Living in the Florida Keys’ funky tropical lifestyle, off-beaten path, palm-tree-shaded walkways, and arts community has always been my dream since childhood.
You can call me lucky that I am able to forge a long-lasting dream into reality. I finally made a homely connection with the magical island.
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The Florida Keys is an archipelago that sits along the Florida Straits, the Gulf of Mexico to the northeast, and the Florida Bay on the edge, and The Atlantic Ocean to the east.
Florida Keys is just not a vacation destination to soak some pretty Vitamin D beside the ideal beach or do little shopping and taste local cuisine and depart.
Rather the Florida Keys is perfect to convert to a “local place” because it has a stable economy, low state tax, and good housing type.
Moreover, it is rated as the best retirement destination in the world. Siesta Keys, Pensacola, and Fort Pierce are the affordable beach towns in the Florida Keys.
Therefore, if you want to enjoy anywhere along the 125 miles of sub-tropical-island-chain as a local then you should be aware of the place.
This hidden gem in Florida has stunning natural beauty meeting affordable living and stunning natural beauty. Yes, true that there are only some affordable places to live in the Florida Keys.
This article discusses the pros and cons of living in the Florida Keys highlighting the rumors and stress and rush it can bring to your life.
Let’s relax and unwind to the lifestyle and living in the Florida Keys.
What is it like living in the Florida Keys?
The Florida Keys offer unique and Individualistic characteristics that no other island in Florida can offer.
It has mixed attributes of an American small-town vibe mixed with a Caribbean destination with manana culture. I cannot deny that the Florida Keys is an amazing hidden gem in the Sunshine State.
You will be shocked to know that it is home to such a variety of flora and fauna that are found nowhere else in the United States.
You will find coconut and Palm trees everywhere. After shifting here, every day after working out, I drink natural healthy coconut that costs me just $1.50.
The American crocodile, which is a rare species, is found in the creeks, rivers, and swamps of the northernmost point of Florida Keys.
However, all that glitters is not gold. The Florida Keys fails to offer city life comfort and at the beginning, it might fascinate you but later will surely start haunting you.
It did to me! I am not lying.
Also, the beautiful environment, exuberantly active tropical life and seaside food are perfect for vacation opportunities but not for daily life.
Again, Florida Keys mostly offer sea and hospitality jobs. I am not saying that these jobs do not pay well but the domains of opportunities are different.
If you are not comfortable with hotels, restaurants, tourist amenities, jobs and something related to it, then I am really worried about your future.
Living in the Florida Keys can bring elements out of you that you never thought of. The cost of living in the Florida Keys is 151.2 (100=National Average), but is it worth it?
Let’s know everything about the advantages and disadvantages of living in the Florida Keys.
Read more about how can you make your wintertime interesting:
Cost of Living in the Florida Keys
The median listing home price in Key West, Florida is around $999K; the price of the median listing home per square foot is around $869.
However, this does not include taxes to the Government, child care, utilities, and other living costs.
If we compare, Florida Keys is more expensive than the US average of 100.0. In the United States, the average household spends $61.334 per year on expenses.
However, if compared to New York or Los Angeles the cost of living in the Florida Keys is less. The cost of living in Los Angeles is 176.2.
The typical home value of houses in Florida is around $405,489, while in housing in the Florida Keys is approximately $684,000.
Some expensive places in Key West are Key Largo, Islamorada, and Key Colony. Here the home value can be approximately $1100,588.
On the other hand, the most inexpensive places to live in Key West are Friendship Park and Little Torch Key where manufactured homes are for $180,000 – $220,000.
Furthermore, places like Marathon, Poinciana Plaza and the east part of Key West are very affordable and inexpensive. You can get a property for $300,000.
Moreover, I would suggest renting rather than purchasing a property to fit your budget. For example, a 1 bedroom style of home will cost you $ 1994/ month.
The average property tax in the Florida Keys is $1,773 per year and considering the utility, it will cost you around $186.67.
For a good standard and comfortable living in the Florida Keys, your average income per year needs to be $35,566. Hence, per month you have to make a minimum of $3,360.
