Where to buy in Florida?

55 Replies

Hi All -

I have been looking long and hard for where to buy a second home that we might spend about 2 months a year at on average when we escape the Cleveland winter - So many places my head starts to spin so hopefully you can help narrow down my list.

My budget is 200-275K - We want to be within a 10min drive to the beach (closer the better... a walk would be great!) - get a 3BR 1.5BA minimum - Pool if possible.

We are not picky at all but I am looking to get the best bang for my buck because I might plan on renting somewhere down the road.

What markets fit my criteria because we are going down in August to buy?

you can get that in probably any major market here, let alone the smaller markets.

The west coast tends be more older folks and a quieter lifestyle, but your dollar will generally go further. On the east coast you have a lot of options in that price range, but you might be priced out of Miami if you're trying to be by the beach.  I like Fort Lauderdale and Delray Beach a lot and both have homes in that price range within biking distance of the beach. 

When I lived in Tampa it always seemed to be a good market. I like Clearwater and Clearwater Beach and you should be able to find a property within 10 minutes of the beach in your price range. Clearwater did win an award from Sports Illustrated as being a best beach.

You can definitely get into a good amount of beachside markets with your budget, although fewer within walking distance- but there's some. The question has more to do with what other criteria you have. You want to walk to the beach ideally, what else? Any water sports you prefer? Any type of beach (sand, water clarity, waves etc)? Do you want access to a bigger city? How secluded?

My top recommendations would be New Smyrna, St Augustine or Indialantic/Melbourne Beach for the east coast. I'd stay out of the panhandle for warmth reasons- it can significantly colder during the winter, which would suck if you're trying to escape the cold. For the west coast I'd recommend St Petersburg or the Bradenton area, both close to Tampa. I'm not really a fan of south Florida for personal preferences but you're basically guaranteed warm weather. You can boil these down based on other criteria. 

We are in our late 20's and plan on having kids within the next 3 years so I want this to be a nice place for kids down the road.

We are not into water sports - the only criteria is being close to a nice beach, good strip/restaurant area, fairly close to an airport, being in an area we could rent out if needed.

Many of those locations mentioned have come up multiple times in my search so I guess its just time to pick one and contact some agents. Any additional info is appreciated and thanks for your help!

@Adam Craig  I think you just described St. Pete/Clearwater area. I personally believe it is the best part of Florida. You would have a difficult time being right on the beach, but within 10 minutes is very possible. As @Warren Sterling  stated Clearwater Beach is frequently named one of the top beaches in the country by the likes of Sports Illustrated, USA Today and Parenting magazine. Most of the areas that fit your criteria are also less than 25 minutes from Tampa International Airport. 

North/Central Florida on the east coast and the west coast of Florida would be the best bang for your buck.  For me, the further south I go along the east coast, the more claustrophobic I get.  I'm just not a big fan of battling traffic to get around, and that's all you see from Ft. Lauderdale down.

Best of luck in your decision!

Hey Adam,

I would stay away from Clearwater. The scientologists have singlehandedly ruined DT Clearwater and your property will not appreciate as quickly as it would if you purchased in other surrounding areas. They are still purchasing and developing land. Who knows how far their reach in Clearwater will eventually stretch. It's sad but true and I'm sure no one else will tell you that. 

I would look into Treasure Island you can find a condo for that price 5 mins from the beach. You would be 15 mins away from DT St. Petersburg and 30 mins from DT Tampa. Treasure Island is great. 

Something else to consider in your search is flood insurance. This will be a key part of your holding cost math. You would use the FEMA flood zone map search, to search the address and check the code. Flood zone X is okay, no flood insurance needed, AE is not good from an insurance standpoint and can cost you some serious money, VE is coastal and if I recall a home has a 24% chance of flooding in the course of 30 years.

@Daniel Miller  you forgot to mention the boogeyman and the ghost pirates...

