Some go to Florida for a getaway, and some for a permanent vacation.
Actually, a lot of people have been heading to The Sunshine State to set up a new home. There are no signs of a slowdown in this migration, either: A report from the state’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research forecasts that the state will welcome nearly 850 new residents each day between now and 2026. If you’re looking for a new home where the literal sun will shine on your skin and the figurative sun will shine on your personal and professional life, here are the best places to consider.
Best places to live in Florida in 2022
Job market: 8/10
Tampa isn’t just one of the best places in Florida — it’s also one of the best cities anywhere, which is why it also placed fifth in our best places to live in the U.S. ranking this year. With several dozen colleges, universities and technical schools in the Tampa Bay area, the region has a youthful vibe that dispels the Florida-is-for-retiring myth; in fact, the median age of residents here is approximately 35 years old. While every day offers reasons to smile in Tampa, there are some extra-special events each year, like a margarita festival, an Italian festival and a Cuban Sandwich festival honoring the local Cuban culture with an oversized 125-foot culinary delicacy.
While there are plenty of companies that have major footprints in the area — including Raymond James, Citigroup and USAA — it’s also standing out as a top spot for those who can work from home. No matter what you do for your job, though, you’ll need to budget accordingly. A recent study from real estate firm CoStar Group found that rents in Tampa Bay increased by 24 percent year-over-year — and if you’re looking to buy, be ready to cast a wide net. Zillow projects that Tampa will be the hottest housing market in 2022, so consider the entire region, including St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Largo. While you might not be able to afford a view of the water, you can still enjoy all that Tampa has to offer.
Job market: 8/10
This isn’t the only list where Jacksonville follows Tampa; the city is also Zillow’s No. 2 pick for hottest housing market this year. There’s good news if you’re looking to buy, though, as Jacksonville’s home prices are at a lower starting point than Tampa. If you’re planning to join the Great Resignation and look for a new job, Jacksonville could be a good place to land: Fidelity Investments, Aetna, Johnson & Johnson and Mayo Clinic are a few of the companies that have big operations here, and the city’s unemployment rate as of November 2021 was just 3.3 percent.
When you’re not working, you have no shortage of opportunities to get closer to nature: Jacksonville has the largest urban park system in the country. If craft beer is your thing, take a break from those park trails to tour the Jax Ale Trail’s 20-plus craft breweries.
Job market: 8/10
Gainesville lands a spot on our list this year because becoming a homeowner here is much more attainable than most places in Florida. Data from real estate brokerage Redfin shows that the median home price here is just $240,000 (as of January 2022), and the pace of appreciation isn’t nearly as fast as other places in the state.
Gainesville’s middle-of-the-state location is ultimately what keeps the city from ranking higher, however. Without the waves of the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic Ocean nearby, you might spend more time driving to take advantage of the best of the state. The city offers a different kind of beauty with plenty of biking, hiking and kayaking opportunities. This is also one of the youngest cities on our list, thanks to it being home to the University of Florida.
Job market: 7/10
Orlando’s economy is still recovering from the shockwaves the pandemic sent through the tourism industry. However, there’s more than Disney and Universal here if you’re looking for a new job opportunity. It’s a hub for healthcare, with AdventHealth and Orlando Health two of the region’s top employers. Plus, companies like Lockheed Martin and Siemens Energy have major operations here. Another perk of living in Orlando is the chance to meet, work and learn from people who hail from different backgrounds and races: Orlando scores in the top 25 percent for diversity among big cities, according to the National Equity Atlas.
While Orlando is already a great place to call home today, the future of the city looks even brighter with its massive downtown development project, Creative Village. The ambitious plans for the 68-acre space trade the typical drive-everywhere approach of living in Florida to a campus of downtown housing, offices and nightlife. Video game company EA (Electronic Arts) already calls the development home, and this year, nearly 300 apartments are expected to be finished, along with a public green space.
5. Cape Coral
Job market: 8/10
If you’re working remotely, Cape Coral might already be on your map of places to consider for relocation. The city ranked in the top spot on LinkedIn’s recent report of cities where people are more likely to work from home (Tampa, Jacksonville and Orlando also appeared on the list).
In addition to offering a chance to wear shorts on your Zoom calls while showing off a backdrop of the beach, Cape Coral is the safest city on our list. The only downside is that those low crime rates come with a high price tag: Cape Coral had the highest median sale price of the cities on our list, at $355,000 as of November 2021, according to Redfin.
To determine the best places to live in Florida, we evaluated data from the 25 biggest cities in the state — all above 100,000 residents — to get a clear picture of which places offer relatively affordable living, a bright future and an all-around awesome experience as a resident. What makes a city ideal for you will not be a perfect match for someone else, but there are common factors most everyone looks for when searching for a new place to call home. We assessed these areas:
- What it costs – We compared each city’s cost of living data from the Economic Policy Institute with per capita personal income from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to get a sense of how far a dollar can stretch. Then, we considered year-over-year home price data from real estate brokerage Redfin to learn where the real estate market is especially competitive.
- How it feels – Florida gets plenty of sunshine, but we wanted to know where the sun shines brightest in terms of quality of life. So, we looked at overall wellbeing based on the Sharecare Community Well-Being Index; employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; culture and outdoor opportunities based on information from each city’s convention and visitors bureau; and safety, including crime rates based on local reporting.
- Who’s moving there – Finally, we looked at the net migration of each place over the past year. Florida as a whole has been welcoming more residents, and a lot of those new faces are heading to these five cities.
Keep in mind: This list is simply a place to start your search. There are plenty of smaller cities, towns and villages in Florida where you might feel right at home. As you think about starting a new chapter with a move, consider, too, what you want out of life: downtown living versus a seaside breeze, for example; big-city energy versus small-town charm; or car-dependent versus walkable. Compare mortgage lenders in Florida, as well, to determine which lender is best suited to help you buy a home.