Have you made up your mind to move to Florida but not sure where to start or how to keep the process moving while keeping your sanity? Well, that’s why we’re here to help! We’ve put together a complete checklist for moving to Florida that can be helpful whether you are at the very beginning stages of the process or if you are nearly finished.
From assessing the cost of living in Florida, finding the right city to settle down in, finding a home, evaluating schools, packing up, and even getting settled with your driver’s license in Florida. We’ve gone through all the big steps here and gathered all the information you need to help you keep your eye on the goal and feeling confident about your decision.
DOWNLOAD THE CHECKLIST FOR LATER!
In this post we’ve outlined (in detail) all the primary things you will need to do when planning your move to Florida. However, we know it’s quite a lot! So we’ve created a FREE DOWNLOAD of this moving to Florida checklist in a PDF that you can save for later and refer back to later – or even print and add your own notes!
Click the image below to download it!
Understand the Pros & Cons of Moving to Florida
There are so many reasons people move to Florida. But regardless of the place you decide to live in Florida, there are certainly some good things and some less-than-good things (as with anywhere you move). Take your time to do some research and think about how these factors can affect your life now and down the road. For example, can you tolerate the hot and humid weather for more than just a week-long vacation? Below we’ve listed out just a few of the biggest things people should consider before they move to Florida.
- No state income tax.
- Housing costs can be more reasonable than some parts of the US (depending on where you move)
- Plenty of outdoor entertainment and some of the most beautiful beaches
- No snow, no winter chills, live in the warmth of the sun throughout the year
- Residents enjoy heavy discounts on local attractions
- Many communities for snowbirds and retirees
- Extreme heat, humidity and hurricanes during some parts of the year
- No mountains or valleys, just a flat place
- The state is getting more and more crowded and has a lot of tourists and temporary residents
- Relatively higher insurance costs than other states
- Snakes, alligators and some pretty huge bugs!
READ MORE: Pros and Cons of Living in Florida
2. Research Top Places to Move in Florida & Housing Costs (if you have a choice)
If you are not required to move to a specific place in Florida for your job, then you will want to do some research about some of the best places to live in Florida and compare popular cities/towns. Finding the right place for you and your family is very subjective and requires you to weigh the positives and negatives thoroughly. Your personal situation may impact the city you choose. For example, if you are young then you might like a city like Tallahassee or Miami. If you are retired then you may enjoy somewhere like Fort Myers. If you have a family & love the beach, then you may love the Sarasota area best.
READ MORE: Best Places to Live in Florida – Our Picks!
Because your choice of city or town will have a huge impact on your experience, it’s essential that you assess the different areas of Florida and find the best option that suits your budget and your family’s lifestyle. The good thing is, Florida has a wide variety of big cities, smaller cities and rural towns to choose from.
Below we’ve gathered a list of some of the most popular places for people to relocate in Florida, and included some basic information about each.
Pensacola is a charming and historic town in the Panhandle of Florida along the coast. It’s also popular with military families due to a number of bases in the area. It has a small population for a city that will give you a small-town vibe while also having city amenities and plenty of beautiful white beaches closeby. Plus, there are a number of high rated schools in this area. This city is a great option for young families. Keep in mind that the Panhandle of Florida is much more north than other parts of the state, and it does get quite chilly in the winter. However, you won’t have the ice or snow like the north. So it’s a nice place to still experience some of the seasonal changes while still being quite warm most of the year.
Median Home Price: $213,900
Jacksonville has the biggest population in Florida and is named among the largest cities in the country. It’s crazy to think that Jacksonville is bigger than Miami, but technically it is true because it encompasses a much larger area of land. This is a diverse city with people from all over the world. The best part is, the cost of living in Jacksonville is fairly less than other parts of the country and other parts of Florida too. It is a great option for folks who are looking for a culturally robust and lively city with a reasonable cost of living. However, being in the northern part of the state it can still get chilly in the winter, although it’s still quite mild.
Median Home Price: $220,000
Tallahassee may not be directly on the water, but it’s just a short drive to the beach. The capital city of Florida is actually mostly known for being a college town. Home to Florida State University, Tallahassee offers a great college-town feel and great nightlife. If you enjoy the idea of living in a smaller city with a young vibe and watching college football, then you’ll enjoy Tallahassee.
Median Home Price: $225,000
Orlando is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the US (and really, the world). The biggest perk of living in this area is close proximity to Disney and so many other theme parks and attractions. You can really take advantage of the resident discounts in Orlando. The downside is that living in the middle of a tourist zone can get old, and traffic can be a real bugger!
Median Home Price: $260,000
St. Petersburg is located on the west coast in the middle of the state. The city is known for its busy social calendar, culture and diversity. In fact, the city has really come alive recently becoming even more trendy and popular for young professionals and even families. No weekend is boring here, you’ll discover that there are always different events and festivals happening around town. And there are a ton of beaches only minutes away from downtown!
