With its warm climate, picturesque views, and spanning coastlines, the Florida Keys remains one of the most desirable places to live in America. The real estate market in the Keys is more limited than other areas, meaning the neighborhoods are not overpopulated and many of the homes are upscale. Few ever have the opportunity to experience island living, but those who do will tell you it’s an adventure like no other. If you’re ready to find a vacation home or permanent residence in the Florida Keys, here’s what you need to know.
Four of the top 20 beach town housing markets in the United States can be found in Florida. With balmy weather nearly year-round, it’s no surprise that most residents want to spend their days on or near the beach. Waterfront properties are in high-demand in Florida, especially those exclusive real estate listings in the Keys. Each section of the Keys offers something different.
The Upper Keys, many in which are only accessible by boat, are a popular destination for weekend getaways and is where you’ll find Key Largo. The Lower Keys offers a slower pace of life, free from overcrowded streets and highways. The “heart of the Florida Keys” is the Middle Keys which offer essential facilities like a community hospital, public and private schools, and the Marathon Commercial Airport. The Middle Keys extend from Long Key at the eastern tip to Marathon at the western end.
Location: While there are few ‘bad’ locations in the Florida Keys, you will want to consider how close to the water you want to be. Do you prefer to be directly on the beach with sand right outside your door? Or would you mind living closer to the road or across the street? Keep in mind that you don’t need to be directly on the beach to get amazing waterfront views.
Beach Accessibility: If you do make the decision of buying a home that is near the beach but not on it, you will want to consider your accessibility to the beach and water. Living in the Florida Keys often means long days lounging in the sand or day trips out on the boat. You want to be able to get to the water safely and without major obstacles. If there is open beach accessibility, also consider if there are any restrictions, associated fees, or parking requirements.
Property Type: Luxury properties can be found scattered across the Florida Keys. Many waterfront homes feature large balconies, oversized decks, and convenient patios that provide awe-inspiring views of the water. However, not all homes are large and lavish. You can also find small Tiki huts, ranch-style homes, or compact condos that offer excellent value for the space. The Florida Keys is also known for its conch houses which have sensible, energy-efficient designs.
Approximately 1,700 islands make up the Florida Keys. The incredible archipelago extends more than 198 square miles from Dry Tortugas to the Soldier Keys. However, most of these islands are very small and only a small percent are populated. In fact, only about 40 of the Keys are inhabited by people. Many of the islands are connected via bridges. Altogether, there are 42 bridges in the Florida Keys with the Seven Mile Bridge being the longest. You will want to consider what exactly you’re looking for when choosing an island to live.
When shopping for homes, you may want to think about how far you’re willing to drive to get back to the mainland. If you don’t plan on making many trips out of the Keys, then any inhabited island is fair game. However, if you need to make frequent visits back to the mainland, know that it’s about 100 miles driving distance from Key Largo (the furthest Key to the north) to Key West (the furthest inhabited island to the south). As US-1 is the main road in and out of the Keys, you may find that the drive is too long.
If you plan to go back and forth from the mainland frequently, you may want to set your sights on homes in the Upper Florida Keys. The Islands of Islamorado, as well as Key Largo, are just a half hour drive from the mainland and offer plenty of perks. These areas are where you’ll find a wide assortment of leisure activities ranging from fishing and boating to diving and snorkeling. However, the Upper Keys also have more tourist-filled areas. If you want the best of both worlds, consider the Middle Keys. It only takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to reach the mainland from Marathon and the scenic views make the ride highly enjoyable.
Purchasing real estate in the Florida Keys requires some serious preparation and knowledge of the local market. Hiring a good relator is the first step towards finding your dream home. A real estate agent can provide critical information pertaining to the local real estate market and can address any questions or concerns you may have throughout the process. Once you have an idea of what you want in a home and know how much you’re working with financially, you can begin a house search. Your realtor can show you listings that meet your unique criteria which can save you significant time.
Once you’ve found a home that you want to buy, you can put an offer on the table. As real estate in the Florida Keys is limited compared to other locations in the States, don’t expect your offer to be accepted right away. You may need to do some negotiating before the home is yours. You will also want to hire a professional to inspect the home. Home inspections in the Florida Keys are at the buyer’s expense and must be completed in a certain time frame based on the terms in your purchase agreement.
Before buying a home, you will also want to ask about title insurance. Title insurance is put in place to protect you from losses that may occur from previous problems pertaining to the home. With title insurance, you can ensure that the equity of your new home is protected from financial loss. You will also want to get an appraisal. An appraisal is a third-party estimate of the property’s value. After an appraisal, you can start to remedy any issues that may arise from the outcome.
You will also need to take care of any insurance needs in your new Florida Keys home. With financing you will be required to carry homeowners insurance, flood insurance, and windstorm insurance. You may also want to discuss other insurance options with your policy provider based on your unique needs. Note that you cannot wait until there is a tropical storm or hurricane threatening the Keys before obtaining an insurance policy. It is often better to be safe than sorry and acquire insurance ahead of time. The last steps of the home buying process are the final walkthrough and closing.
Before buying a home in the Florida Keys, you will want to speak with a real estate agent who is familiar with the area and the complex proceedings you must follow. There are a number of benefits of using a Florida Keys real estate agent. First, a realtor will have knowledge of the local communities, market conditions, and median home prices. He or she will also be able to match you to homes based on your unique budget and needs, while also helping you avoid homes that may not offer the best value.
Once you have found a home that you want to purchase, your real estate agent can handle much of the negotiating for you, as well as complete any necessary paperwork. From drafting a written offer to negotiating prices with the seller, a realtor can help you every step of the way. Best of all, using a realtor will likely not cost you a dime. In Florida, the seller typically pays for the entire cost of the real estate commissions which usually equals out to 5 to 6 percent of the house sale price. Start the search for your dream home today in the beautiful Florida Keys.