Author Topic: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?  (Read 7003 times)

Roland of Gilead

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Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« on: September 07, 2014, 07:44:56 PM »
How do you like it?

How would you rate cost of living compared to the rest of Florida?

We are considering moving there for a few years, either before or after a several year stint in Alaska.

CanuckExpat

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2014, 04:59:42 AM »
I'm mainly just chiming in here so I get notified of responses later as i'm curious myself :)

I'm not a huge fan of most of the (limitied) parts of Florida I've visited, but I was quite taken with the Keys (minus the kitschy, touristy parts of Key West). I'd love to hear input from people who live there..

Also kind of curious about your plan to live in Alaska for a bit and then make your way to the keys.. why and how?

Roland of Gilead

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2014, 08:40:28 AM »
Also kind of curious about your plan to live in Alaska for a bit and then make your way to the keys.. why and how?

We have lived in the NW for near two decades and have never made the trip up to Alaska.  I just want to have the experience of it while we are still young enough to enjoy roughing it.  I also think we should do Alaska before the Keys, because from what I have seen of the Keys, you may end up staying there.

We built our own RV to journey to Alaska.  It isn't off road capable but we have dual sport motorcycles and snowmobiles that go on the back.

No place to park it in the Keys though unless we rent a tiny house with space for parking, so that will be on the list.


Shortbus

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2014, 12:25:57 PM »
My wife, daughter & I just moved down to Key West last month. So far we love it compared to Tampa. There is less to do overall but it is far more laid back. I've been meeting people all over the island and already feel like a part of the community. That was a big worry of ours that so far seems to have been unfounded. The wife is able to stay at home with the baby and has some plans for getting involved with other parents when she gets back from visiting family next week.

There is a lot more to Key West than Duval St., it's sad that many people come down on vacation and never leave that strip to see what else the island has to offer. Just a few blocks off you'll find yourself walking down quiet lanes with amazing 1800's era homes surrounded by lush tropical foliage. I find myself leisurely getting lost on my commute (now being done by bike!) some days just in wonder that I get to live some place so beautiful.

The bad side is that the housing situation is insane, beyond insane really. We looked for a month before we found any place that would accept our two small dogs. When we did it was three options the cheapest of which was run down former navy housing at $2350/mo for <1000sf. We settled on a nice, slightly larger place in New Town for a bit more because the Navy housing was just too rough despite the great location. We may look into buying when we sell our place in Tampa but the insurance situation, especially flood makes me leery. Costs to buy are crazy too but there are still some deals around and my dad and brother are both General Contractors so a fixer upper doesn't scare me so much.

Cost of other items is pretty much on par with the rest of the state. Groceries are a bit more expensive, gas is more than Tampa but less than other areas on the mainland. Water is disturbingly cheap considering it has to pumped in from FL City. We haven't gotten our first electric bill so I can't comment on that yet but you can plan on running AC a good portion of the year.

It really is unlike any other place in the world. Very laid back without a lot of the stress or problems you run into on the mainland. We love it so far, whether or not it's a long term home I couldn't say yet. It's a fun adventure and something we've always wanted to do. The cost of living is what will make it or break it for us I think. My job doesn't offer insurance or any other benefits at all. We budgeted to allow us to still meet our savings goals but we'll have to see how it goes, insurance is already more than we anticipated.

I love the work that I do and hope to be able to do it for a long time so I'm not looking to get to FI as fast as possible or anything. We were just burnt out on the rat race, commuting, maintaing a home that was bigger than we needed...etc. Losing our old commutes means an extra 26 days per year that we are no longer spending in a car. Getting that time back while the kiddo is so young is priceless in my opinion and worth a reduced (but still substantial) savings rate for a few years.

Daisy

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #4 on: September 15, 2014, 06:46:46 PM »
I live in South Florida but not the Keys. So I'm not too familiar with how their property taxes compare with ours.

However, it looks like there are some interesting "hippy" type communities in some of the Keys where you have a mix of trailers (fixed, permanent trailers) and somewhat bigger houses in some neighborhoods in Key Largo. They are really close to the water. Well, everything is really close to the water in the Keys. These neighborhoods don't seem expensive and have a very bohemian vibe to them. People go to the Keys to chill out and forget about their big-city lives.

I've seen those spread throughout the Keys.

Key West is a whole different fish to fry. It's the "upscale" and most touristy part of the Keys. I'd think the prices are highest there.

I love going to the Keys to buy nicely priced fresh fish right off the boat.

Roland of Gilead

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2014, 07:10:52 PM »
It does seem a bit expensive but with no kids and since we will have come from living in a sub 200 sq ft camper, I think we could find a tiny 1 or 2bd house to rent in the Keys for a year or two.  The extra money spent on rent won't need to be spent flying to the beach for vacation...you are already there.