Median Home Price: $285,000
Tampa is one of the hottest cities people are moving to in Florida, and professional sports are all the rage here! Located on Tampa Bay, locals have easy access to Cruise Ship terminals and other boating fun on the bay. The city has some interesting heritage and character in the downtown areas and is known for nightlife down in Ybor City historic district. There are plenty of renowned restaurants and the festivals here keep happening all year round. Most importantly, the job market is also growing in Tampa as well. Clearwater beach is one of the closest beaches to Tampa and one of the most beautiful in the state. But ist’s still about a 45 minute drive, depending on traffic and where you live in the city.
Median Home Price: $285,000
Fort Myers is a growing town along the gulf coast situated a few hours from Miami to the southeast and Tampa to the north. Its central gulf location offers plenty of day trip options to the residents throughout the areas of Florida. But the beaches and nearby Sanibel island are some of the most enjoyable reasons to live here. The city has a diverse community that includes a number of northern transplants and “snowbirds” who are only in town for the winter.
Average Home Price: $250,000
The main highlights of Fort Lauderdale is its growing job market and a family-oriented region. For these reasons, this city mainly attracts young professionals and family-oriented folks. If you’re into yachting or boating, you’ll surely love it in Fort Lauderdale, as it’s really what the town is known for. Living along the waterways is a desirable lifestyle for many people, but it can be pretty costly and supply is limited. Fort Lauderdale is also a major cruise ship hub, which is convenient for people who like getting last minute deals and hopping on board for a vacation! The downside is that it’s definitely more expensive to live in this area of Florida, from the general cost of living to home prices.
Median Home Price: $450,000
Miami is a fantastically diverse and culture-rich city in the far southeast along Florida’s coast. Known for its stunning beaches, this city remains at the top of list for many young people who enjoy nightlife. With its heavy Latino and Afro-Latino heritage, Miami is possibly one of the most vibrant and fast-paced cities in all of Florida. The downside to Miami is similar to cities like LA, where there can be quite a lot of traffic, it’s expensive and there can be some less-than safe areas.
Median Home Price: $385,000
On a Budget? You Don’t Have to Sacrifice the Fun!
Even if you are on a budget, you can find a great place to move in Florida that will give you the quality of life you are looking for. While many of the most popular places in Florida can be expensive, there are plenty of areas that are relatively cheap to live in. However, if you just search online you may discover that some of these affordable places are out in the middle of nowhere!
So we went through and actually wrote a post about some of the cheapest places to live in Florida that are NOT in the middle of nowhere. These are places where you can still have easy access to some great things to do and not be house-poor!
3. Identify the Top Places You Want To Live
There’s a lot of information you will need to research before making a move. And you just won’t be able to analyze everything about every possible city in Florida! So you should really try to narrow down your choices to a shortlist at this point. Once you’ve shortlisted the best cities in Florida according to your lifestyle requirements, do some thorough research about living in the area to find out whether it’s the right choice for you or not.
Pay attention to important considerations such as:
- The average cost of living
- Job market & average pay rates
- Real estate prices
- Schools & ratings
- Transportation options (including toll roads & prices – there are a LOT of toll roads in Florida)
- Parks / Leisure / Entertainment
- Community activities / events / farmer’s markets
- The overall quality of life in the area
4. Research Neighborhoods In Your Desired Cities And Nearby Towns
Once you’ve narrowed down the cities you might be interested in moving to in Florida, you should start really digging into the details. This is when you can start researching some of the different parts of town and neighborhoods to see where you might want to live. You should take careful consideration to research things like:
- Schools & locations
- Commutes to work
- Grocery stores & other stores you frequent
- Local banks
- Safety & crime
- Childcare / Daycare options
- Housing costs as well as community HOA and CDD fees, etc.
This will also help you in becoming familiar with the geography of the area which will further make your life easier when you arrive. If you have time to actually visit the city, we recommend spending a lot of time driving around and looking at homes and different neighborhoods in person.
Lastly, you might even consider opening up your search to areas just outside of the city you are considering moving to. Sometimes moving just a little further out can be more affordable with regard to housing, and it might even be a safer environment to raise kids. However, other times moving further away just adds more time to your commute. And it’s not worth it if everything you want to do will require a drive.
In the end, it’s really about finding the right balance. But it’s good to be open-minded and compare what you can get for your money in different areas of town and nearby town.
5. Research Schools & Ratings – Including Private and Charter Options (if applicable)
Even though we’ve already mentioned this, it’s worth going into a deeper dive. If you’re a parent, you might already know that there can be a huge discrepancy when it comes to the quality of education children receive at different schools – even in the same town. So you will definitely want to research the school districts in Florida and the areas of Florida where you are considering moving to.