Living in the Florida Keys
Florida Keys is a dreamy archipelago with a chain of nearly 1,700 coral atolls connected by US Highway 1.
Each land is a worthy destination and 42 bridges connect the archipelago. You will be amazed to see Seven Mile Bridge which is 11.3 km long.
If you want to be close to Cuba then come south where the roads eventually end, you will be in Key West. From there Miami is a couple of hours.
The Florida Keys Island geography is divided into three major areas – Upper Keys, Middle Keys, and Lower Keys.
Collectively, this area is a 125 miles stretch of the eccentric dynamic aquatic ecosystem and the best place for fishing, bird watching, and enjoying the shoreline.
Places that come under Upper Keys are –
- North Key Largo
- Key Largo
Places that come under Middle Keys are –
- Key Colony Beach
- Duck Key
Places that come under Lower Keys are –
- Key West
- Big Pine Key
- Stock Island
- Bay Point
- Bahia Honda Key
- Sugarloaf Shores
- Big Coppitt Key
- Marquesas Key
- Cudjoe Key
Life in upper, middle, and lower Florida Keys
The artistic homes, real estate options, magnificent life, and good schools are found in Key Largo and Marathon.
However, get ready to get stuck in traffic in Key Largo and enjoy privacy and safety in Marathon.
On the other hand, the Lower Keys is more remote and rural. Big Pine and Cudjoe are some good places to retire in the Florida Keys. These places are close to nature with fewer people.
Key West is famous for Lower Keys because of its proximity to the sea and beautiful nature. However, recently huge questions are coming up about its increasing crime rate.
Moreover, in the Upper Keys, you will find Mediterranean, Bahamian, Spanish Colonial, and Modern architectural styles houses that are truly magical.
However, from June to the end of November residents of Florida Keys are filled up with the fear of hurricanes. The large storms that form in the Atlantic Ocean are very dangerous.
Hence, with that in mind and no barrier set, let’s know the facts for which Florida is known.
How to Afford Living in the Florida Keys?
If you plan a little, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. The unemployment rate is low but that doesn’t mean the Florida Keys is lined with gold.
You need a plan before moving to the Florida Keys.
Here is a checklist to make your living affordable in the Florida Keys –
- Get a double job – a primary job and also a part-time secondary job.
- Find a house at Stock Island and Big Pine Key. These are the cheapest places to live in the Florida Keys. Also, you can find roommates to share the rent
- Cook at home rather than ordering from a restaurant. Get the raw materials from Big Box grocery stores and cook for yourself
- Get a bicycle for yourself that reduces traffic as well as fuel cost
- Dry Tortugas, Calusa Beach, and Key Colony Beach are the safest places to live around the Florida Keys where you can experience fun and adventure with your families.
Pros and Cons of Living in the Florida Keys
1. Beautiful nature and sunset that you don’t want to leave #Pros
Florida Keys is the most vibrant, tropical paradise and easy-peasy 120 miles stretch of Florida’s southernmost tip.
The palm tree, blooming flowers, and coral reefs are the true gems of this place. Monroe County and Big Cypress National Preserve is well known among travelers.
For a sight of 50 lb Marlin, and snorkeling trips, trips to the “Village of islands”, Islamorada is a must.
To witness the only living reef in the United States and 70 nautical square miles of the Atlantic Ocean, Key Largo is your place.
For a wildlife educational trip, Marathon is such a fantastic place. This coral cay island teeming with lush flora and unimaginable fauna are all unique attributes of Keys.
The warm glow of the beautiful sky filled with orange, pink, red, violet, and yellow hues ushered lit-up eyes and happy minds.
Moreover, it is a great place for adventure seeking people. From primitive tent camping to luxury RV parks, you will find here several places for camping in the Florida Keys.
2. Weather will always disappoint you #Cons
From June to October, you will find rain as your constant companion. There is a constant fear of hurricanes that can have a devastating effect on lives and property.
I cannot deny that Florida has a name for warm weather, moreover, people living in Key West enjoy a fantastic clear dry season.
During the summer season, you can enjoy slightly humid and warm temperatures with little rainfall. However, this period is very small.
