Living In Tampa, Florida: Pros, Cons And Key Insights

If you plan to live in Tampa, Florida, ensure you get all the facts before committing. Read our full report...

Living in Tampa is like living in a somewhat tamed, less pricey version of Miami. You have the same sunshine, weather, and laid-back vibe of a tropical waterfront city with a strong Hispanic influence. You even have the same gridlock traffic. Nevertheless, Tampa is more affordable, more down to earth, and less pretentious. 

Is moving to Tampa a good idea?

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Moving to Tampa is a good idea if you are after career opportunities, affordable living, beaches, and sun. 

Are you considering moving to Tampa? Well, you are not alone. Tampa is one of those cities people are moving to in droves. Movers choose the favorable combination of lower cost of living, safety, higher quality of life, and growing job and career opportunities. 

Tampa Bay residents benefit from a relaxing beach lifestyle with full access to all the modern amenities and attractions you’d expect in a large metropolitan area. 

Newcomers, or transplants as locals call them here, will soon outnumber the natives as the numbers are already nearing 50%. Tampa is very popular among New Yorkers, followed by Washington, DC, Chicago, Boston, and LA residents.

As a transplant, be prepared to hear a lot of jokes and be tested by heat, humidity, storms, hurricanes, gators, bugs, lack of mountains, absence of snow, and locals’ great love for Publix. Also, try to complain less about those things, and who knows, in 8-10 years, you will enjoy the status of a Floridian native. 

Affordability, great climate, proximity to the beaches, and thriving jobs market make Tampa a favorite destination for singles and young professionals. There are more of them in Tampa than anywhere else in Florida. Tampa’s median age is 35, at least four years younger than St.Petersburg and Miami.

It’s a perfect balance of big-city life and small-town charm where downtown vibes and a suburban dwelling are within 30 mins of each other. In short, Tampa is just enough to be consistently interesting without being too overwhelming like Miami.

Jobs and career opportunities in Tampa and around

Tampa Bay has changed drastically over the past ten years – it has been growing as a business hub. Lots of businesses have moved into the area. Also, the local start-ups founded in 2012 – 2017 are now booming businesses, creating many opportunities for young professionals. 

Tampa is unique because it is not top-heavy in one particular industry. There’s a diverse job market here, with sectors such as financial and professional services, defense and security, IT, pharmaceuticals, life science, and healthcare, manufacturing, distribution, and logistics actively hiring. 

Is living in Tampa expensive?

The cost of living in Tampa is one factor that attracts so many people. It’s 3% lower than Florida’s state average. Also, living in the City of Tampa is generally 10% cheaper than living in Miami.

Housing costs in Tampa

Housing costs are the same as the national average but cheaper than Miami’s. 

However, this will only last for a while. With the Tampa Bay area being so popular, the demand for rentals is growing fast, and so is the price. There needs to be more housing to meet the demand. 

The average rent for an apartment in Tampa is $1,915. Downtown Tampa, Uptown Tampa, and Harbor Island are the most expensive areas, with median value rent above $2,700.

Temple Crest, Lowry Park, and Sulphur Springs are the most affordable, with an average rent of about $1,500 per month.

For property buyers, the median price of sold homes in the area is about £422,000

Flood insurance is a big deal, with the average cost ranging from $389 to $950 per year. As a homeowner, you pay annual taxes of around 1.5% of the property’s value. 

Utility bills, on average, are around $240 per month for electricity, $50 for water, a minimum of $30 for the internet.

How much do I need to earn to live comfortably in Tampa?

For a professional couple without children, a minimum of $52,000 before tax is about enough for a comfortable lifestyle. 

The best places to live in Tampa

Tampa residents will tell you it’s a ‘select your own adventure’ city where you can choose your own experience. 

Do you enjoy buzz and city noise? Head Downtown. You can even find some great water views.

Are you after the latest trends? Try Soho and Midtown. Midtown is not actually in the middle of Tampa, but the location is convenient for frequent travelers as it’s close to the airport. 

Are you looking to howl at the moon and live on a dirt road? Lutz and Keystone are your kinds of places. 

Do you imagine an idyllic suburban lifestyle with a white picket fence, 2.5 children, and a green lawn? Northdale and Tampa Palms should be at the top of your list. 

Let’s have a look at some of the highlights.

Downtown Tampa

Downtown is in Hillsborough County and is one of the best places to live in the whole of Florida, let alone the Tampa Bay area. 

Downtown offers urban living, with most residents renting their homes. The area is brimming with action, and you will have tons of fun things to do all year round right on your doorstep.

Bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks are abundant. The Performing Arts Center and The Convention Centre offer various year-round events. The Florida Aquarium is impressive, and Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park is also close, where you will find exciting events, including Gasparilla. 