If the public schools are not up to par, then you may also look at private schools in the area or if it’s possible for children to attend other schools nearby. For example, Sarasota County is known for having one of the best school districts in all of Florida (all A – Schools, and always have been since they started tracking this). Sarasota County also allows students to go to any school in the county, even if it’s not in their local district. Parents just need to fill out the appropriate paperwork, get approval to do so, and ensure transportation for their child.
6. Estimate and Compare Your Cost of Living
Another most critical part of deciding to relocate to Florida is to do a deeper dive into the estimated cost of living and how things like your job and housing will affect that. For example, look at some of the average housing prices for the neighborhoods you are interested in living in and also research the job opportunities and salaries. If you already have a job, then that will definitely make it much easier. If you don’t already have a job, then we definitely recommend that you do additional research into the types of jobs that are available and the going pay rates.
In general, jobs in Florida tend to pay less than many other states.
This is something to keep in mind when you consider your overall cost of living. While home prices and state taxes may seem reasonable, you need to factor in the costs of groceries, transportation, healthcare, utilities, etc. as well as your new estimated salary to see if moving to Florida is really worth it for you and your family.
It’s also important not to overlook things such as insurance. In general, insurance costs are higher in Florida than many other states. So it’s quite likely that you will be paying more in homeowners insurance as well as car insurance. If possible, you might want to call in advance and get some quotes so that you can begin to compare to what you are currently paying.
For more details, be sure to check out our complete blog post about the Cost of Living in Florida and our recommendations for tools to compare the costs to where you are moving from.
7. Decide If You Want To Rent Or Buy A Home
Ultimately, many people moving to Florida would like to purchase their own home. However, sometimes even if you know the city where you want to live you may not know the exact neighborhood where you want to buy. Some people prefer to get a better feel for an area before putting down those types of roots. Others may know right away and feel confident in exactly where they want to buy a house.
Another thing to consider is if you are getting a new job in Florida after you move. It can be a challenge to buy a house right away if you don’t have employment. So some people choose to rent in Florida until they get established and can purchase a home later. Everyone’s situation is different.
Below are some useful housing tips when moving to Flordia:
- While every city / area has differences in its housing markets, many cities in Florida are quite hot due to strong demand. This means that there could be many people competing with you for homes and rentals. So be sure you are ready to go with your paperwork and financials.
- Definitely get help from an experienced, helpful, and trustworthy real estate agent to help you find what you are looking for. It will save you SO much time and headache, especially once the deal is in the works.
- If you’re planning to buy a property, make sure you’re ready to invest in it for some years. Moving is costly and so is buying a house. Even if your home appreciates it takes time to recoup the initial moving and closing costs.
- Before renting a house, make sure to read and understand all the tenant rights in Florida.
READ MORE: Buying a House in Florida (Differences & Unique Considerations)
8. Travel to Florida to Research in Person (More Than Once – If Possible)
Once you’re done with the above points, your next step should be to visit the shortlisted places and real estate options to make the final decision. All the online research in the world still can’t give you the value of seeing and experiencing a place in person. And this is super important if this is going to be your new home!
Visit the shortlisted properties, neighborhoods, restaurants, schools, universities, popular attractions to know about each and every aspect of the area. Most importantly, try to chat with the locals. Ask what they love most about living in that particular area. Check whether or not the people are friendly? Does the place suit your lifestyle? Does it feel like home?
All of these things can give you a much better feel for the area before you actually move there.
9. Secure a Job in Florida
Some of you may be moving to Florida already having a job, and that’s great! Having a job secured beforehand will help you tremendously in buying or renting a home. If you don’t already have a job in Florida, then things might get a bit risky. It can be a challenge to buy a home or even rent an apartment if you don’t already have a job. Here are some of the biggest industries that are thriving in Florida:
- Health Sciences / Healthcare
- International Trade
- Sales and Marketing
- Aerospace and aviation
Useful Tips for Job Hunting In Florida
We understand that securing a job before relocating is very hard, but it isn’t impossible. Follow these tips while searching for the job to make the process a little bit smoother.
- Do not put out-of-state address on your resume. This might get your file rejected almost instantly even if you’re the most eligible candidate. Some recruiters consider it as a red flag because you don’t already live in Florida, and some companies may not want to pay for relocation.
- Request your first interview over Skype and be clear with your intentions of moving to Florida, in front of your interviewer. Tell them an exact timeline for your relocation and even if you have already secured a place to live, so they can be assured that you’re actually moving.
- Consider working with a local recruitment company that can help you in searching for the best jobs according to your qualifications and experience.
