Many people visit Orlando, Florida, every year — but you’re different. You’ve probably made up your mind to move here permanently. Maybe you have fond memories of visiting Disney World in your younger years, or perhaps you have a job lined up in the city. Or maybe you’re attracted to the Sunshine State for the warm weather and the low taxes.
Regardless of your reasons, you’ve chosen a good time for your move. Orlando is booming. In 2017, the Orlando Sentinel reported that the city hosted 72 million tourists, making it a more popular travel destination than New York City. This flood of activity is driving rapid economic growth throughout the region. Record low unemployment, stagnant wages, and increasing property values put pressure on developers and city leaders to come up with new economic solutions. Things are about to take off, and you’ll be there when it all comes together.
Find out what you need to know to plan your move to Orlando and learn more about the characteristics and features of Central Florida’s most popular urban area.
Living in Orlando, FL: What to Know Before Moving to Orlando
Orlando, with 280,000 residents, is located smack in the middle of the Florida peninsula. Its centralized location, flat open terrain, and reliable weather make it the perfect place to develop theme park attractions and vacation resorts. An international airport brings visitors in from all over the world. Before investors developed the area specifically to appeal to tourists, it was the center for Florida’s citrus industry. The climate is perfect for supporting citrus groves, but shifting conditions and fortunes sent growers elsewhere.
As a new resident, you’ll get your chance to make your mark soon enough, but in the meantime, check out these advantages and disadvantages of living in Orlando.
Pros & Cons of Living in Orlando
- Warm Weather – Enjoy lots of sunshine, mild winters, and hot humid summers.
- Outdoor Recreation – Plenty of parks, walking trails, camping, hiking, and boating locations.
- Entertainment Options – Theme parks galore, zoos, and plenty of adventures await.
- Economic Growth – Take advantage of one of the most active job markets in the country.
- Fresh Seafood – Enjoy freshly caught fish before it’s frozen or packaged.
- Historic Neighborhoods – Many homes feature beautiful classically styled architecture.
Not everything is perfect though. Like all major cities, Orlando has its flaws, and there are some quirks particular to this town you should be ready to face.
- Alligators – They’ll eat your dog when you aren’t looking.
- Mosquitos – The humid environment is perfect for 80 different species of these swarming pests.
- Serious Storms – Occasionally you might encounter tornados, tropical storms, or a hurricane.
- Tourists – The constant stampede of visitors might disrupt your daily routine.
- Sinkholes – Although rare, Orlando does have a history of unstable ground.
- Toll Roads – Grow accustomed to checking your route for tolls before you travel anywhere.
It takes a little time, but you’ll adjust to these changes. Use the following short guide to help you prepare.
- Income Tax: Florida doesn’t charge a separate state income tax. It’s one of only nine states in the nation that eliminated that pesky revenue stream. This feature makes Florida a popular retirement destination, saving elderly residents that annual expense. Some economists argue that the strategy spurs economic growth by attracting wealthy residents who invest in communities.
- Sales Tax: Florida does have a sales tax. The current rate is 6% statewide, but some counties and cities increase the rate to fund local governments. In Orange County, Orlando residents pay an additional half a percent tax, bringing the total sales tax rate to 6.5% for all purchases.
- Property Tax: The City of Orlando also charges property taxes. Rates vary, but most homeowners pay an average of 1.180% which is slightly less than the national average. On a $250,000 home, your property tax would come out to approximately $3000 for the year. If you own a business, you must pay licensing fees and may need to pay the 5.5% corporate income tax depending on your business’s legal structure.
Homeownership rates vary by neighborhood, but on average, 56% of residents own their own homes. The median price for a modest single-family is $229,000. Expect to pay about $1300 per month rent for a typical two-bedroom apartment.
Though Orlando is nowhere near the ocean, there’s still plenty of waterfront property. Hundreds of small lakes and creeks cover the area, and property values increase the closer you are to the water. Also, property values in newer suburban neighborhoods surrounding the city tend to be higher as well.
Cost of Living
The biggest obstacle to affordable living in Orlando is the low wages. The median salary remains near $55,000 annually despite years of rapid job growth. This wage is about average for the United States as a whole, but Orlando living expenses are about 12% higher than you might find elsewhere.
Expect your housing and transportation costs to be disproportionately onerous. Most residents prefer not to share housing or carpool, increasing the burden of these expenses. Insurance rates for autos and homes are also higher than the national average.
If you’re single and you plan carefully, you might scrape by with an income of about $38,000 a year. For a family, your household income should be at least $79,000 before you attempt to move to Orlando.
