If you’re thinking about moving to Florida and are wondering whether you can find a bargain on a house, you’re in luck. There are plenty of places in the Sunshine State where properties are more affordable than you might expect.
These bargains aren’t a result of a downturn in the Florida housing market. Home prices and sales in the state actually have been growing at a faster pace than in the rest of the nation, according to Dr. Brad O’Connor, chief economist for Florida Realtors, the state’s largest trade association for realtors. Despite the growth, home prices still are relatively low in many cities throughout the state. “It’s always been a pretty affordable place to buy a home — especially if you’re a retiree looking for sunshine and warmth,” O’Connor said.
The question, then, is why does Florida have such affordable homes? It’s not that the cities where list prices are lower than the national median are undesirable places to live. In fact, GOBankingRates identified 15 cities with real estate bargains that are particularly desirable based on their high livability scores from AreaVibes.
There actually are a few key reasons why homes are affordable in Florida, O’Connor said. Keep reading to find out what those reasons are and where you can find the best places to get a deal on a house in Florida.
Last updated: Oct. 10, 2019
Half of Florida Cities Have Home Prices Lower Than the U.S. Median
The national median price for homes currently listed for sale in the U.S. is $289,000, according to Zillow. In Florida, the median list price is a little higher — $298,500. However, using data from Zillow, GOBankingRates identified 201 out of 398 cities in Florida where the median home list price is lower than the national median home list price.
“You won’t be able to buy a beach house for these prices,” O’Connor said. “But there’s a lot more to Florida.”
Lots of Land Contributes to Lower Prices
Most of the higher-priced homes are concentrated in South Florida, which is constrained in area by the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Everglades to the west. The rest of the state has plenty of land, O’Connor said. There’s even a surprising amount of coastline that is undeveloped, he said.
In South Florida, where there is a scarcity of land, prices are higher. But the abundance of land in the rest of the state results in lower prices for both land and homes. Several of the 15 cities GOBankingRates identified as the best places to buy bargain homes are near two fast-growing cities where O’Connor said there still is plenty of room to grow — Orlando and Tampa.
Homes Tend to Be Smaller
Florida is a hot spot for retirees (no pun intended). Retirees don’t need or want as much space in a home as families do. So the large retiree population in Florida means that the average home in the state has fewer rooms than the average home nationwide, O’Connor said.
Citing U.S. Census Bureau data, O’Connor said that 45% of Florida homes have two bedrooms or less compared with 39% nationwide. “That’s a significant difference,” he said. That higher percentage of smaller homes contributes to a higher percentage of homes in the state with lower prices.
Incomes Tend to Be Lower
The median household income in Florida is $50,883 compared with a national median household income of $57,652, according to the Census Bureau. With lower incomes in the state, there’s less pressure on home prices, O’Connor said. In other words, wages aren’t high enough, on average, to afford higher-priced homes, so the market has responded accordingly.
The Supply of Homes Isn’t as Tight as in Other Places
In many places across the U.S., the supply of homes isn’t keeping up with the demand — which is pushing prices up. Florida doesn’t have that problem, at least not to the same extent.
“We’re one of the few places (where) they’re building homes,” O’Connor said. “That also helps to relieve prices in our state.”
Hurricanes Don’t Impact Prices Much
Believe it or not, hurricanes don’t play a role in Florida’s bargain home prices. O’Connor said that the Florida Realtors analyzed housing data and insurance claims for hurricane damage. “What we found was that unless it was a particularly catastrophic storm, the housing market rebounds typically a month later,” he said.
Ready To Buy? Here's Where To Look
Using data from Zillow, GOBankingRates identified over 200 cities in Florida where the median home list price is lower than the state’s median of $298,500 and the national median of $289,000 — including major cities such as Jacksonville, Orlando, Tallahassee, St. Petersburg and Pensacola. To find the best bargains, GOBankingRates also considered livability scores for each city from AreaVibes, which assigns scores based on cities’ amenities, cost of living, crime, employment, housing, schools and weather.
So, if you want to relocate to Florida, consider these 15 cities that are both low in price and high in livability.
1. Timber Pines, Florida
- Median list price: $180,000
Retirees thinking about moving to Florida might want to consider Timber Pines. Located on the Gulf Coast of Florida in the Tampa Bay area, Timber Pines is a private community of 3,452 homes and villas for adults 55 and older. The community’s website touts it as a “bargain” compared with other active adult communities.
2. Altamonte Springs, Florida
- Median list price: $198,000
Homes for sale in Florida in this suburban city are a bargain compared with homes in nearby Orlando, where the median list price is $287,000. And Altamonte Springs ranks as one of the top 10 medium-sized cities in Florida based on AreaVibes’ livability score.
