Top 10 Most Affordable Places to Live in Florida

Florida is one of the most populous states in the nation, and it’s no wonder. Whether you’re looking to cave dive in Peacock Springs, parasail on Daytona Beach, or party in Jacksonville to Caribbean music at The Core, there is something for you in Florida. 

Top down vector illustration of a beach with a Pro and Con list of moving to Florida on each side

If you are looking to relocate, finding the right place to live in Florida is going to depend on your lifestyle. Are you someone who enjoys outdoor recreation or shopping? Considerations about local entertainment, schools, and amenities are going to be essential factors when deciding, so we recommend you contemplate what you want. Some of these towns are known for their indie music festivals, such as the Okeechobee Music Festival. Some of these towns have annual bass fishing tournaments, and some are known for their rodeos. One town on this list has a yearly cattle run through the city, known as The Day of the Cowboy

To identify which communities are the best and most affordable, we decided to take into consideration a few different factors. Census data, Zillow housing estimates, Niche ratings, and expert interviews were all used to examine each city, and we’ve ranked our list from least to most expensive. Read on to find the perfect community for you. 

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A 3D shape of Florida with multi-colored markers pointing to the Top 10 Most Affordable Places to Live in Florida

Quincy

Named after John Quincy Adams, this historical city in the panhandle is only 20 minutes west of Tallahassee. This rural town was established in 1828 and is a unique gem in Gadsden County. 

Opportunities in Quincy

The economy in Quincy is mostly agriculture. A major distributor of tomatoes, tobacco, mushrooms, soybeans, and other crops, this town’s economy offers a range of opportunities to residents. Quincy is a small town with under 10,000 locals, but this town is by no means the smallest city on the list. There are also a variety of beautiful, inexpensive homes available in the area that would be great for families. The architecture and feel of the town reflect an older time, so Quincy may be an excellent opportunity for you to get into a historic home. 

What to Do in Quincy

Quincy provides an excellent escape from the hustle and bustle of city life, but you aren’t too far, so you still have access to nightlife and attractions. If you are looking for activities around Quincy though, there are some great options. 

You have access to hiking, canoeing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing in nearby parks such as the Natural Bridge Battlefield Historical State Park, Lake Jackson Mounds Archaeological State Park, and Lake Talquin State Forest. Nearby, the Gadsden Arts Center and History Museum are beautiful places to visit. Living in Quincy provides plenty of opportunities for fun, outdoor, and indoor activities. 

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 6/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 7/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $92,323

Pros

  • Access to inexpensive housing
  • Within 30 minutes of Tallahassee
  • Home of the Gadsden Arts Center

Cons

  • Higher average of crime
  • Schooling system

Perry

Perry, in between Tallahassee and Gainesville, has a rich history dating back to 1856, when Taylor County was founded. This town, called Rosehead initially, was renamed after the fourth Governor of Florida, Madison Perry, who led the confederate army as a colonel in the Civil War. In 1875 the name was changed to Perrytown. Later it was renamed to Perry.

Opportunities in Perry

This small town is known for its Tree and Lumber production, but living in Perry, you have job opportunities in forestry, agriculture, hospitality, and more. Perry has a population of under 9,000 people. In Perry, there are some great opportunities for affordable housing with plenty of lands. 

What to Do in Perry

Finding activities to do in Perry isn’t hard. Not only are you within 30 minutes from Bonita Beach, but you are close to the beautiful Rosehead Park. If you enjoy outdoor activities, like hiking or swimming, this would be a great town to consider moving into. This area also offers a variety of options for hunting and fishing. You could visit the Ecofina River and Forest Capital Museum State, or take a walk around Perry’s historic downtown. Each year in October, the Florida Forest Festival brings people in the nearby area together for a lumberjack show, one of Perry’s most popular festivals. If you are looking for a modestly-sized community with inexpensive housing relatively close to the beach, Perry is the best choice on this list. 

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 7/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 7/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $104,309

Pros

  • Less than 30 minutes from the beach
  • Situated between two major cities
  • Close to Forest Capital Museum State Park

Cons

  • Limited job opportunities
  • No access to nightlife

Stark

Starke is a small town in Bradford County, 45 minutes between Jacksonville and Gainesville. This rural town offers a lot for retirees in the area, especially Veterans. Established in 1857 and located in the middle of the state, this town is centrally located in Northeast Florida. 

