Updated: February 15, 2023. Living at the beach in Florida was always our dream, and we made it a reality when we moved to the Gulf Coast in 2017. Spending time at the beach has been an incredible experience for us, and we want to share our knowledge with those considering a move to their favorite Florida beach. In this post, we've compiled a complete Florida moving checklist to help you with your relocation plans.
After 6 years of living in Florida and two moves, we've become familiar with the ups and downs of residing in the Sunshine State. Is it still great? Heck, yes! However, we've had some reality checks along the way. Here are a few things we've learned.
Living on a Florida Beach vs. Near It?
Myth: Living on the beachfront is the best
Originally, we lived about 22 miles inland from the Gulf Coast near Bradenton, Florida. Currently we live 6 miles from the ocean beach on the east coast. That's about a 15 minute drive depending on what time of day (and year) it is. Do we wish we lived right on the beach? Sometimes, but we prefer to stick with a house that has less maintenance, costs and risks, especially after the 2022 hurricanes. Beach living is really expensive!
Some of the added costs beachfront residents have include:
Myth: it's cheap to live in Florida
In Florida we do not have to pay any income tax but there are still expenses. Does not having to pay any income tax make up for these expenses? Unfortunately, no. Despite what you've heard, Florida is one of the most expensive states to live in (at time of publication 2023). Taxes and insurance are on the rise. In fact, Miami and Tampa have the highest cost of living in the nation right now. A very small home can cost over $400,000. Condo fees can be over $1000 per month.
One option is to choose a home a few blocks from the beach and walk over. This may help with SOME of the costs of coastal living. Although in some areas, like Siesta Key, Naples and Sanibel Island it may still be too pricey.
For us, the best choice is to live in a home that's a quick drive to the beach. It's away from flood and evacuation zones. The drive does take longer when winter vacationers (snowbirds) are in Florida from April to November...but it's a small price to pay. Beach access roads can get crowded at times too. Still, we love living here.
Florida Weather and Salty Air
Florida has legendary humidity. When it rains in Florida, it really comes down. You can get several inches in an hour as well as hundreds of lightning strikes. During the summer rainy season, this can happen every afternoon. This excessive moisture can lead to mold in various places around and on your home. You will also need to have a vehicle capable of driving in such downpours.
We all want the "Salt Life" right? Living right at the beach, however, the salty sea air can wreak havoc by covering your house windows with a salty film. Your vehicle will also meet the same fate. If possible, choose a property with a garage. It will save you hours of washing your vehicle. Even so, you will likely have to wash it more frequently than before to prevent corrosion of metal parts. We wash our pickup truck after every beach visit.
Myth: it's always hot in Florida
If you live in Central Florida you will get chilly temperatures. This past winter we experienced 3 days of frost at night. This happened inland even when we lived near Bradenton. The Florida Panhandle gets quite cold in the winter. A wet suit is required if you want to swim in Destin or Panama City Beach.
Myth: the beach is always perfect
The shoreline is an ever-changing landscape. Most of the time it is beautiful...like paradise. However, both coasts of Florida suffer from natural problems at different times of the year. Daytona Beach, Miami Beach, Sebastian Inlet and the Palm Beach areas can get covered with Sargassum. This is excess seaweed which the Caribbean Sea delivers to the Gulf Stream. It eventually ends up on Central Florida beaches. Thankfully, this natural mess turns into much needed sand on the beach, but it sure smells bad while doing this.
Red Tide is also an unpleasant visitor, mostly affecting the Gulf beaches on the west coast. This is also a smelly event that can irritate the nose and throat. The toxins from red tide can cause symptoms in humans and pets if they are exposed to contaminated water or air from wave action. The effects of this toxic algae bloom are devastating to marine life and can kill fish. We have experienced this a few times at Clearwater Beach and sadly had to leave the beach. Before you head out on a road trip to the beach, check the forecasts for red tide blooms in the Gulf of Mexico.
Beachfront Living and Evacuation Zones
Myth: you can ride out a hurricane
We all know Florida has hurricanes. However, beachfront property comes with even more complications that just a possible "direct hit" to your home. Flooding and high winds make all coastal areas "evacuation zones". This means that storm surge could become a life-threatening event and you may have to leave your home during a major storm. You may have only a few minutes to prepare to leave. Most deaths occur from storm surge, not wind. After you return, you may be faced with hurricane property damage to repair. You may even lose your entire home. This can happen anywhere in Florida, but coastal areas have more wind and water to deal with.
Is Living On The Beach Worth It? The Upside
This is for you to decide. Daytona Beach Shores area Realtor Ann Manning, who transacted two million in sales in 2022, says that a Florida beach home can be a good investment, especially if you plan to rent it out some of the time. A home within walking or driving distance is a great choice. It is also good for the soul: studies show that residents in coastal regions (not just beachfront real estate) enjoy better overall mental and physical health. We give this a two thumbs up!
ALL homes come with expenses, pests, weather risks and maintenance. Walking or exercising on the beach, fresh air and sunshine just makes everything better! If we had the budget, we would probably live closer to the beach - even with all the risks. What could be better than rising up every morning and walking on the sand, or seeing the sunset each night? Weigh the pros and cons of coastal living before you buy and use a realtor that is familiar with the area. Try renting a home in Florida first to see if the area is to your liking. Then take the plunge...we'll see you in the waves!
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Susan and Bruno are travel bloggers. We write about Florida beaches on every coast. Our opinions only.