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The first Florida real estate speculator may have been Ponce De Leon, and he was looking for a very specific parcel: the Fountain of Youth. He didn’t discover it, but that hasn’t deterred millions of others from seeking – and finding – their own sense of personal renewal among the orange flowers. Florida Land for Sale is your very own place in the sun.
Indeed, as the engine that drives tourism and agriculture – Florida’s two biggest industries – the Sunshine State’s weather may be its most important natural resource. The climate of northern and central Florida is similar to that of the other southern states: summers are hot and humid, but December through February can have a distinct chill. South Florida, though, is warm all year round thanks to the Gulf Stream’s tempering effects. “Warm weather” doesn’t mean “calm weather”: it’s a rare afternoon in the summer that doesn’t include a bout of thunder and lightening. From the beginning of June through the end of November, hurricanes are a force to be reckoned with.
The highest point in the Sunshine State is only 345 feet above sea level. But what Florida lacks in mountains, it makes up in coastline – 1,200 miles of white sand beaches and coconut palms, luring vacationers, sun worshippers and retirees from all over the world. Another unique geographical feature is the Florida Keys, an island chain made up of the exposed portions of an ancient coral reef extending southward along the Florida Straits. Much of the Everglades – a complex system of wetlands that stretch from Lake Okeechobee in the central part of the state to Florida Bay – was drained in the middle of the 20th century to make way for the rapidly growing metropolitan areas of south central Florida; but the southern most portion of the fragile ecosystem of cypress swamps, sawgrass marshes, mangroves, and hardwood hammocks has been preserved as the Everglades National Park, home to many species of exotic wildlife and plants.
Florida may be just as famous for its manmade attractions. Theme parks like the Disney World Resort, Universal Studios Florida and SeaWorld Orlando attracts millions of visitors to central Florida every year while Daytona Beach draws NASCAR fans and Miami’s South Beach neighborhood is internationally famous as a playground for the rich and famous.
The state’s balmy climate, low cost of living, low taxes and plentiful employment prospects resulted in a huge influx of population over the last six decades, fueling a construction boom and structural changes in lifestyle. In all but a few places, the traditional urban model of a discrete downtown nucleus and surrounding zone of development gave way to what the U.S. census bureau calls “metropolitan areas”: a continuous band of suburban housing and commercial malls circling the peninsula and penetrating inland to the drained Everglades. The largest of these, South Florida (encompassing (Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach) is home to a cosmopolitan population from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds. Next largest are Tampa Bay (Tampa, Clearwater and St. Augustine), home to Florida’s financial service, avionics and defense industries, and Greater Orlando (Orlando and Kissimmee), best known as a tourism mecca but also a major high-tech and defense sector.
It’s no secret that the Sunshine State has been hard hit by the recession. The collapse of the housing bubble on a national level caused a severe contraction in Florida’s residential real estate markets, while soaring fuel prices had a deleterious effect on tourism. Florida’s advantage as a low-cost place to live is disappearing as property taxes and unemployment escalate. But Florida’s balmy climate remains its chief asset: as Boomers retire, you can expect them to come flocking. The Sunshine State’s growth may be slowing but it is becoming more attractive to people of greater means. Florida Land for Sale is a stake in an economy that is reinventing itself for the 21st century.