Florida is a great place for retirees but it is a big state, so how do you know which area is best for you?
I am not an expert on real estate but I can share my thoughts on why I am happy living in the sunshine state and how we chose Lakewood Ranch, located one hour from the Tampa International Airport and 25 minutes from downtown Sarasota on the Gulf of Mexico.
After living most of our lives in New York, we were determined to spend our golden years not shoveling snow, but enjoying warm weather and sunshine. I wanted to be near the beach and Pete preferred having a golf course in the community. We considered looking at retirement communities which have the advantage of people in a similar stage of life, but I wanted it to be an active community with lots of things to do and easy access to a larger city.
As a retiree, I did not need to move for a job so a big consideration was family. My kids have not quite “settled down” yet so moving near them wasn’t in the cards, but my sister and her family live in Florida and my visits to her house and the area of Bradenton have always been great.
Up until 2019 when she passed, my mom also enjoyed living in a gated community near my sister. We experienced playing golf, sitting by the resort style pool and dining in the clubhouse while visiting her. She especially loved this area as the beautiful Gulf of Mexico beaches of Anna Maria Island are only a short drive away and she attended weekly church services by the beach during those winter months when she was a snowbird, spending half the year in New York and half in Florida.
My oldest son spent three years attending the University of Miami. While Miami and Fort Lauderdale areas are beautiful, the traffic and congestion was a negative to me. It is also very expensive to live in that area so on a fixed retirement income the homes we could afford would not be that great. Besides, my son graduated and we have no family in that area so it wasn’t a consideration.
I love the beach and can’t imagine living too far away from one. Florida has many!
My days of laying out in the sun are limited due to caution with skin cancer, but I found new outdoor adventures with horses, boating and shelling. I love to take visitors to lunch and the beach for a long walk or to watch the sunset. The white sand is so soft and the turquoise water so clear it always brings joy to my heart to live near the beaches on the Gulf Coast.
The panhandle area of northern Florida along the coast, like Destin or Panama City, offers some of the most beautiful beaches in the country at the most affordable prices. While the beautiful beaches and outdoor activities are abundant, I found that the lack of international airports in that area made it more difficult to travel than I was looking for.
While I still love the Atlantic Coast and enjoyed visiting St. Augustine for the historical feel, I must say that I have grown to prefer the Gulf Coast for swimming and looking for shells. It is usually very calm and clean. The sand is soft, water clear, and dolphins visit frequently. I find that the times I have been to the ocean side, the riptides can be dangerous and I’ve witnessed jellyfish or man-o-war sightings. Ouch!
Florida has several international airports including Tampa and Sarasota quite within easy driving distance of me. The airports are clean and the Sarasota airport so convenient that it makes traveling less of hassle in a time when masks and long lines for security can make traveling less joyful.
Unfortunately, public transportation such as trains and busses isn’t really something that Florida has embraced so renting a car to visit is your best bet.
Something to consider when moving to Florida, is crowds and traffic. If you do plan to work or basically leave your home, it is good to know that during the high season, January – March, the roads are very crowded and it will take twice as long to get to the same place it did during the summer.
In addition, Florida drivers are not very good. It seems no one here uses signals and if they used to in another state, they soon adapt to the culture. Cars weave in and out of traffic quickly and bare-headed motorcyclists often come up beside you at the lights.
In addition to silver alerts, used to locate elderly people who have possible medical issues, an unfortunate amount of accidents add to the traffic complications in Florida. The state has researched and decided that traffic circles are better for lowering the number of accidents so we have encountered numerous traffic orientations unfamiliar to us.
Is Florida one of the fastest-growing states?
Florida is the fastest-growing state in America for the first time since 1957, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The population in the southeastern state, which is known for its warm weather and sandy beaches, now tops 22 million.
It’s not Broadway, but Sarasota has a well-respected performing arts center. The larger cities will have theaters with different musical artists, shows and of course sporting events.
Because there is a demand for it, many smaller neighborhoods even have their own theaters and shows. The array of dining establishments continues to grow and become more diverse as the population grows. It is a hot topic of conversation here to discuss the best dining experiences and listening to live music is popular as well.
Not too long ago, Florida had all the great bargains but not so much anymore.
We live in one neighborhood of the Lakewood Ranch development which started about 20 years ago. Since then, different neighborhoods have been created, many with their own golf courses and community centers. Depending on the amenities offered, an HOA fee is determined each month which can get pretty steep.
Similar smaller communities are all over the state as well as the biggest one in central Florida called “The Villages.” While new homes are being built all the time, in the past year complaints about materials not being available due to supply shortages from the pandemic are common. We bought an 8 year old home and feel happy to be in a used house in an established neighborhood.
It is hot and humid in Florida, but it is also Sunny, Sunny, Sunny!
All the studies I’ve read on happiness stress the importance of getting outside for vitamin D, get light on your face especially in the shorter days of winter, and exercise. Without snow and rain and freezing temperatures, you are more likely to get outside for a little longer each day.
The good weather leads to trying new outdoor sports like tennis, golf and pickleball. I see couples walking and biking every day and you would think you needed at least one dog to live in this neighborhood as dog walking is probably the most popular activity to do in this lovely weather.
If it’s too hot, find a pool to hop into or stay inside your air conditioned home.
If you are not purchasing in a gated community, it is important to check out the neighborhoods. You may see a cute house online, only to visit and discover it’s not in the best area and the crime rate is high. Realtors can not usually tell you much about the neighborhoods, so visiting a place at different times of the day before you buy is a good idea.
I have heard from more than a few people that I’ve met that they wish they had bought in a community that had… This is important. Think about what type of lifestyle you plan to have in Florida and plan accordingly. Do you want to golf? Do you want a clubhouse that has planned neighborhood activities? Do you want fitness classes or is a gym enough for exercise? Is there a neighborhood pool or do you plan to have one in your home?
Florida has homes with all or no amenities. Affordable housing is available in retirement communities or mobile home parks as well. You can have a house, a townhome or a condo. Consider these things before you buy.
Whether you plan to buy next year or just think about it, it’s never too early to check out the model homes.
Our neighborhood was so popular, that Lakewood Ranch is building a new neighborhood just like it called Azario. In a new build you get to choose colors, appliances, cabinets, countertops and more. Some people really like to do that. It was hard enough for me to make all the decisions on my kitchen renovation, I can’t imagine what it’s like to plan a house. But I will tell you that I love to check out the new home designs and decor in these homes.
Check it out!
Hope you enjoyed these fun photos from Florida – I bet this post put some thoughts in the heads of my chilly friends up north. C’mon down. You will love it!!
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