It would be interesting to come up with a Keys style budget.   Obviously housing (rent) would be the biggie but also figuring out utilities, food, gasoline, medical (assume it is quite the drive to a major hospital).

Daisy

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2014, 07:16:37 PM »
It does seem a bit expensive but with no kids and since we will have come from living in a sub 200 sq ft camper, I think we could find a tiny 1 or 2bd house to rent in the Keys for a year or two.  The extra money spent on rent won't need to be spent flying to the beach for vacation...you are already there.

It would be interesting to come up with a Keys style budget.   Obviously housing (rent) would be the biggie but also figuring out utilities, food, gasoline, medical (assume it is quite the drive to a major hospital).

If you want beaches, the Keys are not the place. It's more for boating or windsurfing or the new craze kite-surfing.

The Keys don't have those white sandy beaches the rest of Florida is famous for.

Elderwood17

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2014, 07:26:48 PM »
I love the Keys and told my wife before it would be awesome to semi retire there for a year or two.  I did get the impression life isn't cheap there though.

Mrs. PoP

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2014, 05:29:22 AM »
It does seem a bit expensive but with no kids and since we will have come from living in a sub 200 sq ft camper, I think we could find a tiny 1 or 2bd house to rent in the Keys for a year or two.  The extra money spent on rent won't need to be spent flying to the beach for vacation...you are already there.

It would be interesting to come up with a Keys style budget.   Obviously housing (rent) would be the biggie but also figuring out utilities, food, gasoline, medical (assume it is quite the drive to a major hospital).

If you want beaches, the Keys are not the place. It's more for boating or windsurfing or the new craze kite-surfing.

The Keys don't have those white sandy beaches the rest of Florida is famous for.
+1

Boating, snorkeling, scuba, fishing... all good in the Keys.  If it's a beach you want, lots of other places in FL with better beaches at less cost. 

Shortbus

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2014, 07:53:28 AM »
Lots of people who come for the beaches wind up disappointed. Ours are not even remotely comparable to the white sand of the Gulf I grew up with. It's a tradeoff though because the water up there can't begin to compare to down here, on the right day I've seen the clouds turn blue from the reflection and seen the shipwreck we were diving 120' underwater from the surface!

It's true that Key West proper is far more expensive than even the next key up. It's the Keys equivalent to living in the city vs. living in the 'burbs. It's definitely not all upscale living though, just that most of the jobs down here are service industry or tourism related and most of those are centered in KW along with basically all the nightlife so that's where people want to be. Rest assured there are plenty of run down dumps on the island. Property taxes I've heard are not as bad as one might expect though there is apparently a 6-7% hike coming next year for KW city residents. Insurance is the thing that will get you, especially in a ground level home in a flood zone. I'll comment more on utilities when we get more bills but our first electric should be a good worst case scenario, August and September are the hottest months of the year.

The islands definitely get more "Keysy" the further down you come. Key Largo is kind of a waterlogged extension of the mainland IMO. Nice but not a lot of character. Wonderful diving though, probably the best down here. Islamorada has a charm to it but is heavily oriented toward fishing. Marathon is more of a working town, good mix of fishing and diving and one of the nicer beaches throughout the chain. My parents have a place there so I've spent a ton of time in the area. If I were moving down and not interested in KW Marathon is where I'd wind up. I haven't spent much time on Big Pine but there are some nice places there that seem affordable. It's a pretty area but there is absolutely nothing to do beyond being on the water or hanging out at No Name Pub. Bahia Honda is another beautiful beach in this area. Further south it's all residential communities tucked onto little islands until you get to KW.

With no kids or pets and no expectations of roomy luxury living your housing costs could be a good bit cheaper. There are plenty of 300-400sf studios in the $800-$1000 range in Old Town KW. As to hospitals there are three main ones. One on Stock Island just outside KW, Fisherman's in Marathon (you don't want to wind up there) and another in Key Largo. Health insurance was significantly more down here than in TPA going through the ACA marketplace.

Spartana

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #10 on: September 16, 2014, 02:37:32 PM »
Lots of people who come for the beaches wind up disappointed. 
Oh and the smell of all that rotting sea weed!

