A Guide to Buying a House in: Florida

(Because it has perfect weather AND plenty of future retirement opportunities.)

So, you're dreaming of buying a house in Florida and envisioning yourself on the sandy, sunny beaches, but you're missing a couple pieces in the strategy department. It's understandable. Daydreaming about snorkeling/tanning is way more fun than thinking about housing markets and homeowners insurance.

That's why we've come to the rescue with this little guide to all things Sunshine State housing market, in order to help get you rollin'. We'll go over all the important stuff we'd be searching for if we were you, plus we'll toss in some fun state trivia as a bonus. So, let's get this party started, shall we?

The Most and Least Expensive Cities in Florida

There's a lot to think about when deciding where to buy your next house. Wouldn't it help to simplify the process if you knew a few of the most/least money-hungry areas in your chosen state first? Luckily for you we checked out homesnacks.net and compiled a list of just that. Get ready.

Most expensive cities:

  • Key Biscayne
  • Pinecrest
  • Coral Gables
  • Marco Island
  • Key West 

Least expensive cities:

  • Panama City
  • Callaway
  • Crestview
  • Niceville
  • Lynn Haven 

There you have it. You're primed and ready to go off on your hunting journey, while considering the oh-so-sensitive feelings of your wallet/bank account. They'll thank you for it.

Florida's Housing Market

Before looking into houses in Florida (or, y'know, anywhere), you might wanna check out their housing market. So we'll take a peek at Florida's overview next.

Well, between the state's low housing inventory and the rising home prices, it's the perfect recipe for a seller's market at the moment. But there's hope. Recent trends could help to add inventory - enough to satisfy buyer demands - and slow rising  home prices. So that's good. Homes are staying on zillow for an average of 83 days, and they give Florida's market a 9.0/10 (as of September 2018) overall, which they rank as "very healthy."

Where to Hunt in Florida

But where are the hot spots to move to in Florida these days? Well, it's three-fold: Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Why Miami? Because it's got lots of culture, great weather, active adult communities, walkable streets, great health care, sandy beaches and tons of entertainment. Home values here average $333,600. The home price per square foot is about $431, and renting a house costs about $2,500/month.

What about Fort Lauderdale? It's got epic food and art scenes, tons of golfing, shopping and nightlife, and it's great for families. The place is also called the "Venice of America" because of all its cool waterways. Home values here average $314,100. The home price per square foot is about $322, and renting a house costs around $2,000/month.

And finally, West Palm Beach. This place is packed with jobs, good schools, festivals, great weather and beaches, and it's known as a "big, little city." Home values here average $233,200. The home price per square foot is about $200, and renting a house costs around $1,700/month. 

But wait, there's more . Florida's got new construction underway ALL OVER the place - especially along the coasts, and a tiny bit inland. You'll find a good amount in/around Jacksonville, Orlando, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Port Charlotte, Tampa and Pensacola. So, if you've got your heart set on a brand-new place, hit up one of these areas.

Home Property Values and Costs in Florida

Great, so now you've got a clearer picture of WHERE to look for your house, but it might help even more to know how much the thing's gonna COST. So, we'll move right along to an overview of some home prices/values, just for you.

To start off, the median home value in Florida currently is $227,800. Values have appreciated 8.5%, and are expected to rise another 5.4% next year. The price per square foot is about $165. Homes are currently listed on the market for about $289,900, and are closing for around $217,800. Renting a house will cost you about $1,800/month.

Apartment hunters, check it out. We've got a list of some average monthly rental prices in a few Florida cities:

  • Tampa - $1,248
  • Jacksonville - $1,006
  • Orlando - $1,256
  • Miami - $1,669
  • Tallahassee - $1,177
  • West Palm Beach - $1,406

And townhouse lovers, don't worry, we didn't forget you. The range in monthly rent starts low at about $500 for a two-bed/one-bath joint, and reaches the high end of about $1,200 for a three-bed/two-and-a-half-bath joint.

Get Yourself Some Hurricane Insurance in Florida...

It's true that Florida's got bright sunshine, sandy beaches and almost criminally perfect weather, but they've also got the occasional natural disaster. OK, it's a bit more than occasional. Actually, Florida was ranked as the #5 most disaster-prone state by NBC News. Their biggest enemy? Hurricanes. So, it might not be super-shocking that Florida is one of those 19 lucky states that require a hurricane deductible as a part of  a homeowners insurance policy.

But what does that mean, exactly? Well, basically you'll have to pay your insurance company a certain amount of money before they'll cover any damage to your home dealt out by an angry windstorm. Deductible costs are typically about 1%-5% of the insurance value of the home, but it really depends on where you live, too. Those living in a low-risk area in a smaller/cheaper house might pay $300 towards their deductible, while those living in a high-risk area in a fancy mansion might pay $30,000.

No one likes hurricanes (or paying more insurance deductible costs), but if you're REALLY concerned about them, you could always move to a state away from the coast. Areas further inland have a buffer of protection, but they also come with their own breed of risks. Nowhere's gonna be immune to EVERYTHING.

...and Maybe Some Flood Insurance, Too

With rising temperatures come rising sea levels, which can bring flooding (and lost newspapers). Heck, Florida's practically an island, anyway. It's great for that paradise vibe, but you might also need to get some flood insurance.

If you live in an area deemed to be "high-risk," your mortgage lender might require you to purchase extra homeowners insurance coverage specifically for flooding. However, it's important to note that even areas not in designated high-risk areas might still need it. Why? Because as that old annoying (but even more annoyingly ACCURATE) expression goes, it's better to be safe than sorry.

Okay okay, so you might need it, but what exactly IS it? Well, broken down, flood insurance will cover your property (the actual structure of your home and belongings in it - to an extent) if natural water (i.e., rain, waves, etc.) wreaks havoc. Many policies will say that the water must cover at least two acres of normally dry land in order to qualify for reimbursement. 

