Orlando is gaining new residents at a record rate AND for good reason. Whether you are moving to Orlando to be closer to the theme parks, for the warm weather, for your job or to live out your retirement dream, determining where exactly to live can be daunting.
From established and historic neighborhoods with moss covered oak trees to newly developed areas with freshly planted palm trees, there are styles and tastes for everyone. However, choosing the right location is just as important as choosing the right house! The fact is that most people visiting Orlando never leave the theme park areas and have never actually seen the real Orlando. The area that we know and love as The City Beautiful extends far beyond Disney and considering the surrounding towns and communities, Orlando is actually quite large! This means that narrowing down the exact location BEFORE beginning your actual home search is extremely important.
Of course your budget is one of the most important factors, but here are a few additional things to consider before taking the plunge and choosing your perfect location.
1. Will you be driving to a work location?
This one seems quite simple but actually, many people moving to the Orlando area don’t even consider their work commute when choosing a home location.
As much as we love Orlando we have to admit that the transportation infrastructure is one of our least favorite parts about this growing city. Unless you live within a couple of miles of your workplace chances are that you will either embark on I-4 or on one of the many toll roads. If you will be driving into work everyday, it is highly suggested that you try to find a neighborhood as close to your work as possible. This will help alleviate the stress associated with dealing with Orlando traffic as well as help you save money on tolls. Plus, why spend time sitting in traffic when you can be doing more important things like lounging by your pool?!
2. Are schools important to you?
Like every city, you will find areas of Orlando where schools are better than others. Luckily, there are many A-rated schools in the area! Of course, these ratings constantly change but if a highly rated school is important to you many can be found in Seminole County, East Orlando (in particular Timber Creek High School), Windermere and the Lake Nona area. Here is a great resource for checking out school ratings throughout Orlando https://www.greatschools.org/florida/orlando/schools/
For colleges, most are surprised that Orlando is home to the second largest university in the nation! The University of Central Florida is located in East Orlando, approximately 20 minutes from downtown. If you will be attending or working at UCF, we recommend looking at homes in the areas of Waterford Lakes, Avalon Park or Oviedo.
3. Have you considered and factored in HOA costs?
Simply put, HOA’s are just a way of life for most people in Orlando. Yes, you can certainly find areas without an HOA but these are far and few between or typically in rural areas. HOA dues are extremely varied and can range anywhere from $100 per year to over $500 per month. Some of the higher priced HOA’s can include amenities such as a community pool, security gates and even lawn care, but on the other hand also comes restrictions and rules. For instance, many HOA’s don’t allow a boat, RV or large trucks to be parked in the driveway. Before settling on a community, ensure that you are fully aware of the HOA fees along with any major restrictions.
4. Do you prefer established and historic or new and up-and-coming?
Fortunately you can find a wide range of neighborhood styles all around Orlando. For established and/or historic areas, the neighborhoods around downtown Orlando are a great place to start. Some of these include Thornton Park, Lake Eola Heights, Delaney Park and College Park. Winter Park and the Maitland areas feature many beautiful areas with established neighborhoods. Closer to the theme parks you can find mature homes in the Windermere and Dr. Phillips area which is also home to the well-known Bay Hill Golf Course!
There are also many newer and up-and-coming areas in Orlando. Lake Nona is known as Medical City and is still growing at a rapid pace. Lake Nona is also a very technology advanced area. The downtown area even has their own self-driving shuttle buses! In the Winter Garden area you can also find many new construction neighborhoods with significant development. Horizon West is a master planned development which is still undergoing construction of new communities, retails shops and restaurants. This is where you find the newly popular Hamlin area.
5. Is being closer to the beach important to you?
No, there isn’t a beach in Orlando but depending on where you live you can be much closer to the sand and waves than not. If you want to be within an hour of the beach but still within the Orlando area stick to the East Orlando side, and in particular somewhere close to the 528 toll road. This will take you directly to the Cocoa Beach area within an hour. If Daytona Beach or New Smyrna Beach is more appealing, take a look at homes in the Northeast area close to I-4 including Lake Mary and Sanford.
If the gulf coast beaches are more your style, areas on the west side of Orlando are going to allow for a faster commute. Keep in mind that you are still looking at approximately one and half to two hours depending on traffic and your exact area.
6. How close do you really want to be to Disney and tourist areas?
By now I’m sure that you have realized that there are so many great communities around Orlando and most are not in the prime tourist areas. Living in one of these areas affords you the opportunity to be at the theme parks in 45 minutes to an hour without the hustle and bustle of constant vacationers. But, there are many of you who may want to be right in the middle of it all and that’s perfectly okay too!
If a regular quick hop over to Epcot or to Disney Springs for dinner or seeing fireworks from your backyard is your dream then there is certainly an abundance of communities that can allow you to do just that! Keep in mind that even though some areas can appear to be “next door” to Disney on a map, it may still take 20 – 25 minutes for you to get there! If possible, visit these areas during peak times of the day so that you can understand the traffic patterns and congestion. Remember that driving through these areas on vacation versus driving them on a day-to-day basis can be totally different.
Another consideration is that many communities close to Walt Disney World consist of many vacation rental homes. If having a new neighbor every week concerns you then make sure you choose a neighborhood where vacation rentals are prohibited.
7. Will you be flying often?
There are two main airports in the Orlando area – Orlando International Airport (OIA) and Orlando Sanford Airport. Most flights operate out of OIA which is located in the Southeast area. If you are a frequent flyer and need to be close to this airport, there are a few areas that will provide easy and quick access including Lee Vista, Lake Nona and Hunter’s Creek.
8. Do you prefer to live in rural areas?
Do you want a large yard, a lot of land or even rolling hills? Most people don’t realize that there are many rural areas surrounding Orlando! In many cases, the houses are lower priced in these areas so if you don’t mind driving further for significant shopping, dining and entertainment, you can possibly get much more for your money. There are many areas to consider northwest of Orlando including Tavares, Mt. Dora or Groveland. The Clermont area is where you’ll find rolling hills. East of Orlando, the areas of Wedgefield and Bithlo offer rural opportunities and southeast, check out St. Cloud.
9. Dig the downtown scene where you can walk to restaurants and shops?
If the thought of getting in your car to head to the restaurant is terrible for you then you may want to check out one of the great “downtown” areas throughout Orlando.
Living in one of the many condos, apartments, townhouses or even single family homes in downtown Orlando affords you the opportunity to be within walking distance to an abundance of restaurants, bars and shops. Most areas in downtown Orlando are also walking distance to Lake Eola and the Amway Center. Aside from downtown Orlando, there are also several mini-downtown areas with walkable areas including Winter Park, Winter Garden, Baldwin Park, Lake Nona and Avalon Park.
10. Have you considered toll roads?
The unfortunate fact remains that to get anywhere in a relatively reasonable time in Orlando, you will encounter to toll roads. Many of the most popular roads in the Orlando area including 408, 528 and 417 are toll roads.
Need help with narrowing down your perfect location? No problem!
Reach out to Howell Home Group today at Ron@HowellHomeGroup.com to start your home buying consultation!