Escape the Cold on a Budget: The 5 Cheapest Places To Live in Florida Near the Beach – GOBankingRates

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When the dead of winter hits for many living in colder climates, it can mean the perfect time to start looking for an escape to warmer climates. A top destination for many northerners is Florida, which has seen an influx of residents in the past few years.

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According to Stefan Rayer, population program director with the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida, people moving to Florida from other places in the U.S. is “The highest number it’s ever been.” A recent annual U-Haul growth index also ranked the state number two of the ten top growth states.

The Sunshine State is known for its stunning coastlines and surprising affordability, especially when it comes to finding beachfront or beach-adjacent properties. Whether you are looking to relocate, invest or become a snowbird in Florida, here’s a list of top destinations with affordable options by the beach.

1. Port St. Lucie, FL

Median sale price of homes (November 2023): $409,000

This small yet growing city is located on the Treasure Coast of Florida and recognized for its budget-friendly waterfront living. Among the top attractions to the area include quality, affordable housing, quality schools, top-notch parks and recreation facilities, nightlife and shopping.

Like many areas of Florida, you’ll have access to beaches, rivers, creeks and other waterways that suit your taste. Some say that despite its growth, the coastal city has maintained its small-town charm, making it an ideal location for young families and retirees alike.

2. Palm Bay, FL

Median sale price of homes (November 2023): $325,000

Palm Bay ranks in the top 20 cities in Florida according to its land mass — so there’s plenty of room for growth in this region. Palm Bay fits the bill if you’re looking for oceanfront living on a budget.

Though this Space Coast city doesn’t have its own beach, there’s easy access to plenty of beautiful beaches via its northern neighboring city of Melbourne and Melbourne Beach (also affordable areas). If you want other waterfront access, the city also provides direct access to several rivers, creeks and canals.

3. Fort Myers, FL

Median sale price of homes (November 2023): $375,000

Fort Myers is famous for having abundant waterways and nestled along the Caloosahatchee River, offering plenty of boating, fishing, and sightseeing opportunities. Scenic canals give the city’s neighborhoods a unique charm while offering plenty of affordable waterfront living options.

The area is also known for its shopping, nightlife, local attractions and diverse recreational activities. You can head to Fort Myers Beach on Estero Island, where you’ll see white sandy beaches off warm Gulf waters.

4. Cocoa Beach, FL

Median sale price of homes (November 2023): $497,000

Another Brevard County municipality on the Space Coast, this hidden gem might be one of Florida’s best-kept secrets. Cocoa Beach, as the name suggests, is a city whose growth is due mainly to the area’s most popular beach: Cocoa Beach.

It’s a lively, walkable and bustling beach town with lots to do in terms of nightlife, water sports and of, course, the beach. It’s worth noting that the area gets tons of traffic from nearby Disneyland tourists who want a taste of the beach life while visiting Florida.

Single-family homes can be quite expensive in the area, but if you are willing to get a condo or townhome, you’d likely find something perfect for your price range.

5, Bradenton, FL

Median sale price of homes (November 2023): $400,000

Located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Bradenton is also known for tons of waterfront fun. The city is part of the greater Tampa Bay area, but still offers many economical housing choices for families in the area.

Bradenton is situated off the Manatee River and boasts an intricate network of canals and beautiful beaches with clear waters and white sands. Bradenton could be a great choice if you’re looking for a place to raise a family amid one of Florida’s most diverse aquatic playgrounds.

Tips for Finding Affordable Homes Near the Beach in Florida

Ready to nab your slice of paradise by the beach? Here’s how to save money while scouting out property in Florida’s cheaper property markets.

Head inland 

Although getting as close to the beach as possible is ideal, consider going a little inland, where you could get there in 15-30 minutes. Being flexible with your location preferences helps you save tens of thousands on a property close to one or more beaches.

Go mobile

Opting for a mobile or manufactured home can slash your home budget to nearly the cost of renting. Plus, there are many safe, reputable mobile home communities close to the water that you can enjoy.

Many 55+ communities have an small monthly HOA fee and require an application, but they also have amenities and security features that make this move more than worth it.

Explore other waterways

John Peña is a real estate agent with Peña El Paso Realty Group and familiar with the Florida real estate market notes. He said, “If you are looking for alternative options to live by the water in Florida, I would recommend considering properties near lakes, canals, creeks, or other navigable waterways.”

He further explained, “These areas often have lower property prices compared to beach towns but still offer the same waterfront lifestyle. You can also look into cities like Ocala, which is known for its natural springs and lakes, or Homosassa, which has a small-town charm and access to the Gulf of Mexico.”

Be mindful of insurance

Although there are plenty of affordable housing options in Florida, the state has been plagued with the rising costs  of homeowners insurance. You can garner many discounts with structural reinforcements and improvements that protect your home against storms, high winds and other weather-related perils in the region. Work with a reputable insurance broker who can shop rates and give you recommendations on saving money on your policy.

As you look for homes, be mindful that wood-framed homes are more expensive to insure than concrete homes, and insurance premiums increase when you are closer to water or in flood zones.

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