Check out your specific coverage, so that you're SURE you'll be good to go. Call your agent and have a chat about what EXACT homeowner's insurance you need, because you do NOT want to find out too late that you didn't have enough. They won't mind, and you'll thank yourself later. Trust us.

Quality of Schools in Florida

Those on the continuous search for knowledge might wanna know about the quality of the school system in their new state - so next up we've got a peek at a snapshot, Florida-style.

Here are some WalletHub stats about how Florida schools ranked in the country:

  • #26 overall for the US
  • #25 for quality
  • #22 for safety
  • #3 for lowest bullying incidence rates
  • #6 for lowest median SAT scores 

The top-rated schools in Florida are Pine View, a high school in Osprey, and the University of Florida, in Gainesville.

Reasons to Move to Florida(...or not)

OK, we've got the more-factual stuff out of the way, so it's time for a bit of fun (don't get too excited). We'll take a peek at why people even MOVE to Florida - but we'll hear it from some people who already did. So, prepare yourself for some heck yeah!s and some aww man!s related to Florida livin'.

PROs (as voted by 100% real Floridians):

  • Weather: Bestplaces.net states that Miami sees 248 days of sunshine per year. Their brights definitely ARE brighter.
  • Wildlife: It's not unusual to see...unusual critters walking on the side of the road. Armadillos are native to Florida, as well as fox squirrels, opossums and raccoons. There are manatees and alligators aplenty too, and this animal population is an adorable tourist draw. You'll feel like you're in some sort of wacky, paradise-y jungle.
  • Activities: Thanks to the huuuge tourism industry, you'll never be bored here. Between the theme parks, cultural cuisine, art galleries, museums, golf courses, wildlife refuges and concert venues (and lions, tigers and bears - oh my!), if you can't find something to do, you're obviously not even trying.
  • Transportation: Florida's home to 19 commercial airports, 12 of which are international. Not only does the place have plenty of stuff to see/do, it also provides an easy way to come and go as you please - because really, even if you're "just visiting," they know you'll be back...

CONs (also from the mouths of 100% Floridians):

  • Tourists: Disney World and other attractions operate year-round, with people from across the globe flocking to get their picture taken with "The Mouse." This, of course, means a MASSIVE influx of people can happen at any time. Feeling claustrophobic yet?
  • Traffic: This is made worse by the tourists and snowbirds visiting from the North in winter months, and Floridians complain of jammed freeways, crowded airports and lack of parking spaces because of their non-local "friends." You'll have to learn to "share the road" ...and everything else.
  • Storms: Being surrounded on almost all sides by water, Florida's unique location unfortunately makes it subject to quite a combination of severe tropical storms and natural disasters - including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and wildfires. Florida's actually one of the most tornado-prone states in the nation, in case those hurricanes are too wet for you.
  • Bugs: Mosquitos and lovebugs come out during the warmer seasons - in hordes. Mosquitos are a (literal) pain because they bite, and lovebugs are...awkward because they constantly... well, y'know ...in midair.

Stuff to Do in Florida

Obviously, there's tons of stuff to do in Florida. Since we've already looked at WHY people move here, we'll look at a few specific examples of WHAT those super-tanned and relaxed Floridians are doing. We hit "redial" and chatted up the locals for a bit longer to find out some must-sees in the state.

Here are just a few of the state's best attractions:

  • Walt Disney World: There's really no excuse for missing this major theme park, located in Orlando. Disney World's obviously a kid's dream come true, but it's also a way to feel that magical giddy feeling even as an adult. Epcot Center features internationally inspired architecture, cuisine, shops and activities. One day at this park can feel like a (somewhat less expensive) trip around the world.
  • Universal Studios: Home to several rides based on huge blockbuster films like Terminator, Jaws, Twister and Ghostbusters, you'll also find this in Orlando. It even gives Disney World some serious competition for who's got the coolest costumes - workers parade around dressed as well-known movie/TV icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Optimus Prime and Sideshow Bob. You can feel like you're in the movies without the hassle of being famous.
  • SeaWorld: Home to a huge variety of marine life, including manatees (which are a big deal in Florida), dolphins, and turtles, this park's also located, unsurprisingly, in Orlando. There's a section dedicated to the "lost city" of Atlantis, for fantasy-seekers. But THE biggest attraction is arguably the group of famous performing orcas. You won't wanna miss 'em - but don't be too upset if they don't stick around to sign autographs.
  • South Beach: Located in Miami Beach is another must-see Florida destination. Home to many parks and art deco architecture displays, South Beach has something for all ages. It's also got tons of history - two of the most-visited museums in the state are the World Erotic Art Museum and the Holocaust Memorial in Miami Beach. You'll never run out of tanning OR learning opportunities.
  • Everglades National Park: The third-largest national park in the country is located in the swamplands right outside of Miami. It's a refuge for wildlife that's endangered or threatened, such as the Florida panther and the American crocodile. Make sure to bring your tennis shoes if you visit - and some raw meat to throw as a distraction while you run away screaming.

Soaking Up That Sunny Real Estate in Florida

Well folks, that's it - our little CD insert of a guide to the housing market in Florida. Obviously there's no way we'd have the power to address ALL of your concerns before buying your house in a new state (we're busy hanging out with Dr. Venkman and Sideshow Bob), but we're hoping that you'll leave us with the knowledge/wisdom you need to get started on your journey, and that maybe you've even learned some cool Florida stuff, too.

If you're dreaming of buying your new house a state that has manatees AND armadillos, then pinch yourself already and get on over here. Make sure your new home is properly covered with affordable home insurance.

Good luck.

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