Economy and Job Market
The job market in Orlando is greatly expanded because over 2 million people reside in the greater Orlando metropolitan area. In early 2019, the city’s unemployment rate dropped to an astonishingly low 2.9%, and the local job market continues to expand faster than the rest of the United States. Forbes puts Orlando at #24 ‘Best Places for Business and Careers’, and #10 in ‘Job Growth’.
Most of those jobs are in the tourism and hospitality industries. Theme parks like Disney World and Universal Studios are the largest employers in the area. Hotels, restaurants, and retailers also employ customer service professionals. Many of the highest paying jobs are in the healthcare industry. Orlando Regional Healthcare System, Florida Hospital, and Adventist Health System are the largest employers not related to travel or entertainment. Professionals might also find work in aerospace and defense, technology, and government jobs with the State of Florida, Orange County, or the City of Orlando. For educators, the Orange County Public School System is headquartered in Orlando, and the University of Central Florida is located north of the city.
Weather and Natural Disasters
Like the rest of Florida, Orlando is in the middle of a humid subtropical climate zone. The seasons change from warm and dry in the winter, to rainy and hot in the summer. Expect at least 50 inches of rain on average with most of it falling from April to September.
Snow is unheard of, but Florida experiences tornadoes and heavy thunderstorms caused by complicated weather patterns. Cooler air from the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico collide with the hot air above the peninsula’s landmass to create turbulent airflows. Due to its geographic location, Orlando is the second safest city in Florida regarding hurricanes and tropical storms. Though usually shielded from the worst of these storms, two hurricanes managed to strike Orlando back to back in 2004, causing flooding and water damage. Records of 1998 detail 70 magnitude level two tornadoes in the Orlando area.
Speaking of disasters, Orlando also experiences sink holes from time to time. When underground water removes enough landmass, the earth opens and swallows anything above it. This phenomenon has destroyed a handful of buildings in recent decades.
Traffic and Transportation
Like other large cities, Orlando has its share of traffic problems. Most residents own their vehicles and prefer to drive, creating many traffic and parking problems throughout the area.
Most tourists arrive in the area via the Orlando International Airport. The Martin Andersen Beachline Expressway clogs with travelers ferrying back and forth between resort destinations. The same is true with Interstate 4 during rush hour.
The LYNX bus system provides public transportation to get you around town without having to fight the traffic yourself. The LYMMO Downtown Circular takes you on one of four loops at no charge. This public service arrives at stops every 20 minutes.
If you live north or south of Orlando, you can take advantage of the Sun Rail commuter train. This rail line extends to surrounding communities to alleviate some of the daily traffic burden on Interstate 4. Once you’re in the city, take advantage of the public bike sharing program and recent infrastructure improvements to cycle lanes.
What to Do for Entertainment
For starters, head outdoors. Florida is an outdoor adventurer’s dream. Wekiwa Springs State Park is just north of Orlando and offers camping, horseback riding, and hiking trails. You’ll also find boating, swimming, and fishing at Blue Springs State Park and the St. Johns River.
Though the city doesn’t have a very good walkability score (42 out of 100), numerous public parks and pathways around the urban zone’s small lakes give you plenty of opportunities to get out and stretch your legs.
The southwestern edge of town is one giant mass of theme parks. Disney World and Epcot Center anchor the collection with Universal Orlando Resort and Sea World flanking either side. Lesser known attractions also compete for attention including Gatorland, the Holy Land Experience, and Fun Spot America.
If you’re a sports fan, the NBA’s Orlando Magic play professional basketball at the Amway Center in the middle of the city. Every spring, the Atlanta Braves arrive at Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports complex for preseason training.
Schools and Universities
The Orange County School District manages education for 196,000 students throughout the county. It’s the 10th largest district in the nation and oversees 258 public schools. The graduation rate is 81% with most students continuing to universities, colleges or trade schools in Florida.
The district’s expenses were $1.8 billion in 2018. While that seems like a lot of dollars, the amount spent per student was still slightly less than the national average. The quality of schools varies by neighborhood, but most residents give the district good reviews.
If you’re unhappy with the public education system in town, you can consider enrolling your high schoolers in the Florida Virtual School District. This statewide online school program offers a more flexible curriculum that some students prefer.
The University of Central Florida is to the north of town, and Valencia College is a popular post-secondary alternative. Several trade schools like Florida Technical College and the Marine Mechanics Institute teach practical job skills.
Orlando has a notoriously high crime rate for a large city. Overall, lawbreakers prefer to commit property crimes like petty theft or vandalism, and many of their targets are hapless tourists.