The area is popular with young professionals who love the vibrant feel of Downtown and, by living here, can avoid the commute to work.

Being a very commercial area, Downtown doesn’t offer a lot in terms of accommodation. The main housing options include apartments, condos, and a few homes along the edges of town. 

Another huge advantage of living Downtown is that the beaches along the Gulf of Mexico are a 30-minute drive away.

Also, the Hillsborough River that runs through the area can be a welcome cooling space. Especially in summer when temperatures average 87 to 90+ degrees (32C), and the humidity is at similarly brutal levels.

The Riverwalk itself is beautiful. You can get a boat and explore Downtown on the river, which is a hugely pleasant experience. 

Rentals and real estate are costly here. You are paying extra for the lifestyle that comes with the area. 

Riverside Heights

You might like Riverside Heights a lot if you want to be close to Downtown but want more space for less cost. It’s got little parks all over, brick roads, and lots of people walking dogs and biking.

It’s less dense than Downtown and has a calmer, more residential feel while remaining quite urban. 

There’s a good mix of young professionals and families here. Unlike Downtown, residents in Riverside Heights are primarily homeowners, thanks to lower property prices and a less transient environment.

In Riverside Heights, there are a lot of bars, restaurants, coffee shops, and parks. The public schools here are above average, which is why families like living here too. 

Ybor City

This lively neighborhood is an excellent fit for artsy and liberal personalities who love partying and cheerful crowds and don’t get easily spooked by homeless people.

The place is known for its boutiques, vintage shops, and bars on 7th Avenue. The bars are always full right up to the closing time Thursday-Saturday.

Speaking of shopping, if the locals’ colorful attire resonates with your inner fashionista, you will love shopping at La France and Revolve Clothing Exchange. They have the most adorable vintage clothing collections in the area. 

Ybor gets pretty crazy on weekends, which could be a blessing or a curse depending on your lifestyle. Also, if you value a good night’s sleep, this might be the wrong area for you – the train runs right through the middle. There are also roosters all over the neighborhood, crowing night and day.

By the way, roosters are a separate conversation. We hope you love those noisy birds. You see, they are legal residents of Ybor and as much a part of Ybor as cigar smoke, Cafe con Leche, and Cuban sandwiches. They roam freely and proudly throughout the area pooping on the streets and your drive. And you can’t do anything about it apart from clean up. 

It’s a crime to hunt, kill, maim, or trap them in the city. There’s a volunteer group that cleans up the streets every week, and hawks occasionally help regulate the numbers, but otherwise, the birds do their own thing.

If you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, you will feel comfortable living in the Ybor City area. You’ll find spirited gay bars, nightclubs, and restaurants in the GaYbor area. You’ll relish the annual GaYbor Pride Parade.

Hyde Park

Hyde Park is just a few minutes walk away from Downton. It’s a beautiful, safe, tree-lined, and very walkable neighborhood southwest of Downtown. A bit pricy, but worth it if you can afford it.

Hyde Park is where you will find smaller two to four-story, older historic buildings, beautifully restored and hidden within quiet streets. There are also trendy condos, townhouses, apartments, and many bars and restaurants. 

Hyde Park is popular with people of all ages. It is safe, has access to good elementary and high schools, and is close to Downtown, Bayshore, and the University of Tampa.

Living in Tampa Bayshore
Luxury estate homes on Bayshore Boulevard along Hillsborough Bay.

SoHo (South Howard) and Howard Avenue are just around the corner and are perfect locations for barhopping. There are also some nice boutique shops there and lovely restaurants. 

Seminole Heights & Tampa Heights

Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights are similar neighborhoods bordering each other. They are friendly, leafy, cozy, and casual in an excellent location. You’ll be close to everything you want to experience in Tampa.

It’s bungalow land. Most homes here are old bungalows built in the early 1900s, small and without garages. Many are restored to showcase the Craftsman style in all its glory which comes at a price. Currently, you will pay around $350,000 for a typical of the area small 2-bed, 2-bathroom bungalow without a garage. 

Today’s Seminole Heights has a different atmosphere from what it used to be more than a century ago. It’s become a foodie location with many popular restaurants, craft breweries and distilleries, and a vibrant nightlife.

While Seminole Heights has all the restaurants and indie eateries, Tampa Heights is close to Armature Works, which hosts a theatre, various events, coffee bars, etc., and Downtown Tampa.

Both neighborhoods are great for families and retirees. Seminole Heights is also home to the highly-rated Seminole Heights Elementary School.

Other places worth considering

South Tampa, Davis Island, and Harbour Island are great neighborhoods if you can afford the premium and want urban living with amenities on your doorstep.

You won’t have much luck finding a property with a backyard or pool, and the streets get pretty crowded. But you will have a genuine urban buzz with easy access to excellent schools in a metropolitan area. 

