to most residents.
- Be on the lookout for large-scale bugs like the Palmetto bug, gators, spiders, snakes and many other things you might want to keep out of your home.
- The weather from November through April is beautiful by most people’s accounts.
- Hurricane season is also the rainy season, so you should expect daily afternoon showers that are torrential but come and go quickly (within twenty minutes).
2. The cost of living is high, but taxes are low.
The cost of living in Miami is exorbitantly high due to housing costs, which we will get into more in the next section. However, perhaps the low taxes in Florida can help balance out the some of the difference.
How Taxes Impact the Cost of Living in Miami
- There is no state income tax in Florida, which could save you thousands of dollars. However, you’ll still need to pay Federal income taxes.
- Sales tax in Miami is 7%, which is slightly less than other parts of the country.
- Property taxes vary depending on the municipality. In general, you can receive a discount on property taxes if you pay your bill early.
3. There’s an influx of condos and rentals downtown.
Relocating to Miami is filled with decisions. One of the most important decisions you’ll have to make is whether or not you’ll rent or buy a home. According to the Miami Herald, this decision will largely depend on where you want to live within the county. Renters flock to the greater downtown area, and hopeful first-time homebuyers head to areas like Homestead or Miami Shores.
Regardless of whether you rent or buy, there is an affordability crisis going on in Miami, driving even low-income housing prices out of reach for many families. With a median family home price of $355,000, you’ll need a substantial income to be able to purchase. Any inventory at a lower price point is hard to find and sells quickly.
If you’re new to the area, consider hiring a real estate professional, even if you only plan on renting. There are plenty of deals to be had if you know where to look.
House Hunting Tips
- Explore the Miami condo market to potentially score a deal since there has been an influx of unsold condos in the last year.
- Ask about renting in a newer complex where a landlord has to keep rent prices competitive with other complexes in the area. Much of the decrease in rental rates has to do with developers overbuilding and creating an excess of supply.
- If buying, make sure to find out early on in the house buying process whether the property is on a floodplain. Many Miami homes are at significant risk of flooding, and your homeowner’s insurance will be significantly more costly as a result.
- If you’re in the luxury market looking for property over $1 million, you may be in luck. The inventory for a luxury real estate in Miami is high, which means you can get a lot more for your money than you would in other luxury markets like Los Angeles.
4. There are a ton of historic neighborhoods.
Metro Miami is close enough to several other counties, and if you’re not from around here, suburbs and municipality distinctions can get confused. If Miami is on your radar, you’ll also benefit from researching metropolitan areas like Fort Lauderdale, Broward County, and Palm Beach County.
The best places to live in Miami for families are not going to be the same places single millennials usually opt to live. Research is especially important because the neighborhood you choose to live in is going to have the largest impact on your experience of Miami.
To help get you started, we spoke with Kathrin Rein PA, Director of The Beautiful Miami Team, Keller Williams Coral Gables/Coconut Grove. She reiterates to us that single family homes have a limited inventory, whereas there’s a lot of inventory in the condo market. It all depends on the area and price range. She gave us her recommendations of a few key neighborhoods and suburbs to check out.
Recommended City Neighborhoods
Miami Beach is hip, and as the name explains—beachy. This area is ideal for anyone new in moving to Miami who wants to know how it feels to live on the beach literally.
This neighborhood is the oldest part of Miami, right on the water but has the highest sea level in Miami. The Grove is like an Old Surf Town with a lot of hippies, culture, music, art and amazing Restaurants.
Brickell is the Manhattan of Miami. You can live in a highrise and walk to restaurants, bars and shopping. You can have a water view, but be where it all happens — between bank towers and business centers. Brickell will allow you to breathe in all the city has to offer.
Suburbs to Check Out
This Miami historical hub buzzes with life. Whether it be a movie on the mile, yoga or happy hour, there is always something to do!
If you want lots of land, good school districts, a charming villa and tropical gardens with weekend farmers markets, Pinecrest is for you.