Opportunities in Starke

The nearby penitentiaries fuel the economy in Starke. These federal jobs provide many benefits, including a stable income for nearby families. Starke is one of the smaller towns on this list, with a population of around 5,000 people. Tonya Thornton, a top-performing realtor in the area, explains that not only are property taxes cheaper in Starke, but building a home in Bradford county could save you $6,000-10,000 alone in impact fees.

What to Do in Starke

Tonya explains you won’t lose much moving to Starke with local outlets, shopping, and entertainment not being too different from the big city. 

Plus, if you are an outdoor enthusiast, local lakes offer attractions such as bass fishing and water skiing. Probably the best part is that you are an hour to either coast. That means you can be on the Atlantic coast at sunrise and the Gulf Coast by sunset. 

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 7/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 7/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $129,136

Pros

  • Lake and outdoor activities
  • Lowest real estate taxes in the state
  • 45 minutes to Jacksonville or Gainesville
  • You are an hour to either coast

Cons

  • Over 30 minutes from the beach
  • Limited access to nightlife
  • Schooling system

Live Oak

Live Oak is centrally located in Northeast Florida and became the county seat of Suwannee County in 1868. This small town provides an easy commute to Tallahassee or Jacksonville. Live Oak got its name from a tree in town. While building a railroad through the city, the workers would rest and eat under a tree they nicknamed Live Oak. Well, the name stuck, and the town became lovingly known as Live Oak. 

Opportunities in Live Oak

The tiny population of Live Oak has opportunities in many different industries and trades, including retail, manufacturing, education, and healthcare. There are around 7,000 residents in Live Oak, but that number is expected to grow. In Live Oak, you have plenty of different housing options, so the community offers opportunities for retirees and families to find affordable housing. 

What to Do in Live Oak

Live Oak offers a lot of fun outdoor activities and is close to the Suwannee River State Park. Canoeing and hiking are popular outdoor activities for this area. Live Oak is also near Peacock Springs, which is a great place to experience the natural magic of Florida. This town is also unique because of its low rainfall year-round compared to other parts of Florida. If you are someone looking to be close to the unique areas around Live Oak, this would be a great place to move. 

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 7/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 7/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $134,144

Pros

  • Location in between Tallahassee and Jacksonville
  • You can enjoy more temperate weather
  • Amazing cave-diving and outdoor opportunities

Cons

  • Over 30 minutes from the beach
  • No access to nightlife
  • Schooling system

Fort Meade

Fort Meade is a small town and the oldest in the center of Polk County, dating its founding back to 1849. Fort Meade is another town with a relatively small population, with around 6,000 residents. Even though the town is tiny, there is no shortage of activities.

This town has residents and families who are proud historians and farmers. 

Opportunities in Fort Meade

This town’s economy is primarily powered by agriculture and mining. However, this town has residents and families who are proud historians as well. The housing in the area is influenced by Gothic architecture. Since the areas around Fort Meade have been experiencing growth, it is becoming an attractive place to raise a family outside the city. 

What to Do in Fort Meade

If you are looking for fun activities to do in Fort Meade, there are several options. You could spend the day at the Fort Meade historical museum or visit nearby parks and landmarks. It’s also only 20 miles west of Legoland. You can go to Peace River Hammock and hike around. There are also signs that this community will continue to grow as developers and investors are interested in the property around Fort Meade. If you are moving to Tampa or the surrounding area, you may want to consider buying an inexpensive plot of land while you still can.

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 8/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 10/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $136,591

Pros

  • Beautiful lakes and fishing opportunities
  • Local community events

Cons

  • Over 30 minutes from the beach
  • Located in a rural area

Okeechobee

Located in Okeechobee County, Okeechobee was established in 1917. Most popularly known for its annual festivals, this quaint rural area offers a lot for its residents. Although it’s a rural city, Okeechobee was once the commercial center for the surrounding area. 

Opportunities in Okeechobee

The Okeechobee area offers excellent opportunities for agriculture, retail, and tourism. The population of Okeechobee is small, but spikes around the year during certain events. This town is one of the few on this list that can offer affordable lakefront property. Though housing in the area can vary, you can find some truly amazing deals in this area. 