If you want more space, look at Westchase, Carrollwood, Carrollwood Village, Odessa, Lutz, and Cheval

If you’re retired and want convenient access to lovely beaches, Palm Harbor and Dunedin are great. Palm Harbor is a typical low-key residential suburb with a good sense of community, safe and friendly, and open to retirees and families alike. 

Living in Tampa: the pros and cons

Apart from sunshine, humidity, hurricanes, and the cost of living, what are the benefits and drawbacks of moving to Tampa? Let’s talk about it. 

The pros of living in Tampa

Living in Tampa, you are never more than an hour away from some of the best beaches in the country: Madiera, Pass-a-Grille, and Treasure Island. Plan carefully before traveling to Clearwater. There’s no easy way to get there if you don’t have a car, and if you do have a car, the traffic is simply terrible. Plus, when you get there, it’s often too crowded.

There are a lot of great places to eat here. Indie eateries are plenty. The street food is excellent; try a fantastic Cuban sandwich, and you will agree. Look out for food trucks as well. Williamsburg Cucina Caffé e Bottega, for example, offers some of the best Italian-style food in Tampa Bay. 

Shopping is amazing. Apart from all the shops, malls, and outlets, try Saturday and Sunday morning markets in Tampa and St Pete. There are also occasional night markets during the week.

There are plenty of good schools in Tampa, a plus if you are moving with children. The Hillsborough County Schools District is one of the best schooling districts in the USA! There are also good universities and a community college. 

Tampa is a fabulous city for families. There are some fantastic family-friendly neighborhoods. The schools are excellent, and there are many activities for children of all ages. 

Explore the outdoors. Tampa has over 150 parks for you to visit. If you love walking, you must head for the Bayshore Boulevard Linear Trail. At four and a half miles, it’s the world’s longest continuous sidewalk. Along the walk, you’ll enjoy views across the bay and stop to admire many of the incredible mansions that line the streets.

Lots to do here for everyone! Nightlife thrives, and entertainment options are endless. Tampa has everything to keep you entertained: nightclubs, museums, festivals, concerts, shows, and events. 

Tampa is convenient for exploring the rest of the state. You’re 2 hours from the major theme parks such as Disney, Universal, LEGOLAND, SeaWorld, and around 4.5 hours from Tallahassee, Jacksonville, and Miami, so perfect for a mini 3-day Trip.

Tampa International is only a few miles from Downtown, which is brilliant for frequent travelers. 

Reasons not to live in Tampa

Remember those beaches we discussed in the pros section? Well, they are all outside of Tampa. There are no beaches on your doorstep if you live in Tampa.

Yes, there are bay beaches in Tampa, but they are not those white sand dreamy Instagram-able beaches you imagine when you think of Florida. You’ll need to drive to the Pinellas peninsula and the St. Pete area to find those lovely beaches. 

And here comes the next con.

The traffic is terrible. It gets worse during the snowbird season. Crossing to the Pinellas to access those beautiful beaches can take an hour instead of 20 minutes! Driving around is a pain, but living without a car is hardly an option.

Property-wise, Tampa is becoming a very competitive and low-inventory housing market. Hence, the prices are rising, and finding a great option that ticks all your boxes becomes harder.

Love bugs. From May to September, these strange creatures layer thickly on your car, and if you don’t wash them off often enough, the acidity from their dead bodies can quickly destroy the paintwork.  

Mosquitoes and pests can be a big problem. For many locals, a pest control phone number is as vital as a plumber or electrician. 

Considering commute times from your neighborhood is vital if you plan on getting to work on time. Tampa’s public transport HART (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit), makes an effort, but it’s feeble at best. The buses need to be more frequent and travel further into the suburbs.

Is Tampa safe?

Like all the cities, Tampa has safe and less safe areas. Research the neighborhoods and use common sense when out late in unfamiliar places. 

Is Tampa safe from hurricanes?

Due to luck or mysterious forces protecting the area, hurricanes’ eyes often miss Tampa. However, the city gets a fair share of “glancing blows” with hurricane-force winds accompanied by storms, flooding, and tornados.

Tampa has a significant risk of flooding and a moderate threat from wildfires. Researching the areas before buying real estate is essential.

Follow weather reports closely from June to November to prepare to hunker down or evacuate completely if a big storm is coming. 

Final thoughts on living in Tampa

Tampa can be a great destination if the climate and sunshine lifestyle appeals most to you.

It deserves the top spot on the list of best places to live in Florida. It’s a fun and lively city with tremendous family-friendly neighborhoods and areas where retirees love to live. 

Living in Tampa gives you a true Floridian lifestyle without the costs of living in Miami.

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Expatra Team

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