9 Best Places to Live in Florida, According to Real Estate Experts

From affordable to luxurious, these are the best places to live in Florida.

What used to be a go-to retirement plan is now something like the American dream for people of all ages and walks of life: move to Florida. The popular vacation destination is home to about 22 million year-round residents; there’s sunshine, more than 1,000 miles of coastline, a desirable tax climate, and a “live and let live” philosophy that draws transplants from all over the world. Florida has small towns, big cities, stunning natural preserves, luxury hotels, funky traditions, and even a chain of tropical islands that feel like a Caribbean getaway — no passport required. 

Aerial view of Cape Coral, Florida

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Moving to Florida offers a chance to spend every day in paradise, but there’s no doubt the Sunshine State is an expensive place to live. According to America’s leading real estate marketplace, Zillow, as of October 2022, the typical home value in the U.S. was $357,589 (up 13.5% from 2021), while the average home value in Florida was $406,876 (up 25% from 2021). 

Still, depending on your situation, the high quality of life and lack of state individual income tax — not to mention an abundance of both natural beauty and human-made attractions at your doorstep — can more than make up for the higher costs. Plus, the unemployment rate in Florida was 2.7% as of October 2022, compared to the U.S. at 3.7%, and the minimum wage in the state is currently $10 per hour (versus the federal amount of $7.25).

Note that Zillow provided Travel + Leisure data on “typical home values” in Florida, which is the average in the middle 30% of the distribution of estimated home values in a region. One important difference from measures like median sale price is that this metric captures the value of all homes, not just what’s sold or listed at any point in time, as it’s built off the individual Zestimate on all the properties in a region.

From urban centers to tiny towns, here are nine of the best places to live in Florida.

Miami

Miami, Florida

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Arguably the most vibrant city in the Sunshine State, Miami packs a punch, and the typical home value in this coastal metropolis is $474,701. Of course, there are many different neighborhoods in this large, bustling city, with major price differences between South Beach and inland communities, for example. Still, as a global hub of finance, culture, arts, and international trade, Miami offers its residents a unique blend of business opportunities, Florida-Cuban culture, sizzling nightlife, fascinating history, and seaside living.

If you want big-city living with a tropical twist, Miami is your best bet. It can be a pricey place to live, but the unemployment rate here is 1.7%, much lower than the national average, and while the per capita personal income is $55,477 in the U.S., you can expect to make more in Miami, at $64,849, which can balance out the higher costs of living.

West Palm Beach

West Palm Beach, Florida

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Want to be close to Miami without the anonymity of big-city living? Move to West Palm Beach, where the typical home value is $437,939 (up a dramatic 28.8% from 2021 to 2022). 

While this world-class city has all the perks of a much larger metro, it has retained an air of small-town charm thanks to its historic neighborhoods, longtime locals, and strict commitment to purposeful development. Ritzy Palm Beach is just over the bridge, Miami is a quick hour away on the Brightline, and there are three international airports within a 70-mile radius, so it’s easy to get anywhere else you want to go, too. 

West Palm Beach has a population slightly under 118,000 and an unemployment rate of 2.3%. While the cost of living is higher than in less desirable metros, Palm Beach County has the highest average salary in the state of Florida, at $61,040, and in recent years, has led the state’s growth in terms of income and population.

What West Palm Beach lacks in affordable housing, it makes up for in employment opportunities, outdoor activities (especially those in and around the water, including snorkeling and board sports), and lively arts, culture, and entertainment scenes downtown — there are Broadway shows, art galleries, and open-air amphitheaters within a few square miles.

Jacksonville

Aerial view of bridge in Jacksonville, Florida

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Jacksonville, the biggest city in Florida (and, believe it or not, the largest city by area in the contiguous U.S.), has a typical home value of $378,914 — lower than the statewide number, but a bit higher than the national value.

Add to that the abundant employment opportunities (the unemployment rate in Jacksonville is 2.5%), 22 miles of beaches, well-connected highways, 270 days of sunshine per year, a top public school district in Florida, and tons of things to do, and you’ll see why so many families flock to this city. It’s also one of Florida’s youngest cities, with an average age of 36, and home to the largest urban park system in the nation, according to Visit Jacksonville.