I was stationed in Key West 2 different time, once for about 6 months in summer, and then later for about a year (transferred down from Alaska) and wasn't too fond of it myself for a variety of reasons. It's expensive to rent or buy (and yes there are so bad areas and lots of crime), the cheaper houses can be old and rotted and the cute places are massively expensive, it's hot and steamy in summer and just hot in winter, there's always the threat of hurricanes and the possibility of having to evacuate over the bridge, and often times severe flooding during a tropical storm,  the beaches do kind of suck (I'm from coastal SoCal so have great sandy beaches here) with lots of smelly seaweed in summer (they are groomed in winter during the tourist/spring break season), there is a tourist and spring break season :-), and I personally got island fever there since there was so little variety of things to do. I did have a boat, did dive, wind surf, etc... and do all that, but no hiking, flat terrain, lack of other sports (except maybe tennis at the Navy base on Boca Chica), was very limiting if you are outdoorsy at all. When I could I'd bike up to Marathon to hit the Kmart with a stop at some of the other Keys but that was rare. Duval street is OK but the night time party life gets old after awhile (especially since I was married then). The water is very nice and diving or snorkeling are great.  But IMHO, for someone of my temperament, it is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live  there permanently. YMMV.
« Last Edit: September 16, 2014, 05:10:43 PM by Spartana »

Tai

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2014, 03:33:21 PM »
I just have to say, first Nords threw cold water on Hawaii, and now my Key West bubble has been popped :(

I'm running out of tropical fantasy locations!

Roland of Gilead

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2014, 04:18:21 PM »
I just have to say, first Nords threw cold water on Hawaii, and now my Key West bubble has been popped :(

I'm running out of tropical fantasy locations!

Costa Rica.  :-)

It does sound like the Keys might be something we enjoy for a few months, say renting a 3 month vacation house for $3500 a month in a nice area and get our fill of fishing, snorkeling, sailing (I do look forward to sailing our 17 foot Montgomery there).

I have relatives in Tampa and it has always been nice, also St. Georges Island was a place we vacationed yearly as a kid (massive empty white sand beaches).

Villanelle

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2014, 06:06:58 PM »
I have lots of family living in the Keys.  Remember that Key West is not the only Key.  Key Largo is still fairly large, so you'll have decent amenities.  it's a much shorter drive to Miami, if you are wanting to occasionally partake in the things a big city has to offer.  As short bus said, it isn't quite as charming as Key West, but it has it's own personality, which you might like more, or less.

Housing there is actually pretty inexpensive if you are willing to live on a dry lot. 

Great diving and snorkeling. 

Shortbus

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #14 on: September 22, 2014, 08:58:00 AM »
Lots of people who come for the beaches wind up disappointed. 
Oh and the smell of all that rotting sea weed!

I was stationed in Key West 2 different time, once for about 6 months in summer, and then later for about a year (transferred down from Alaska) and wasn't too fond of it myself for a variety of reasons. It's expensive to rent or buy (and yes there are so bad areas and lots of crime), the cheaper houses can be old and rotted and the cute places are massively expensive, it's hot and steamy in summer and just hot in winter, there's always the threat of hurricanes and the possibility of having to evacuate over the bridge, and often times severe flooding during a tropical storm,  the beaches do kind of suck (I'm from coastal SoCal so have great sandy beaches here) with lots of smelly seaweed in summer (they are groomed in winter during the tourist/spring break season), there is a tourist and spring break season :-), and I personally got island fever there since there was so little variety of things to do. I did have a boat, did dive, wind surf, etc... and do all that, but no hiking, flat terrain, lack of other sports (except maybe tennis at the Navy base on Boca Chica), was very limiting if you are outdoorsy at all. When I could I'd bike up to Marathon to hit the Kmart with a stop at some of the other Keys but that was rare. Duval street is OK but the night time party life gets old after awhile (especially since I was married then). The water is very nice and diving or snorkeling are great.  But IMHO, for someone of my temperament, it is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live  there permanently. YMMV.

This is another (totally valid) point of view on it. I'm sure island fever is going to set in at some point for us too. With no vacation time in the new job I foresee myself getting burnt out at some point. For now we're going to enjoy it for what it has to offer. It allows the wife to stay home with our daughter at a time when we both believe that is critical and it was a big step up (sideways really) into my dream job. We'll see how it goes, listening to the news from Miami and Tampa I have a feeling the real world and all it's problems may be a little hard to go back to.

Also, as Villanelle mentioned, housing outside Key West is much more affordable (though still not cheap). It all depends on what you are looking for

Daisy

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #15 on: September 22, 2014, 09:19:51 PM »
I just have to say, first Nords threw cold water on Hawaii, and now my Key West bubble has been popped :(

I'm running out of tropical fantasy locations!

Costa Rica.  :-)

It does sound like the Keys might be something we enjoy for a few months, say renting a 3 month vacation house for $3500 a month in a nice area and get our fill of fishing, snorkeling, sailing (I do look forward to sailing our 17 foot Montgomery there).

I have relatives in Tampa and it has always been nice, also St. Georges Island was a place we vacationed yearly as a kid (massive empty white sand beaches).

Oh man...the Florida tourism industry just took a big hit with the ER crowd. Must save my state from further bashing.

Plenty of people love the Keys. I just pointed out the lack of beach thing since you were dreaming of spending time on the beach while in the Keys.