Places in the Florida Keys receive more or less 6 inches of rain every month. I hope you haven’t forgotten what Hurricane Irma did to the Florida Keys in 2017.
As per research, wind speed can exceed 130 miles per hour in Keys. Compared to Texas the destruction by tropical storms is higher in the Florida Keys.
3. No burden of state tax in the Florida Keys #Pros
Florida is one of those places that do not charge income tax. Residents of Florida Keys pay no state tax.
However, that does not mean that you pay nothing to the Government. In the rest of the USA the average tax rate is between 8%-16% whereas in the Florida Keys the tax burden is less.
If you are a business owner then you have to file two tax returns or else you are free from the income tax burden.
The sale tax is around 7.5% in Monroe County which covers the Florida Keys too. If I compare it with the rest of American states then you can save $1000, if your income is $40,000/ annum.
4. Employment opportunities are limited to the hospitality industry #Cons
Recreation-tourism industry is the basic and potential industry that accounts for 60%-77% of its economy.
Young professionals find it difficult to sustain themselves in such an environment because it lacks IT infrastructure.
Moreover, jobs in business management, accounting, law, financial and other sectors are not set up strongly.
The unemployment rate is about 0.5 to 1%. However, jobs that are available in the Florida Keys are mostly working at seas, tourist amenities, hotels, restaurants, fishing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and tourism.
Also, there are many military jobs like the Coast Guard and other public sector jobs available because of their geographical position.
5. High-quality education and low student-teacher ratio #Pros
The Monroe County and Marathon in the Florida Keys have some better schools and high graduation rates.
As per US News, within Florida Key West schools have been ranked 172nd. Minority enrollment of students in the school of Florida Keys is 67%.
On the other hand, the student-teacher ratio is 9:1, developing an environment for teachers to focus on each student ensuring academic growth and development.
For higher education – Florida Keys Community College and Key West University are the best suited.
6. You can literally count the number of roads #Cons
Florida Keys have only one road in and out of the whole islands – Overseas Highway, part of US route 1.
US Route 1 is 2,369 miles from Fort Kent, Maine on the Canadian border to Fleming Streets in Key West. It is a two-lane highway.
This is the primary route taken by the visitors and the residents to make their way to the island. Therefore, this results in congestion and huge traffic.
There may be fewer conveniences and inconveniences in the Florida Keys, but what it promises is a stable economy, relaxed pace, and easy-going life.
After studying the pros and cons of living in the Florida Keys, it is completely your decision and preferences, and the accumulation of funds in your bank to move in.
In simple words, living in the Florida Keys is expensive; you cannot live without sound income.
Therefore, before moving to the Florida Keys, prepare yourself for the transition that is mixed with stress and relief.
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FAQ – Living in The Florida Keys
1. Is it expensive to live in the Florida Keys?
A: Yes, overall living in the Florida Keys is expensive. But areas like Marathon, Poinciana Plaza, Big Pine, Stock Island and the east part of Key West are relatively affordable for an average person to make ends meet.
2. Is living in Key West worth It?
A: Home to a unique ecosystem, tranquil Lower Keys, graceful waves, spectacular underwater environment and off-the-beaten-path adventures, Key West is a magical and colorful island.
3. Do alligators live in the Florida Keys?
A: Yes, alligators are there in Florida Keys swamps, ponds, rivers, and lakes. Remember, crocodiles and alligators are two different things and Florid Keys has both.
4. Is it safe to live in the Florida Keys?
A: Yes, the lifestyle in the Florida Keys is very promising because of its stable economy and quite a peaceful environment. The crime rate in the Florida Keys is 21.03 per 1,000 residents.
5. Which Florida Key is the best to live on?
A: Key Largo, Big Pine Key, Tavernier, and Marathon are the best places to live in the Florida Keys. The state parks, open space and proximity to the sea make Florida Key the best place to live in.
6. What is the average income in the Florida Keys?
A: The average income per year in the Florida Keys needs to be $ 35,566. Hence, per month you have to make a minimum of $3,360. The poverty rate in Key West is 10.78%