If you’re relocating to Clearwater, Florida, congratulations! You have the unique opportunity to live in a tropical playground that offers so much more than most cities in America. Chris and I are also both transplants, he’s originally from Minnesota and I’m from South Carolina.
If this is your first time moving to a new area, no matter your age, it can be a little intimidating. You’re turning over a new chapter in the book of life and you’re probably wondering what the transition is going to be like.
Unlike other parts of Florida, Clearwater and Pinellas County are very hospitable to those that have recently relocated.
While I don’t have any official statistics on the percentage of non-natives, Chris and I have created multiple meetup groups including: The Pinellas County Meetup, The Pinellas County Young Professionals, and The Pinellas County Parents Social Club.
Through our experiences with those groups we’ve easily met hundreds of people and the vast majority of them are not natives of Florida. It’s amazing how a common denominator such as meeting other transplants can make it feel more welcoming. I imagine knowing you aren’t going to stick out like a sore thumb as the non-local is a good sign.
Human beings are naturally social to some degree and fitting in a community is a test that can come with it’s challenges. I’ve setup this guide to help you with your transition to the area. As a local Realtor, part of my job is being an expert on the community I live in.
I’ve broken this guide into 4 steps you should take while making the transition. Let’s get started!
Step #1 – Drive All Over
One of the best parts about visiting Clearwater and Clearwater Beach is the drive. Even if this isn’t your first rodeo visiting the area, you’ll do yourself a great service by adopting an explorer’s heart and riding through the towns.
I’ve provided a map of the boundaries below to give you more perspective.
So you might be asking where should I start my drive? I would recommend putting Feather Sound in your GPS and starting there. It’s right next to I-275 on the outskirts of Clearwater and it’s one of the first neighborhoods commuters from Tampa see when they cross over the Howard Frankland bridge. It’s also a great place to drive through if you are looking to buy in the area. We wrote about it here: Top 5 Nicest Neighborhoods In Clearwater, FL.
Because our area is setup like a grid, it doesn’t really matter which path you take as the majority of what you will see is local businesses that line the road and neighborhood entrances.
It’s not until you get to Court Street that you can really experience downtown Clearwater. Before crossing to the beach I’d recommend parking in the downtown area and walking around. As you look around you’ll see it’s pretty small.
A nice place to grab a cup of coffee and check out the local architecture, there’s Capitol Theatre, Coachman Park, The Clearwater Library and a couple of spots for food and drinks all within walking distance.
If you are into music there’s a lot of events that happen at Capitol Theatre and Coachman Park.
Once you cross over to Clearwater Beach I’d recommend parking your vehicle at the beach. With about 2.5 miles of land to explore, there’s plenty of options to explore the barrier island.
Here’s some recommendations:
Ride In Style at Fun Ride Rentals – It turns out there’s a lot of different ways to get around at Clearwater Beach. You might draw some attention, have some laughs, and have a great experience. Besides bike rentals, this shop also offers some unique options (check out their site): Scoot Coupes, Gliders, Scooters, Surrey Bikes and they even have options for Wheel Chair Rentals, Mobility Scooters, and Strollers.
Kayak and Paddleboard with The Clearwater Paddleboard Company – You are at the beach so you might as well get in the water. A couple of fun ways to explore is to rent a Kayak, Paddleboard and you can even rent Surfboards. They even have Snorkel Gear, Boogie Boards, and Skim Boards.
Rent A Boat with Clearwater Boat Rentals – Let’s face it… there’s nothing quite like being on a boat and if you want the ultimate experience in our community you need to get on one eventually. Are you looking for waterfront property? We have a membership with Freedom Boat Club and can take you on a tour.
Hop On A Jet Ski at Clearwater Beach Jet Ski Rentals – If you’re looking for a one of a kind experience, getting on a jet ski in Clearwater can offer that. The ability to have speed and be in the water is a great way to explore your surroundings.
Relax with The Tropics Boat Tours – There are a lot of ways to view Clearwater Beach on the water. From pirate ships to local cruises, there’s a lot of choices. I’d recommend checking out The Tropics Boat Tour company and enjoying a dolphin or sunset cruise. You’ll get to really take in the area at a controlled pace where you can mingle with locals and other tourists.
Enjoy A Walk On Clearwater Beachwalk – One of the best areas to walk around in Clearwater, Beachwalk truly reflects the beachside experience and is a good picture of what you’ll enjoy by relocating to Clearwater.