It's a boater's and diver's paradise. You could also have a lot of fun kayaking around. I used to take windsurfing trips down there and surf the bay side (flat waters).

There's a lot of more inexpensive places if you can rule out Key West.

I do an annual two day bike ride to Key West. I'm a little burned out on the touristy parts of Key West but the ride down is beautiful.

That said, if I had to pick another place to live in Florida it wouldn't be the Keys. I'm am not a boating person and I would need to be close to the beach (as I am now). I'm too much of a beach bum I guess. My toes need to sink into the sand every now and then to keep me grounded.

I still haven't made it to the panhandle, but it looks like there are a lot of state parks along the west coast of Florida north of Tampa. I've mostly done the east coast drive up. Some day soon I will explore that upper west coast and panhandle of Florida.

EDIT: Forgot to mention the mosquito problem in the Keys. Well that happens in the Everglades as well. That's a summertime problem. They go away in the winter. But close to my east coast beach, we don't get mosquitos in the summer. So I guess that is Keys bashing, but not Florida east coast bashing. It's really a great state!
« Last Edit: September 22, 2014, 09:24:02 PM by Daisy »

Spartana

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #16 on: September 22, 2014, 09:29:24 PM »
I like the Panhandle as well. I have never seen such beautiful white sugar sand beaches anywhere else in the USA (except White Sand New Mexico and that doesn't count :-)!). But it does get colder up there, and isn't tropical but it is less expensive and there is an actual hill somewhere around the town of Lake something or other (big multi-day bike ride around there) and more explorable areas too with lots of variety - farms, horse ranches, swamps and gators, some forests, various Keys/islands not too far away as well as some interesting historic stuff.

Daisy

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #17 on: September 22, 2014, 09:38:10 PM »
I like the Panhandle as well. I have never seen such beautiful white sugar sand beaches anywhere else in the USA (except White Sand New Mexico and that doesn't count :-)!). But it does get colder up there, and isn't tropical but it is less expensive and there is an actual hill somewhere around the town of Lake something or other (big multi-day bike ride around there) and more explorable areas too with lots of variety - farms, horse ranches, swamps and gators, some forests, various Keys/islands not too far away as well as some interesting historic stuff.

I think you're talking about Mt. Dora. They host a bicycle festival every October. Yes, surprisingly, Florida does have some hills. That is lake country and it is beautiful as well.

Wow...great description of the panhandle. I will definitely have to get there soon. I think I may be taking a trip up there next year.

To the OP, there are other islands around Florida that might be more up your beach-alley. Try Captiva, Sanibel, Marco Island. I haven't been there in years, but you may get the secluded island feel while having beautiful beaches. The Gulf side of Florida has some nice beaches.

Mrs. PoP

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2014, 04:44:17 AM »
Marco, Sanibel, and Captiva are all pretty pricey.  Might I suggest #2 or #10 on this list as a more affordable substitute:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbender/2014/05/25/americas-top-10-beaches-of-2014/

Barefoot Beach and Wiggins Pass are in the same area of the SWFL coast as those 3 islands (and actually those 2 beaches are only separated by a small inlet), but significantly less expensive to putz around nearby than those 3 islands. 

Daisy

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Re: Anyone on here live in the Florida keys?
« Reply #19 on: September 23, 2014, 07:37:32 PM »
Marco, Sanibel, and Captiva are all pretty pricey.  Might I suggest #2 or #10 on this list as a more affordable substitute:
http://www.forbes.com/sites/andrewbender/2014/05/25/americas-top-10-beaches-of-2014/

Barefoot Beach and Wiggins Pass are in the same area of the SWFL coast as those 3 islands (and actually those 2 beaches are only separated by a small inlet), but significantly less expensive to putz around nearby than those 3 islands.

Excellent advice, Mrs. PoP! I've spent many a time in Bonita Beach. It's close enough to Naples, yet might be cheaper. There's also Lover's Key beach/park in that area. I don't really know the prices of the islands or Naples and such because I was a lot younger when I went there and others handled the arrangements. You can always find a good deal on VRBO or HomeAway for weekly and monthly rentals, no matter where you go.

Our family used to go a lot to Vanderbilt Beach. Cousins and all...must have been cheap to get those 2 bedroom places on the beach if my extended family went. I was a child at the time.

It's all drivable, and probably bicyclable if you want to do some hopping from town to town. But I'd think you'd definitely need a car in that area.

I also wanted to mention that SW Florida will get you the laid back lifestyle you were looking for in the Keys, but you won't get the bohemian/funky side as you would in the Keys. SW Florida has, at least in the past, been more for retirees (like the regular aged retiree types). SE Florida will get you the night life and international culture aspects as well.
« Last Edit: September 23, 2014, 07:39:26 PM by Daisy »