@Doug Merriott  If I lived in Clearwater I would want to pretend that their clout and their behind the scenes involvement in Clearwater didn't exist either...have you even been inside one of their buildings? I have with some contractors. There were armed guards. 

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@Adam Craig

I've lived in the Tampa/St Pete area for the past 6 yrs and wouldn't live anywhere else. In your price range, you can live close to the beach and still be close to D'town St Pete and a 30 min drive from Tampa (airport, etc). If social fun is important, then being somewhat near to d'town st. pete is what you want, but if schools are important then you may want to look at Seminole (5-10 mins from beach and not in flood zone) or if you don't mind being a 25-30 min drive from the beach, but still on the bay side and a great family area near d'town you could look into Shore Acres or surrounding subdivisions in St Pete although it's mostly flood zone. As Doug said, I'd STRONGLY recommend doing research on flood zones. Houses weren't selling on the beach 6 months ago because of this and although things have subsided some, it's most likely only a matter of time before big flood insurance premiums come back to hurt us. I'm in the Madeira Beach area right now fyi.....right near Treasure Island which I do agree is a great area and personally love being blocks from the beach on living on the water.

@Adam Craig  Have you checked into Naples? It's one of the nicest beaches in the states! Very safe and a lot growth still taking place. It gets pricey the closer you get to the beach!

Good luck,


I am from Ohio (Youngstown area) and recently purchased a second home in Naples. We have had our Florida home for a couple of years. We have had a wonderful experience with this property. If you would like to talk in more detail please let me know.

Try Sarasota, we have done some deals there for second home buyers in your price range. Appreciation has been good and it has a sound rental market. Sarasota had a huge inventory 5 years ago, compared to the rest of Florida, but market is healthier now. Economically they're doing well, and there is an arts' and sports' scene. If you need a contact there let me know.

@Erik Noordam beat me to it, but I was going to suggest the Sarasota area... Consider Osprey or Nokomis, which is just south of Sarasota (quite often referred to as South Sarasota when people want to sound better off than they are...).  We are very close to the beach and homes rent very easily in the Nokomis area... your dollar will go further in Nokomis/Osprey than it will in Sarasota.

I live and work in Naples and love it. You would be at the low end of the Naples or Marco Island market but I believe the investment would be sound and the local rental market is very strong.

Stay south of Gainesville, less you want a true south experience.

Anything south of about Tampa and having heat in your house is somewhat optional. I like having a few weeks of "winter" being a little north of Tampa but i wouldn't suggest anywhere near here unless you like the rural feel. Sarasota may be a good fit for you. Otherwise I'd go south to no further than naples.

@Leigh C  

What's wrong with Gainesville in your opinion?  Just curious.

It's a fun college town....nothing is wrong with it. He wants to be within 10 mins of the beach so I was basically trying to have him stay out of the "big bend" type areas on the gulf side.

@Leigh C  Gotcha, good points.  It's just I know someone who is thinking about investing there and thought there may have been another reason other than proximity to the beach for your take on Gainesville.   

Not to hijack the thread but do you think Gainesville is a solid investment market for multi family properties?  I would think the steady flow of college students and employees at University of Florida would create a good environment for rentals. Not sure if you have experience in that market though.  If you want to PM me you can so we can leave room for the others to talk to the original poster.

You might want to check out the areas on the East Coast, south of Daytona and North of West Palm Beach. (Stuart, Jensen Beach, Port Saint Lucie, Fort Pierce, Vero Beach, Sebastian, Satellite Beach.) I don't know the West Coast well, but there are some great beachs on the ocean side. Various areas have very low housing costs, particularly Port Saint Lucie, which was pummelled with foreclosures. I don't know if you ever intend to live there permanently, but there are some very good schools in some areas, as well.

I agree about the area from Sebastian down to about Port St. Lucie. Nice beaches. If you want move in condition you can be a mile from the beach or less for your budget. If you are willing to buy a REO you could get a nice property for $100k all in. For that matter you could do new construction in that area within your budget, easily.

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