What to Do in Okeechobee

Each year, the Speckled Perch Festival drives thousands of people to visit Okeechobee from out of town every year. And the 4th Saturday in July they have a cowboy event, which includes a cattle drive through town. Not only do they have annual festivals, such as the Speckled Perch Festival or Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival, but their world-famous freshwater lake offers attractions year-round. Fishing, water skiing, and swimming are popular activities in this area. 

There are events year-round in Okeechobee. If you are really into fishing or interested in being close to a yearly music festival, definitely consider living in Okeechobee. This town prides itself on its forward-thinking attitude, so it may be a great place to move if you are considering buying a home in Florida.

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 7/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 7/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $147,928

Pros

  • Access to both coasts
  • Good for families
  • Low land costs

Cons

  • Located in a rural area
  • Seasonal hurricanes

Lake Butler

Lake Butler is located in Union County. Lake Butler was the name of a post office, which appeared in the area around 1960. Lake Butler is centrally located in Union County and is a short drive from Jacksonville, Gainesville, and Lake City. 

Opportunities in Butler

Lake Butler has a much smaller population, with around 2,000 people living in this lakeside town and the surrounding area. They are mostly employed by the penitentiaries. This town is known for its A-ranked schools and offers a slower pace to life. This town is another that has many properties that qualify for a USDA program, which offers flexible qualification standards and low down payment options. In Lake Butler, you can find some quality homes and great financing options. 

What to Do in Butler

This town is well known for the lake, which provides fishing, kayaking, and an oasis surrounded by our natural resources. It offers a host of other amenities including parks and lake attractions, including a small water park. Lake Butler offers a relaxing getaway if you are looking for a slower pace of life and inexpensive housing.

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 9/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 7/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $150,000

Pros

  • Great area for families
  • Fewer property taxes
  • A-Ranked schools

Cons

  • More than 30 minutes from the beach
  • Limited access to nightlife

Bartow

This town is in Polk County as well, however, it has a population closer to 20,000 people, and offers better access to the nearby city of Tampa. Bartow is only 40 miles east of Tampa Florida. This town was settled and incorporated in the 1800s. Bartow has seen a lot of growth over the years and continues to grow. 

Opportunities in Bartow

In the early 1900s, the area around Bartow was purposed for the phosphate industry. Many of the people in Bartow are federally employed or employed in the mining and agriculture industries. Bartow affords many families an opportunity for inexpensive housing and offers a quick commute into Tampa. 

What to Do in Bartow

If you are looking to move to Bartow, you may want to consider some of the amenities that the area offers. You can visit local museums such as the Polk County History Center and the Polk Art Museum. The area has excellent bass fishing as well. Bartow also is the home of the annual Bloomin’ Arts Festival. Bartow over-all offers a slightly better quality of life and more for young people because the nightlife scene is more accessible from this Tampa suburb.

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 8/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 7/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $158,139

Pros

  • Suburban Area
  • Near Tampa and Orlando
  • B-Ranked schools
  • Larger community

Cons

  • Over 30 minutes from the beach
  • Seasonal hurricanes

Lakeland

Lakeland is another town in between Tampa and Orlando. This one is much more populated with over 100,000 residents and sits at the westernmost point of Polk County.

Opportunities in Lakeland

The Phosphate industry was an important reason for the growth of Lakeland as well. Houses in Lakeland range, but you can find some pretty great deals. 

Lakeland offers plenty of fun activities, including bike trails, first Fridays, and a regular farmer’s market. Lakeland truly offers something for everyone, and the house prices are reasonable so fewer people have been priced out of the area. 

Monay Link, a local agent, recommends this area for the budget cautious consumer looking for a more city experience, or if you want to live somewhere you can escape the hustle and bustle but still offers a scene for singles and families. “Living in Lakeland you are in the middle of everything,” Monay Link describes it. You have access to Disney, Legoland, and nightlife is nearby. The downside is the beach is nearly an hour away, but Lakeland makes up for it with its community and great deals.

Of course, Lakeland also comes with the benefit of no income tax and lower property taxes, so like most of Florida, you are able to save money.