3. Coconut Creek, Florida
- Median list price: $200,000
This city between Miami and Palm Beach is known as the “Butterfly Capital of the World.” It’s a planned community with a strong focus on environmental sustainability. And Coconut Creek’s abundance of amenities contributes to its high livability score.
4. North Port, Florida
- Median list price: $228,900
North Port is in Southwest Florida between Tampa and Fort Myers. It’s known for its natural springs and 80 miles of freshwater canals. It also has a state park within its city limits and miles of hiking, biking and horse-riding trails.
5. Temple Terrace, Florida
- Median list price: $231,200
This city near Tampa is home to one of the first master-planned golf course communities. And many faculty and staff members of nearby University of South Florida call Temple Terrace home. AreaVibes ranks it as one of the top 10 medium-sized cities in Florida.
6. Tavares, Florida
- Median list price: $233,450
This lakefront city is less than an hour from Orlando. As home to a seaplane base, Tavares is known as “America’s Seaplane City.” Although the median household income here is lower than the national median, the cost of living is below the national average, according to AreaVibes.
7. Whiskey Creek, Florida
- Median list price: $253,000
This small community within Fort Myers ranks as one of the top 10 best cities in Florida for livability, according to AreaVibes. It also ranks as one of the top 100 small cities in the U.S. for livability as a result of its proximity to amenities, low crime rate and good schools. Plus, the homeownership rate is significantly higher than the U.S. average.
Pictured: Fort Myers, Florida
8. Cape Coral, Florida
- Median list price: $256,000
Located on the Gulf of Mexico near Fort Myers, Cape Coral was developed in 1958 as a planned community. It is now the largest city by size in Southwest Florida.
9. Port Orange, Florida
- Median list price: $263,945
Port Orange is near Daytona Beach on Florida’s Atlantic Coast. AreaVibes ranks it as a top 10 medium-sized city in Florida for livability. The cost of living here is below the national average, and it’s close to many amenities.
10. Punta Gorda, Florida
- Median list price: $269,500
This waterfront town is located on Charlotte Harbor on Florida’s south-central Gulf Coast. It’s known for its abundance of outdoor activities, including boating, fishing and biking on the bike paths that connect most of the city.
11. Dunedin, Florida
- Median list price: $279,000
This city near Tampa is one of the oldest towns on the west coast of Florida. The barrier islands near Dunedin have been rated as some of America’s best beaches. And AreaVibes rates Dunedin as one of the top Florida cities for livability.
12. Rockledge, Florida
- Median list price: $279,945
Rockledge is on Florida’s Atlantic Coast about 50 miles east of Orlando. It’s part of what is known as the Space Coast because of its proximity to Cape Canaveral and the John F. Kennedy Space Center. AreaVibes ranks Rockledge high for livability because of its low housing costs, good schools, low crime rates and ample amenities.
13. St. Cloud, Florida
- Median list price: $281,995
This small city lies on the shores of East Lake Tohopekaliga near Orlando. St. Cloud was founded as a retirement community for Civil War Union veterans, earning it the nickname “The Friendly Soldier City.” AreaVibes ranks it high for livability because of its low cost of living, housing costs, crime rate and amenities.
14. Lakeland Highlands, Florida
- Median list price: $288,950
Lakeland Highlands is a small community in central Florida. It’s in an area that historically has been a major agricultural center, but its low housing costs have made it attractive to families and retirees. AreaVibes ranks Lakeland Highlands as the No. 6 city in Florida for livability.
Pictured: Lakeland, Florida
15. Venice, Florida
- Median list price: $289,000
Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Venice is just south of Sarasota and has a median list price right in line with the national median. This resort community with 14 miles of beaches was once a fishing and farming community. Now, it’s a popular destination for retirees who want to escape cold winters in the North.
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Methodology: Median list prices were sourced from Zillow’s August 2019 index. Livability scores were sourced from AreaVibes. Research was conducted and current as of October 2019.
About the Author
Cameron Huddleston is an award-winning journalist with more than 18 years of experience writing about personal finance. Her work has appeared in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, Business Insider, Chicago Tribune, Fortune, MSN, USA Today and many more print and online publications. She also is the author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk: How to Have Essential Conversations With Your Parents About Their Finances.
U.S. News & World Report named her one of the top personal finance experts to follow on Twitter, and AOL Daily Finance named her one of the top 20 personal finance influencers to follow on Twitter. She has appeared on CNBC, CNN, MSNBC and “Fox & Friends” and has been a guest on ABC News Radio, Wall Street Journal Radio, NPR, WTOP in Washington, D.C., KGO in San Francisco and other personal finance radio shows nationwide. She also has been interviewed and quoted as an expert in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch and more.
She has an MA in economic journalism from American University and BA in journalism and Russian studies from Washington & Lee University.