Doral has a premier location where work and play intersect. This is a relatively newer area with beautiful, modern homes.
5. The job market is not as competitive as in other cities.
Unfortunately, the job market for the average person in Miami is not ideal. There are jobs to be found, but wages are generally not as high as they would be in other large metropolitans. As of 2016, the median household income was $45,900, which is significantly less than the national average of $59,039.
However, some Miami experts suggest that getting a job in Miami isn’t very difficult. All you need to do is be dependable and willing to put in the time. If you’re moving to Miami without a job, consider the following tips.
How to Get a Job in Miami
- Many people think that manners are lacking in Miami. People show up late, cancel interviews, don’t show up at all and otherwise make it difficult for job recruiters to find reliability. Make it your mission to show just how dependable you can be and you’ll find a job in no time.
- Make sure you have enough money to last you a few months during the initial job hunt. Since housing costs are high, it’s risky to move to Miami without money at all. You might find yourself accepting a job that isn’t indeed a good fit for you.
- Hire a job recruiter who will work to get you the most competitive salary in the field you’re looking. Prove your worth and don’t be afraid to ask for raises when they are warranted.
6. You and your children will want to learn Spanish.
The Miami-Dade public school system is the fourth largest in the nation. Nearly 400 schools house over 340,000 students. That’s pretty daunting when you think about it. If you have school-age children, a good school might very well determine where you live and how much you’ll have to pay in housing costs.
So what are some critical factors to consider when picking a school? For one, over two-thirds of the population speak Spanish in Miami, so you’ll more than likely need to learn some to have the best experience. Your children will likely pick up Spanish relatively quickly at school, but you can help the process along by choosing a school with a highly rated Bilingual Education Program.
Make sure you check the school out for how they handle present-day issues like bullying, standardized testing and even school lunches. The more proactive you are in your child’s education, the more they will get out of it.
How to Pick a Quality School in Miami
- Once you know where you’ll be living, research area schools and check out their rating.
- Take advantage of any opportunity to go to an open house and talk with teachers about your specific concerns.
- Learn about and reach out to any parent-run groups. There might be a board you can talk to. Even informal groups on Facebook can give you insight into how involved the parents are and how their experience has been dealing with faculty and administration.
7. Traffic is not fun in Miami.
Some of the best neighborhoods to live in Miami are dictated by the traffic patterns. As an area becomes more congested, another area might have a surge in popularity. Overall, the massive population growth and layout have made for some miserable commute times.
- Be aware of traffic on the Brickell Avenue drawbridge, which tends to get backed up for hours on end.
- Be aware that people are not afraid to use their horns rather aggressively on the streets of Miami.
- Miami is laid out on a grid. Streets run east-west and ‘PARC’ roads run north-south. PARC roads are anything ending in place, avenue, road or court. The grid system is not applicable in Coral Gables or Hialeah.
- Public transportation in Miami might be ideal for tourists, but the majority of commuters rely on a car to get around. If you want to avoid traffic, research the trains, buses and trolleys that Miami offers.
8. You’ll either really love the food or will be indifferent.
You’re bound to come across food you’ve never tried before in Miami. With so many different cultures living in close quarters, there are more authentic ethnic restaurants than you can count. Cuban, Colombian, Haitian, Brazilian and Puerto Rican are just a few of the ethnicities represented on the Miami food scene.
We spoke with Carolina Cuadra, the Producer of Check, Please! South Florida!, a food-based television program in its 16th season. She reiterated, “In Miami, the food scene is a giant melting pot of cultures. People from everywhere come to Miami, whether it’s to visit or to stay, so anything you’re craving, there’s a place in Miami that has it.”
Cuadra also gave us some restaurant recommendations for newcomers to Miami to explore.
Recommended Miami Restaurants
- Farinelli — This Miami restaurant has a laid-back, family-friendly feel. Your kids can run around, and your pets can sit by your side as you dine on the patio. They offer delicious pizza cooked in a wood-burning oven and old world Italian flavors al fresco.
