Today there are more “best places to live” lists than ever.
This can a good thing for people thinking of making a change as long as they use the lists properly, like as a starting point for further research. The important thing to find out is what criteria did the publisher of the list use to choose it’s best places. For instance, if crime was not a factor they used in choosing, but crime is a major concern of yours, then that list may not be very helpful to you personally.
One huge change I’ve seen with these lists when it comes it Florida is how well the state was ranked many years ago compared to the poor showing of the last couple of years. When I first moved to Florida in the early 1990′s, Florida was well represented in the top ten spots year after year. I remember selling real estate when Money Magazine gave five of the top ten spots to Florida towns. People do take these lists seriously, because a top spot mention of the area I was living boosted traffic and sales for years afterwards.
Florida’ poor showing recently
Unfortunately, the great recession of 2008 hit Florida harder than most states. Florida cities are now more likely to dominate top mentions on the worst places to live lists, and are almost entirely absent from best places lists. One of the main reasons for this is Florida’s unemployment rate had been much higher than the national average ever since 2008, although the gap is nearly gone now. A state where it’s tough or impossible to earn a living does not make it a great place to move to. However, high unemployment and foreclosures caused a drastic drop in home prices in Florida. Lower home prices made the state more attractive for those with a secure income (retirement, social security, etc.). That’s why Florida was absent from Money Mags best places to live list. The general population needs employment opportunities. Cape Coral and Fort Myers did not make the best places to live list, but did benefit from a #2 in the nation spot in the magazines best places to “retire” list that same year. Same magazine, same year but two totally different list because the criteria used was different. What’s important to retirees is not the same as what’s important to a young couple with two school age children.
Florida, better days ahead
With Florida’s economy steadily improving, I expect it will return to more favorable positions on these yearly lists. Because of trends such as an increase in drastic weather events, warming trends and different interests of new retirees when compared to what the retired of decades past wanted, I don’t think any one state will dominate future lists as they once did in the past, with the possible exception of Mountain states like North Carolina and Colorado. The ideal places to Retire? Own in two places, one warm and one in the mountains for when the warm place gets too hot. For many, the best place to live may be exactly where they are now even if that state never got near to a best place mention.
Some Florida Top 10 mentions on best and worst places list the last two years:
Money Magazine, Best Places to Retire, 2012, #2 Cape Coral
Forbes Magazine, 2012, America’s Most Miserable Cities, Miami#1, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale also in worst 10.
Men’s Health Magazine, 2011, America’s Saddest Cities, St Petersburg #1, Tampa #3 and Miami in worst 10.