- If you are still job-hunting after you arrive in Florida, then be sure you have plenty of savings so that you don’t stress out. You will need a good chunk of cash to help pay for housing and living expenses for quite some time in case it takes you longer than expected to find a job. According to Indeed.com it takes an average of 9 weeks to find a job. But of course, this can be longer or shorter for some people
10. Find a Great Realtor Who Actually Helps You…Not Just Trying to Sell You!
There’s a saying here in Florida: “everyone’s a realtor!” But that doesn’t mean they are very good, that they care, or that they are even helpful!
Having a great realtor on your side can be a HUGE help when you are relocating to Florida. It’s their job to know the market and the neighborhoods so they can identify homes that will be a perfect match for you and your family. They can save you a lot of time, energy, and frustration – especially during the initial searching process.
However, a great realtor will also be able to help you during the transaction with advice and support. The goal is to take some of the burden off of you and assist you during that process to make it as smooth as possible so you can focus on other things related to your big move!
In general, your realtor should be your eyes and ears. They should have your very best interests at heart and be 100% committed to helping you first and foremost…not just trying to sell to you!
That’s where we come in. We specialize in helping people relocate to Florida. And Josh Wilson on our team is a licensed real estate agent who actually helps!
(but don’t take our word for it…)
11. Secure A Place To Live In Florida
Time to make the final decision: secure a place to live. After exploring Florida Real Estate for sale or even rentals, make your final decision and lock-in the deal. Finish the paperwork very carefully and make sure to finish it in a timely manner.
12. Plan Your Move & Start Packing!
Now that you have your home or apartment, you can schedule your move. You can either move yourself or hire a moving company. Everyone’s situation is different, but if you have a lot of stuff and if it’s a big move (distance or large family) then you might want to consider hiring a moving company. The downside to this is that it can be an expensive option, especially if it’s a long-distance move. But for some people the cost is well worth it to save time (and their backs!).
Renting moving trucks can get shockingly expensive, especially if it’s a one-way interstate move. In these cases, we found that just hiring a moving company wasn’t much more expensive. However, if you just don’t have the money for this (because moving is expensive) then we highly recommend that you downsize as much as possible and try to fit everything in your vehicles and maybe just a tow trailer.
13. Don’t Forget To Forward Your Mail To Your New Address (With USPS)
Once your move is finalized, don’t forget to update your address on all your documents, banks, credit cards, workplaces, etc.. Inform your family members, relatives, friends, colleagues and neighbors about your new address too. And definitely make sure that you take advantage of the USPS forwarding service. It’s free and easy to set up online to forward your mail from your old address to your new address. This will help catch anything that you forgot to change to your new address and give you time to fix it.
14. Arrive In Florida: Steps to Set Up Residency
Once you’ve arrived in Florida, it’s time to set up your residency and become a lawful resident of the state. This part always gets a little confusing for people, so here we’ve outlined the basic steps you should take:
- Purchase homeowners /renters insurance
- Set up your utilities, phones, etc. in your name
- Change over your car insurance to a new policy with your new address/state.
- Visit the DMV to obtain your Florida drivers license. Every county is different, so check their websites to see if you can show up or if you need to make an appointment. Typically if you have a valid license from another state you do not need to retake the test. They will transfer it over to the new state. NOTE: You will typically need forms of ID (such as a passport, birth certificate, etc.) + proof of address which would be some of your utility bills, etc. with your name on it and the new address. You will also need to have proof of your insurance too (which is why you need to change it in advance).
- Register to vote (often they can do it at the same time you get your drivers license)
- Enroll your kids in the school
- Continue to update any addresses that you forgot (as your forwarded mail comes to you)
15. Open a Local Bank Account (optional)
Many Americans do their banking with large national banks, such as Chase, Wells Fargo or Bank of America. If you do, then you can see if there are local bank branches in your new town of residence. If so, then all you need to do is update your address and you can keep everything else the same. However, perhaps you had a local bank back home or you prefer to use a local credit union. In that case, you will need to find a local bank and open an account because it’s likely your local bank or credit union from back home won’t have a branch in your new Florida hometown!
16. Find Doctors and Health / Dental Insurance
When moving to a new place, it is extremely important to locate a new family doctor and dentist for regular health checkups and other healthcare services. Do some online research and take into account the user reviews and references of the selected healthcare service. If your company offers health insurance, then you’ll want to check to see what doctors and hospitals are in-network before selecting one. If you don’t have insurance, Florida does not have their own marketplace so you can use the federal exchange at healthcare.gov to see if you qualify for a healthcare policy.
Time to Live That Florida Life!
The idea of moving to Florida may seem daunting, but if you follow this checklist and recommended steps then you should be able to stay organized and on track. Plus, you can rest assured that you did your research and planning to feel confident in your selection of where to live. In the end, we want your experience relocating to be a positive one. So please let us know if there is anything else we can help you with or questions that you may have.
And once you are all settled, you’ll be more than ready to soak up all the fun and excitement of living in your new home and in Florida!