After living most of my life in sunny northern California in the wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties (I have also lived in Germany and Italy as a kid), like many others before me, wanted a change. Two spots that I focused on were Austin, Texas, and the Tampa Bay area or Gulf coast of Florida. I knew both since I had lived there as kid for several years and my dad owned property in Florida. We would take trips to Florida and always thought both were cool places. After researching both areas, Florida won out because of its tropical climate, which I wanted. No snow or even really cold temps below 50 occur often. I liked the fact there is no State income tax to file and the cost of living of everything is far cheaper than California.
In 2018, I sold my home in California and made a huge profit. I looked for homes during the summer months when prices were lower because there were no "snowbirds" competing. While Tampa was on my list, other places like Venice, Sarasota, were also, and these latter two had a more "small town" atmosphere than the large urban sprawl of Tampa. At the time, most 1800 sf homes with or without pool hovered between $280-310K and there was ample to choose from. Many homes were also on a small lake area with docks. They all had plenty of palm trees! Many condos were also available and selling to similar prices. The home I bought for $270K on a lake with dock, 10 min. from several beaches, it was dated from the 1980s. Basically nice and the backyard was like a "park" setting. This property is now valued in 2022 for $500K. Why?
This leads me to another point, if you are planning to move to Florida, the longer you wait, the more likely homes will he higher. Real estate has exploded since 2018 on both Florida costs. Forget Miami, homes increased 50%. Much of the Atlantic side of Florida is just out of range of many unless you are coming from a state where RE values are also high, allowing you to make a profit on your home sale. The Gulf side (where I am) is starting to be the same due to a lack of new homes built, limited existing ones for sale, and the high demand from transplants. It will not be long before Florida real estate will be similar to states like California (where you buy a 1500 sf home\condo for $450K).
Most think it is tropical weather all the time. Palm trees swaying in an ocean breeze. In reality, Florida has summer and spring weather. Starting in mid-May until mid-October, a summer pattern is noted and dominated by a wind pattern from the Caribbean or from the south. It brings the higher humidity and temps with lows of 75F and highs of 93F. In the summer, like clockwork, storms develop in the afternoons, and it rains daily. The rain can be like a monsoon for 10-15 minutes and then it stops and clears up. So, always roll up windows or convertible tops if you leave your car. Humidity is always 70-95%. There are times it is BAD especially when on the beach and in sun.
During spring, which begins mid-October and runs through April, temps can range from 50F to 85F. In December-February, temps range from 50F-75F. Humidity hovers around 40-60%, so it is dry. Also, it is when it is the dry season. This is the time when you see many convertible cars without the tops as there is no fear of rain. In the spring, most of the wind pattern comes from colder climes north of the state, the wind pattern shifts with winds from the east or west in March-April. Thus, bringing cooler, dryer air to the northern and central parts of Florida frequently (not so much south of Ft. Myers, Naples, Miami, though).
If you want two seasons, move to either Florida panhandle in the north or central area of Tampa, Jacksonville, Ocala, Sarasota, Venice. Springtime weather is the perfect type as you do not need AC very much. The lowest temps have been 40F overnight and 70F in the day. If you live in the more southern areas, your temps will seldom be lower than 55F in springtime (Florida winter months).
There is a big difference between the Atlantic side and Gulf side. The Atlantic side is much more wavy and rougher than the big lake of the Gulf. The Gulf is usually placid with hardly any waves unless a tropical storm or worse comes by. The Atlantic side can have more sharks and it seems to be saltier. The Gulf is less salty, and sharks of any kind are seldom around. For snorkeling, the Gulf offers nothing by sandy bottoms. The Gulf also has more extreme water temps than the Atlantic in the winter. The Gulf usually drops to 60-65F by December\January, which is like a freshwater lake. By March, it is 70F, and in late July, 88F (like a bathtub).
Look, one does not need to buy a home on the beach at $1 million+. One will see quickly that in Florida, beaches are all created equal for most. One can live just 10-15 min. from a nice beach. Sarasota has the "white sand" Siesta Beach, which is nice, but traffic is bad and there is a nominal difference with beige and white sand. Most beaches in the state look the same no matter where you live. So, what it comes down to is do you want to drive for 30 min+ to the beach or just much less for the same experience? Except for the Miami area and Key West beaches, most other beaches do not have palms lining the water edge like those photos of Jamaica. They have some but they are usually further inland than on the water's edge.
Florida is subject to hurricanes from June to late October. Tropical storms can also occur on a more frequent basis. By far, the Gulf side is less prone to hurricanes than the Atlantic side. Expect them if you move to the Miami area for sure and they cause such a panic and disruption, they are far worse than a California earthquake! Of course, if it is a Category 5, it will impact most of the state. Last year, the forecast was for 20 of them! LOL, we only had one on the Gulf that impacted Florida. Most hurricanes in the Gulf strike at Texas. Beside hurricanes, only the Gulf side may get the "red tide" in the summer months that will ruin any beach going experience due to eye and breathing irritations from the algae that can develop. The last really bad one that last all summer long was in 2019. Florida does not suffer from very many tornados, but sudden flash flooding can occur with the monsoon heavy rain if it lasts for 15 min. or more. It can be quite horrifying if caught while driving as the wipers do little on the highway!
Other Random Thoughts
Having lived here for five years now, here are more suggestions:
1. Life can be a beach. Always take 50 SPF+ suntan lotion or wear 50 SPF T-shirt while at the beach. Always wear a hat while in the sun (even if not the beach). Sit close to the water for a sea breeze. When storm clouds are nearby, stay out of the water due to lightning strikes. Go to the beach before 1 pm in the summer to have clear weather. In Florida, the ocean temp in the summer is always very warm, even at 2 am.
2. If you are living on a pond or lake, or walking along one, always be on the outlook for a gator in the water or on the shore. They can be in any non-saltwater lake\pond or river. Just presume one is there that you cannot see. Do not go swimming in lakes\ponds unless it is approved for it! If you encounter a gator, stay at least 10 ft. away. They will usually be afraid of you more if you meet while kayaking or biking. Gators are everywhere there is water.
3. A general rule is to get a Sun Pass for road tolls along certain highways in your area and for parking at airports. Once you sign up, you can buy a Sun Pass for your windshield and the toll will be deducted from your account that you add money to. It saves you a lot of time and hassle in not having to deal with cash. Florida has many toll roads\highways.
4. When buying a home, a pool will add to the sale price by $20K. Most pools are rather small and not like a lap pool. If you live within 5-6 miles of a beach, save money and not have a pool. Also, try to have bedrooms and living rooms facing north and the front door facing south. Why? In the winter, the northerly winds do blow and when both windows are open, a strong wind draft moves through keeping the house cooler!
5. Utilities are also much lower here. If you keep your AC setting at 77-78F, the cost in the summer will average $75-85\mo. In the winter, the electric costs can be just $50. Water varies, but where I am at, it is almost always $65-70\mo. In Florida, irrigation systems consume a lot UNLESS you buy a home on a pond or lake. In this case, your water is free because your system will have pipeline into the lake to syphon the water via your irrigation pump. So, buy a home adjacent to a pond or lake!
With an estimated 10,000 + coming to Florida to relocate every month, many 55+, the state is an older population in certain sections. Housing is unable to keep up and there is only so much land. The longer one waits to relocate, the more costly it will be when buying real estate in a good setting.