- Versailles — Visit the world’s most famous Cuban restaurant. It’s on 8th Street, which is a landmark, aka Calle Ocho in Little Havana. They’re family run and have been serving delicious traditional Cuban cuisine for years, from croquetas and pastelitos to the buttered bread. Try the vaca frita, which is grilled shredded chicken or meat with onions typically served with white rice, plantains and beans. And of course, end it with a cafecito.
- Ball & Chain — If you’re looking for more of a bar scene, Ball & Chain on Calle Ocho also provides a similar Miami atmosphere but with entertainment to boot!
9. Sports and outdoor activities are abundant.
By all accounts, Miami is a fitness-friendly city, perhaps even to the extreme. It’s not to say that people care about their bodily appearance more than other cities, but that exercise and staying active is an activity many residents have in common.
Miami is surrounded by the Everglades National Park and the Biscayne National Park and has over 800 parks inside its borders. Parks offer places to mountain bike, hike, kayak, take the dog for a run and so on. That much green space is a testament to how much the people of Miami love to be outdoors when the weather allows for it. There are plenty of other ways people stay engaged in sports and outdoor activities in Miami.
Sports and Fitness
- Art Deco District Walking Tours — There are tons of free self-guided walking tours in Miami. One of the more popular tours is through the historic Art Deco district. Explore many 1920’s era hotels and hostels that housed the snowbirds of nearly 100 years ago.
- Professional Sports Teams — While going to a sports game might not be active for the onlooker, it is a fun way to get out and feel a sense of community. In Miami, you can cheer on the Miami Dolphins, Miami Heat or the Miami Marlins.
- Private Charters on the Water — You can join the tourists on the beach, or you can opt to get out into the water on a private charter. One highly rated charter experience is on a catamaran called Tranquility. Guests can relax on one of the smoothest rides available.
10. There are endless amounts of things to do in Miami.
If outdoor activities aren’t your idea of a good time, there is likely something else that will catch your interest here. Of note is the fact that Miami is one of the few places to have a 24-hour liquor license. There is even a club that is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
If a party is what you’re looking for, you’ll never be without one in Miami because most clubs open until 5 am. However, not all parties take the form of a club. There are some world-renowned festivals and events that happen in Miami annually.
Famous Miami Events
- Calle Ocho / Carnaval — This one-day street festival takes place every year in Little Havana. The festival is one of the largest celebrations of Cuban-American culture and draws over one million attendees.
- Art Basel — This world-leading art fair takes place for one week every winter. There are shows and events geared toward the luxury art market, while also supporting local and upcoming talent.
Moving to Miami Guide
So, you decided you want to move to Miami. Now you need to figure out how to move to Miami. First, make sure you come up with a moving checklist that makes sense for your specific situation. Next, check out some of these Miami-specific moving tips to make sure you’re on the right track.
Miami Moving Tips
- When navigating around Miami, opt to use Google Maps or Waze to get around. These apps are the most sophisticated at pointing out things like traffic, road obstructions and other unforeseen delays on the road.
- If you relocate to Miami from another state, you have 30 days to get a Florida driver’s license, which isn’t a lot of time. Head to the local DMV and apply within the first couple weeks of your move, so you don’t forget.
- You may be wondering, is Miami safe? Crime won’t deter everyone from certain neighborhoods, but it is better to be aware of a potential safety issue than to ignore it altogether. Before moving, check out the official Miami crime map to see how much of a risk might be posed during your move. If crime is an issue in your neighborhood, take extra precautions like never leaving the moving truck alone, never moving after dark, etc.
- If you’re running out of space and are on the lookout for storage units in Miami, we can help! Life Storage has several clean and safe facilities located near the city. Reserve online today and you may even get one month free!
How did this moving to Miami guide rate compared to others you have read? Did we miss any important facts that potential residents might want to hear? Let us know in the comments below.
This guide was originally published on 12/10/18 and has since been updated to include new information.