In 2017, there were 7.64 violent crimes for every 1000 residents, but 56.26 property crimes for every 1000 residents. This rate exceeds the statewide average by nearly two to one.
Crime rates are higher in impoverished areas. These rates drop in wealthier suburbs that often have private security systems.
The Orlando Utilities Commission manages the city’s water, sewer, and electrical services. Once you establish your address, give them a call to set up your services.
The City of Orlando manages trash and recycling through the Solid Waste Division. An online calendar tells you when your neighborhood’s pickup will occur.
AT&T, Bright House, and Century Link are the three major high-speed internet and telecommunications providers in the area. Each offers a package deal if you combine services. Restrictions may apply if you live in an apartment or rent a condo. All the major wireless communications providers have offices and service throughout Florida.
You might be fortunate enough to live in an area with gas lines and service. TECO Peoples Gas provides natural gas and electric service for Tampa and Orlando. Check with their representative to see if they service your location. The Florida Public Utility supports Orlando with propane services throughout Orange County.
Best Neighborhoods in Orlando, FL
There are lots of places to settle down in Orlando, but here are a few of the best spots to check out.
Do you value higher education? Move to College Park to inspire the young members of your family to achieve through subliminal reinforcement. College Park streets are named after major US universities.
The intersection of Princeton and Edgewater is where you should go for shopping, dining, and nightlife. Find housing and neighborhood amenities like churches and parks on Harvard St, Yale St, and Dartmouth St.
Housing remains more affordable here than in other low crime areas, and residents have access to plenty of walking trails and green spaces. Dubs Dread is one of the oldest golf courses in the city, having first opened in 1924, and there are four small lakes ringed with public spaces for residents to enjoy.
- Population – 12,000
- Home Price – $312,000 median value
- Rent Prices – $1200 per month
- Employers – Local service industry jobs in retail, food, and hospitality
- Schools – Edgewater High School, Lee Junior School, Princeton Elementary
Something to try: Enjoy a quiet morning walk around the perimeter of Lake Ivanhoe
Lake Como is a small public park featuring a circular body of water which gives the surrounding neighborhood its name. The City of Orlando manages the lake, maintaining the garden-like setting with walking trails and several species of shade trees.
Single-family homes comprise most of the neighborhood, with over 80% of residents owning their own property. If you prefer to rent, you might find an available house, but don’t expect to see too many vacant apartments or condos.
The crime rate is low in this neighborhood compared to the rest of Orlando, and residents are active in maintaining their community. Bus route 15 runs along South Bumby Ave., connecting you with the central station, and you can also commute to other parts of Orlando by driving on highway 408 to the north.
- Population – 3500
- Home Price – $245,000 median property value
- Rent Prices – $1400 rental rate for a single-family home
- Employers – Service jobs in the Colonial Town Center, just a few blocks north. Orlando Executive Airport hires aviation and travel professionals
- Schools – Lake Como Elementary
Something to try: Walk across to West Underhill Park and take the foot trail around the edge of the lake.
This tiny pocket community isn’t exactly an island though most of it does have waterfront property. Three small lakes surround an isthmus of land stable enough to support sturdy foundations. Lake Sue is to the northeast, Lake Rowena is south, and Lake Estelle is to the west.
Rose Isle is one of the most enviable places to live if you can afford this affluent district. Most residents own their own stately homes, and there are no apartment rentals to accommodate lower incomes. A few residents rent out their available guest houses to single working professionals.
Though isolated from through traffic, Rose Isle still has convenient access to services and employers. The Florida Hospital Health Village is a block away, and Loch Haven Park on the opposite side of Mills Avenue sits in the middle of the Orlando Science Center, art museums, and other civic institutions.
For shopping and dining, you have the option of visiting any number of convenient stores and restaurants sprinkled among the professional and health care service businesses. Many residents choose to make the short drive to the New England Wharf Shopping Village for most of their needs.
- Population – Under 1000
- Home Price – Median home value over $500,000
- Rent Prices – $800 to rent guest houses and spare rooms
- Employers – The Florida Hospital, Orlando Museums, The Orlando Science Center
- Schools – Beeman Park Preparatory School, Winter Park Christian Academy, Baldwin Oaks Academy
Something to try: See a play at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater.
Lake Davis and Greenwood
The Lake Davis neighborhood is southeast of downtown and has plenty of single-family housing as well as apartments and condos for rent. The district gets its name from the two larger bodies of water on either side of the zone.