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 8/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 8/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $180,750

Pros

  • Within 30 minutes of nightlife
  • Close to water activities
  • Lower property taxes than surrounding counties
  • Good schools

Cons

  • Over 30 minutes from the beach
  • Seasonal hurricanes

Mascotte

Mascotte is a popular stopover for Snowbirds in Lake County. This town is only a short distance from many Central Florida locations, but it is outside the suburbs of Orlando. The population here is much lower with a population of around 5,000. It is a more rural area with less access to nightlife. 

Mascotte is another area where you may be able to use a USDA Loan. Mascotte is an agricultural area. There is plenty more to do around Mascotte including Blueberry fields, and of course, you are around a 45 minute drive to Orlando. 

Opportunities in Mascotte

There are plenty of activities you can find in Mascotte as well. If you are looking for natural attractions, you can find plenty of hiking in Lake Louise State Park as well as opportunities to observe Florida’s beautiful wildlife. 

Although housing in Mascotte is on the more expensive end of this list, Mascotte offers lots to do and is close to Orlando. If you are looking specifically in the Orlando area you may want to consider Mascotte or Clermont.

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 8/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 7/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $185,084

Pros

  • Within 30 minutes of nightlife
  • Close to water activities
  • Lower property taxes than surrounding counties
  • Good schools

Cons

  • Over 30 minutes from the beach
  • Seasonal hurricanes

BONUS CITY Clermont

Although this is the 11th city in our list we felt this town deserved a special shout out. Clermont is quickly becoming a popular area for local Floridians who work near Orlando. This reasonably priced area is safe and offers a great school system compared to the rest of Florida. Troy Steadham, a successful realtor and family man, has chosen Clermont to raise his children, and as a local agent he knows the area best. Tom Mcknight a local realtor in Orlando and the surrounding area also said, “Clermont is becoming a hotbed for locals in the area.” While local Floridians are being priced out of expensive suburban areas Clermont remains reasonable. 

Opportunities in Clermont

Clermont is an award winning city that was named the Choice of Champions for world class athletes. The town has not only a number of lakes in the area but also plenty of opportunities for activities such as hiking and shopping. 

The economy here is mostly centered around tourism, hospitality, training, and life sciences. On average this area gets less rainfall than other parts of Florida as well with over 200 sunny days a year. Clermont is the choice for families and champions so this may be a great place to move in if you are looking for somewhere less expensive near Orlando. 

Rankings

  • Niche School Rank: 8/10
  • Niche Crime Rank: 7/10
  • Zillow Average Housing Cost: $185,084

Pros

  • Great for families
  • Great public schools
  • Within 30 minutes of nightlife

Cons

  • More expensive homes

History of Florida

The History of Florida has been shaped by multiple wars including the Seminole Indian Wars, Civil War, and the World Wars. The Sunshine State was founded in 1513 , although the area was settled early on, and was a battle ground between the European settlers and the natives who were being pushed out of their homes. Over centuries settlers and Seminoles fought ramping to a head at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

It wasn’t until 1845 that Florida was officially welcomed into the Union as the 27th state. After being added to the union Florida was the third state to secede and join the confederacy. There are many places in Florida that have a historical significance as a result. As Florida developed it became a hot spot destination for people fleeing the cold of the northern states. Then later the economy began to grow, as natural resources in the area were exploited and sold. Land was cultivated, and agriculture became a huge drive in the economy. In fact, around 80% of U.S. oranges come from Florida today.

Later the state became a popular tourist destination as attractions began to appear, as investors were drawn to the inexpensive land. The tourism boom exploded Florida’s economy, and to this day millions of visitors travel to Disney, Legoland, and other attractions in Florida.


What Next?

With its rich history and amazing attractions, moving to Florida could be a great decision for your budget and your family, you just have to take the next step: talk to a mortgage consultant. One of our On Q Mortgage Consultants can help you establish a budget and get you started with Pre-Approval. Or get in contact with one of the realtors mentioned above and get some local advice. On the other hand, if you’re interested in learning about more affordable areas check out our other blog posts for California, Arizona, and Texas

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About the Author

Before opening On Q Financial in 2005, John Bergman originated and funded 450 units a year as a loan officer. He founded the company with just $1M of personal life savings—committed to his vision for building the best independent mortgage organization in the industry.

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