Step #2 – Determine If You Are Going To Rent 1st Or Buy
As a realtor you might expect me to say that buying a home is the only way to go. While there’s a lot of advantages to owning over renting it’s going to depend a lot on your individual circumstances. I’m going to outline some things I think you’ll want to consider while making your decision.
The costs of renting and buying like most areas will depend on your location, the size of the home/condo/apartment and various other factors. Let’s get a snapshot of the local Clearwater rental market in 2018 to start:
A 1 Bed Apartment or Condo averages from: $800-$1000 monthly
A 2 Bed Apartment/Condo/Home averages from: $1000 -$1800 monthly, there’s also luxury condos that can be as high as $20,000 a month.
A 3 Bed Apartment/Condo/Home averages from: $1200-$4000 monthly depending on the area and there’s luxury units that can go far beyond this.
The costs of buying can make a lot more sense depending on your circumstances. You have the ability to build equity in your home, own in the #1 beach city in the USA, and often times end up paying less for your mortgage/taxes/insurance combined over the cost of something equivalent for renting.
I often recommend to those on the border of whether they should buy or rent to consider a few things.
1) How long do you plan on living here? *If you aren’t sure you’ll be here at least 2-3 years, it likely won’t be be worth the closing expenses you’ll have to pay to sell your home shortly after buying*
2) Are you comfortable giving all your money away to a landlord and not building equity? *Home prices go up and down but they mostly go up over a period of time and people that try to beat appreciation often find they can afford less and less every year especially in a hot market like Clearwater*
3) Are you not sure what you can afford? *Typically lenders can find out if you are pre-approved very easily. Even if you don’t qualify now they can give you recommendations to help repair credit, fix your debit-to-income ratio and provide you advice that can help you get mortgage-ready.*
We’ll be happy to sit down with you and have a consultation to see how we can best serve you. Whether you are looking now or in the future, let’s get you the resources you’ll need to succeed in this market. You can fill out the form below to get started!
Step #3 – Look Into The Weather
Over most of my life, Florida was always a second home for me before I moved here. The one thing I picked up on with Florida is the time of year, humidity, and location played big parts on whether it was enjoyable to be outside.
Being from South Carolina (read my story here), I was used to very hot weather especially during the summertime. The funny thing about Florida is the effect of hot weather is going to really depend on where you come from. In South Carolina it would get just as hot if not hotter some months of the year.
Florida is a big state that’s over 65,000 square miles. If you drive to the center of the state in the heat of summer it’s going to feel pretty bad. Thankfully this area is offset a little by the coastal breeze.
Do summers get hot? Absolutely! Is the weather great most of the year? Let’s take a look into the temperatures reported for Clearwater in 2017 so you have a better idea:
The temperatures reported above are the average highs and lows in Fahrenheit for each month in Clearwater. When looking at the average highs you can see that November-April is all in the 60’s to 70’s for the high.
What’s your perfect temperature day? Mine is somewhere between 65-75 degrees so that’s 6 months of the year to enjoy perfect weather days… not a bad deal at all for living in paradise.
Step #4 – Assess The Schools
Regardless if you have children or not, schools can play a very important role in the local economy and housing market. Whether a school is good or bad is very subjective depending on what you are looking for. I’ve put together some resources to help you and will also note highly recommended schools based on conversations I’ve had with people in the community.
Search Homes Available By School – It took awhile but I’ve setup a resource on our website where you can see homes available by the school district listed on the MLS.
A List Of Available Schools In The Area – Looking for the school websites? Want an easy resource to check them out? We have you covered, use this page as your go-to resource.
Pinellas County Schools Frequently Asked Questions – We put together an FAQ page to answer questions we receive about schools and zoning for your convenience.
GreatSchools.org is a great resource and I’ve found over the years it’s been the closest match to what locals say about their favorite schools. Think of it like a Yelp Review site for schools instead of restaurants. The larger the collection of opinions, the more information you’ll have on whether moving to a particular home in a school district is the right choice. You’ll even notice if you visit some of the local school sites, the state of Florida will even give grades to the schools based on their performance.
There’s also multiple options for private schools as well. If you need more information or would like to be setup on a home search for particular schools through our MLS system, let us know – Here.
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Looking for more information on what it’s like to live in Clearwater? Check out: The Top 15 Reasons To Move To Clearwater, FL
Homes For Sale With Great Walk Scores In Clearwater, FL
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(all data current as of 5/28/2020)
Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.