Along with reasonable property tax rates, the sales tax rate in
Florida is a modest six percent, with local county taxes adding
0.5 percent to one percent to that rate. Prescription medications and food are exempt from sales taxes in Florida.
Retirees to the West Coast of Florida also enjoy a very reasonable cost of living. The cities of Tampa, Bradenton and
Sarasota all have cost of living indices below that of the national average. The more affluent city of Naples has a cost of
living index of 104.3 versus the national index value of 100.
Following the nationwide correction in the real estate
markets, Florida’s West Coast represents outstanding value
to retirees. Census data from 2009 shows the median home
values in Tampa, Bradenton and Sarasota are all below the
national median price of $216,700.
The Sunshine State
The West Coast of Florida enjoys a fantastic climate. The average daily temperature in January is about 60 degrees, and in July,
the average daily temperature is about 81 degrees. Fair weather
and sunshine dominate the forecast throughout the year.
Just south of the mouth of the Tampa Bay sits the city
of Bradenton, which traces its history back to 1593, when
the Spanish explorer Hernando Desoto landed there and
embarked on his legendary search for El Dorado, the
lost city of gold. Each spring, this history is celebrated in
Bradenton with a month-long lineup of events.
Bradenton has maintained its small town charm, while still
offering a high level of sophistication. There are numerous
museums, antique shops, a burgeoning arts community
and, along the scenic Manatee River, Rossi Waterfront Park,
which features an outdoor amphitheater. Golfers can enjoy
playing numerous public and private courses, while beach
lovers can enjoy the renowned beach islands of Anna Maria,
Bradenton Beach and Long Boat Key. Bradenton is also the
spring training home to the Pittsburgh Pirates.
The city of Tampa has the largest population of the
Florida West Coast cities, with over 300,000 people. Rich in
history and culture, its residents enjoy all the amenities of
a large city conveniently surrounded by attractive beaches.
Downtown Tampa boasts attractions for all tastes, including
over a dozen museums, performing arts, film and major
professional sports teams. There are nationally recognized
theme parks such as Busch Gardens, in addition to the
Lowry Park Zoo and fine dining of all cuisines.
The cultural history of Tampa’s Cuban community is
proudly preserved and experienced in the historic Ybor City
section of Tampa, where cigar makers still practice the art of
hand rolling cigars. The city’s legendary affiliation with pirates
of the 18th century is celebrated each year with the Gasparilla
Festival, Tampa’s unique historic pirate themed festival that
includes the mock invasion of the city by Jose Gaspar, a purported Spanish pirate who is believed to have raided the west
coast of Florida during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
Tampa’s waterside location creates excellent experiences
for boating and fishing, ranging from guided waterfront
cruises to deep sea fishing charters.
Retirees who desire big city amenities, yet still want a
small town feel, need look no further than the city of
Sarasota. The city offers a world-class arts and cultural
environment highlighted by the Ringling Museum of Art
and the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and buttressed by
its nationally recognized opera house, symphony orchestra
and ballet company.
The city offers premium shopping and dining experiences along Main Street and St. Armand’s Circle, as well
as a large outlet mall. For small town charm, there are the
historic neighborhoods such as Towles Court, with its shops,
galleries and restaurants.
Golfers have dozens of courses to choose from, and the
city is home to the spring training base for the Baltimore
Sarasota has been selected by CNN/Money Magazine
as one of the top eight best places to retire. The beaches
surrounding Sarasota have been nationally recognized as
some of the best in the nation. Currently, nearby Siesta Key
is ranked the number one beach in the nation.
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: BRADEN TON AREA CONVEN TION AND VISI TORS BUREAU; IS TOCKPHOTO/ THINKS TOCK; ISTOCKPHOTO/ THINKSTOCK; ISTOCKPHOTO/ THINKS TOCK