• Melanie Loves Tampa Bay

Living in Florida: What's it REALLY Like?

What is it really like to live in the state of Florida? This episode is focused on the perks and reality of the Sunshine State.

Are there really alligators walking down the street? Can I go to the beach or Walt Disney World every day? How hot is it on Christmas day?

Florida is full of so many interesting things, creatures and weather events.

If you don't live here or have never visited, it's easy to create your own version of Florida and I get all sorts of questions - so I thought now is a good time to address some of the most frequently asked.

Obviously, this channel is called 'Melanie Loves Tampa Bay,' so I may be a bit biased, but I'm also very honest with my clients when it comes to this subject. Not everyone is suited for Florida, and it's important for new residents to have realistic expectations.

I was born in Ohio, but moved to Fort Myers when I was three, so I am pretty close to being a native Floridian.

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Does every body of water have an alligator in it?

Well, no, but they probably could. Alligators are a big part of our world here in Florida, and they've been here for a lot longer than us people have. For the most part, they stay away from humans. Alligators migrate, so a pond or lake without any could get a gator a few months down the line. Alligators only become a problem when they lose their fear of humans, which can happen if they are being fed.

If you live in a neighborhood with an aggressive alligator, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is there to help. Not comfortable with alligators in general? Buying a home on a pond or a lake may not be the right choice for you. Be smart and don't let your small animals or children near the banks. Changes are, that alligator will live its life without hurting anything or anyone. Personally, I think they're super cool.



Sandy... It's really sandy.

I fully admit, I'm not the biggest beach fan because I don't care for sand or salt water. However, I fully understand that beaches are a big reason people move here. They are so beautiful and there's nothing better than watching a sunset while sitting in the sand. The West Coast of Florida has some of the best!

If you're moving here and are not yet retired, chances are you're not going to live around the corner from the beach. Why? Because most of the hubs for employment in the Tampa Bay area are not beachfront. It can be a very long commute if you work in downtown Tampa and live on Clearwater Beach.

But don't fret - you can drive to the beach on weekends and over time you'll discover the secret (read: non-touristy) beaches that you like the best.

If you ARE relocating down here to retire and want that beach lifestyle, come on down! There are plenty of gulf-front condos ready for you. Make sure you hire a Realtor with lots of beach knowledge so you end up in the area best suited for you.


I'll talk about the Tampa Bay area specifically, because I don't drive in other parts of Florida enough to comment on them.

I wish I could say no, but there are times that traffic can be frustrating.

Just like all major cities, we have traffic headaches, mostly during rush hours.

If there's a wreck on a major highway like I-75 or I-275, it can cause significant delays. We see a spike in vehicles on the road during peak tourist season: January through March. Beaches get very crowded and I-4 to Walt Disney World can see a lot of activity.

Add on the fact that many drivers are not familiar with the roads and how to navigate them, you can see some accidents.

Although traffic can sometimes be a pain, I don't feel it's too different than other metro areas. At least we have some really great scenery to check out when you're stopped.



Yes! Florida residents can purchase discounted tickets and annual passes to your favorite amusement parks.

These offers change all the time, but right now (February 2019) I can get a Walt Disney World 4-Park Pass for $195/person. Non-residents are charged $340 for that same ticket. What a huge savings!

The other benefit, when you live within driving distance - there's opportunities to visit on slower days, like that random Tuesday at the end of September. Let's go and avoid the lines at the Harry Potter ride at Universal Orlando Resort.

You don't need to spend money on hotels because you can drive there and back in the same day.





That really depends on what you're used to. If you're coming from the northeast or California, then no, it isn't expensive to live in Florida.

But compared to other southern states, Florida can be more expensive.

One of the best things about being a Florida resident is that we don't pay state income taxes. That is a huge savings for most households, and makes the state a really popular place for people with higher incomes.

We also have a fairly low median price for homes. However, the hot neighborhoods do come with a higher price tag. Property taxes are on the lower end of the spectrum, but homeowners insurance can be expensive due to Florida's reputation for more extreme weather.

Sales tax varies by county. At the beginning of 2019, Hillsborough County (Tampa) sales tax increased to 8.5% to raise more money for transportation and schools. Whereas Pinellas County (St. Petersburg) just over the bridge only has a 7% sales tax.

If you have children headed off to college and you're a Florida resident, the tuition for state colleges and universities is very affordable compared to other states.

Gas prices are typically very reasonable and we get great prices on local produce!


Weather is a major concern for new residents and it should be. Hurricanes are a possibility and we do have days with intense storms and flooding.

BUT, and this is a big one, the trade off is that we don't have snow storms.

Hurricanes don't just affect Florida, but all of the Gulf Coast and East Coast states.

Although we never want to deal with a hurricane, we usually have plenty of warning and time to evacuate if need be. Our newer homes are built to standards to better withstand hurricane-force winds.

Personally, I worry more about strong summer storms that come through during afternoon hours more than I do hurricanes. Lightning is very prevalent during these storms and they can dump a ton of water very quickly.

On a day-to-day basis, those are the weather events that cause more inconvenience.

And regarding the heat...

Yes, it's hot and humid lasting well into the fall months, but this is a tropical climate and that's normal. Makes for some bad hair days, but also keeps your skin and eyes from drying out.

Just like any place, there are pros and cons to living in Florida. It is as beautiful as you see in the pictures, especially in the winter.

Our population is growing very quickly and we are doing our best to attract wonderful new residents with great job opportunities, fun places to spend your free time, and a lifestyle that allows you to be outside year round.

So come on down and visit! If you decide to stay in the Tampa Bay area, give me a call/text - I'd be happy to help you find the perfect home!

If you have any additional questions that I haven't answered here, comment below with your Florida question and I can do another FAQ episode.



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Melanie is a Tampa Bay area Realtor with Smith & Associates. She loves Tampa Bay area area, houses, and helping clients buy and sell real estate. She can be reached at 813-368-6084 or matkinson@smithandassociates.com

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