Jacksonville is a city that has it all, including plenty of space to welcome newcomers. 

Tampa

Tampa, Florida

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Located on the scenic Tampa Bay along Florida’s Gulf Coast, Tampa is a hub for business, cultural institutions, and outdoor activities, with some of the state’s top restaurants and a high standard of living. Plus, the popular Busch Gardens amusement park is just as fun as any Orlando theme park, with no long drive required (though Orlando is about an hour and a half away if you want to make the trip). 

You can head to Tampa’s historic Ybor City neighborhood, developed by Cuban and Spanish cigar factory workers in the early 1900s, for dining and nightlife unlike anything else you’ll find in the Sunshine State. Across the bay, Clearwater and St. Petersburg are becoming increasingly popular for relocations by young professionals and families. 

There’s a lot to do and see here, and job prospects are good, with an unemployment rate of 2.6%. One of the most desirable locations to live in Florida, Tampa's typical home value is $391,314.

Cape Coral

Aerial view of Cape Coral, Florida

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Cape Coral is a small city near Fort Myers and the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s southwest coast. Its population of about 204,500 enjoys living near Gulf Coast beaches, golf courses, and other attractions, including 400 miles of canals (and thus ample opportunities for boating, fishing, and water sports). Here, the typical home value is $431,137, up 27.7% from 2021 to 2022

If you want the full Florida experience, you can trust there are a lot of ways to enjoy being outside in Cape Coral, including tennis courts and nature preserves. Plus, you’ll share your hometown with some of Florida’s most charming wildlife, like manatees and birds. Life is quieter and slower in Cape Coral, and for some, that’s exactly the goal.

Orlando

Orlando, Florida

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Orlando, one of the most popular cities in Florida, has a typical home value of $402,064 and an unemployment rate of 2.8%.

As one of the top tourist destinations in the state — Orlando is home to more than a dozen theme parks and various other attractions — this city has no shortage of things to do. You can choose from a range of lifestyles, from downtown condo living to suburban single family homes. There’s also a top-tier university drawing thousands of students each year, so the city is poised to continue growing.

The Villages

Aerial view of The Villages, Florida

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The Villages, a massive, master-planned, age-restricted community covering portions of Lake and Marion counties in central Florida, is the top active adult retirement community in the nation.

With three old-fashioned town squares (all with nightly live entertainment), world-class medical facilities, boutique shopping, and plenty of recreation opportunities, it’s like living at Disney World for those of a certain age. Plus, nearly all of the 32-square-mile community is connected via a golf cart path, so despite the concentration of things to do, you can forget the headaches of highway traffic.

While only those ages 55 and up can live in The Villages-owned communities, anyone can move into the surrounding neighborhoods and benefit from the array of facilities open to the public. According to Zillow, the typical home value in The Villages is $438,197. And it’s only getting better: Typical home values in The Villages increased a whopping 34.6% between 2021 and 2022.

Ocala

Aerial view of Ocala, Florida

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Ocala has long been a haven for horse lovers, thanks to its thriving equine community, and it's also one of the top 10 metros in Florida with the lowest typical home values, according to Zillow. As of October 2022, the typical home price in Ocala was $289,855, lower than the U.S. value. The city may be on the smaller side, but within an hour or two of driving, you can reach beaches, the theme parks of Orlando, and some of the most beautiful springs in Florida.

Plus, with the recent opening of an $800 million resort — and the fact that it's one of the top Florida metros seeing the highest increase in typical home values from 2021 to 2022, rising 32.8% year over year, according to Zillow — it’s safe to say Ocala is on the rise.

Lake City

Lake City, Florida

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Lake City in northern Florida is another option close to the state's stunning natural springs, but there's also history, cultural attractions, state parks, boutique shopping, and — thanks to its location just below the Georgia line — some mouthwatering Southern cooking.

If you want to move to Florida, but can’t afford expensive destinations like Naples or Key West, Lake City, with a population of about 12,000 — is a solid option. Lake City saw a large increase in typical home values from 2021 to 2022, rising 27% to $238,698, but it was still well below the national number.

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