The Greenwood Urban Wetlands is a protected natural space with walking trails and access to the Greenwood Cemetery. Lake Davis Park is a ring of public green area where you can take in some of the best views of the Orlando skyline. Cherokee Park connects Lake Davis with more walking trails around Lake Cherokee.
Most of the neighborhood is residential. For services, you’ll need to travel several blocks to the south. Residents commute to jobs in the city or work in nearby retail stores.
- Population – 2000
- Home Price – Median home value is $380,000 for a single-family dwelling
- Rent Prices – $1050 per month
- Employers – Education, health, and social services; financial and insurance services.
- Schools – Cherokee School, Boone High School, Lake Como Elementary, Delaney Elementary
Something to try: Practice your lap times at the Wadeview Community Center in the neighboring district.
Lake Eola Heights
Lake Eola Heights offers the best compromise between city and suburban life that you could want. Commercial buildings create Orlando’s skyline right on the shore of Lake Eola. Walking trails and bike paths connect you with shops, dining, and nightlife.
Travel northeast from the lake to find some of the most affordable housing options close to the city center. This neighborhood has a blend of single-family homes, condos, apartments, and townhouses mixed with other small businesses and neighborhood institutions.
If you go east from the lake, you’ll see that county and city government buildings, as well as commercial office buildings, dominate the region. You have access to the rest of Florida along Interstate 4, and the LYNX central station provides you with public transportation and the commuter rail line.
The Downtown Orlando YMCA, with its modern fitness center and swimming pools is right next to Eola Heights. The Orlando Public Library is also within walking distance.
- Population – 2200
- Home Price – $270,000 for an entry level home
- Rent Prices – $1050 per month for a two-bedroom apartment
- Employers – Bank of America, Orange County Government, City of Orlando
- Schools – Howard Middle School, Hillcrest Elementary School, Lake Eola Charter School, Florida State College of Medicine
Something to try: Rent a swan-shaped paddle boat next to the Relax Grill and get out on the water for an hour.
This small community, north of the city center, is often overlooked by prospective residents Though not as glamorous as other regions, it does have a relatively low crime rate and lots of affordable housing. Families also enjoy access to some of the better schools in the district.
Many federal employees take up residence here and commute the short distance to work at agencies like the US Labor Department, US Defense Logistics Agency, and the Environmental Protection Agency, located in North East Orlando.
- Population – 1800
- Home Price – $280,000 for a single-family home
- Rent Prices – $1200 per month for a condo or townhome
- Employers – Retail work at Colonial Town Center, The Federal Government
- Schools – Baldwin Park Elementary
Something to try: On a hot day, stop by Kelly’s Homemade Ice Cream for a cool local treat.
The most striking feature of Delaney Park is the row of amazing waterfront homes along the edge of Lake Lancaster. These million-dollar houses aren’t for everyone, but their property tax revenues and investment help stabilize the region’s economy.
You might find a more reasonably priced home in this affluent neighborhood as you travel a few blocks north towards the city center, but luxury condos in this area are often priced higher than some of the older single-family properties you might run across.
The wealth in this region comes from the health care industry. Many residents are successful healthcare professionals working at the Orlando Regional Medical Center located just to the west.
- Population – 1800
- Home Price – starting at $308,000 for a small single-family house
- Rent Prices – $1040 to rent a condo or an apartment
- Employers – Orlando Regional Medical Center
- Schools – Delaney Elementary, Cherokee School, Boone High School
Something to try: The Amtrak Orlando Station is just outside the medical center. Hop on the train to explore other Florida cities.
Baldwin Park is amazing. Here are some of the best walking trails that you’ll find in any Orlando neighborhood. Stroll around Lake Baldwin and through to Baldwin Park. The Orlando VA Medical Center is the primary economic driver, but luxury shopping, dining, and nightlife also power commerce for the region.
Stately homes line residential streets. Elegant condos and high-rise apartments elevate views of the surrounding area so expect to pay top dollar to establish your life in Baldwin Park. The area also has highly rated public schools, and the crime rate remains low compared to other districts.
Travel in and out of Baldwin Park can be a hassle during rush hour. Colonial Drive connects you with Interstate 4, but you must cross several shopping districts to get there. If you have the resources to charter a plane, the Orlando Executive Airport is a convenient and faster alternative to Orlando International Airport.
- Population – 16,937
- Home Price – Entry level condos at $350,000 and up
- Rent Prices – $1500 a month for an apartment
- Employers – Orlando VA Medical Center, restaurant industry jobs
- Schools – Glenridge Middle School, Baldwin Park Elementary School, Florida Institute of Technology
Something to try: Join your neighbors for a 5K run around Lake Baldwin.
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