Sarasota is a coastal community that offers residents access to beautiful beaches, resorts, and several environmental and cultural amenities. You can find this city on the southern end of the Tampa Bay area, sandwiched between the water, Fort Myers, and Punta Gorda. There are several barrier islands that help to make up the city as well. It is one of the smaller communities in the area, with a full-time population of about 55,000 people.
Sarasota received incorporation as a town in 1902. The community first appeared on a Spanish map made from sheepskin in 1763 with the name that still serves the community. Tourism is one of the primary economic contributors each year, but there is a growing sector of customer service, healthcare, and high-tech companies who are establishing a presence in the area.
Many of the aspects of the city are actually overseen by the county government in Sarasota. That includes the waterways, the bay, emergency services, and the educational system. It is also among the communities in a two-county, federally-mandated Metropolitan Planning Organization that helps to manage growth and opportunities in that area of Florida.
If you are thinking about living in Sarasota, then here are some of the critical pros and cons that you will want to review before making the transition.
List of the Pros of Living in Sarasota, FL
1. There are plenty of housing opportunities to find in Sarasota.
The typical family decides to move to Sarasota because they took a vacation or weekend holiday to the city. They probably stayed in a timeshare or a condo during their time in the community, fell in love with the area, and decided to make the move permanent. One of the reasons why this happens so often is because there is such a variety of real estate options. You can choose from acreage estates, waterfront mansions, historical homes, or a modern condo or apartment.
The average cost of a home in the Sarasota area is currently about $259,000. You won’t find many coastal areas in the United States which offer that level of opportunity. Prices rose about 2.8% in 2019 from the year before, but the market is expected to remain stable. There are still starter homes in the $100,000 range as well – almost unheard of for a coastal community in 2019.
2. You will find plenty of cultural opportunities to explore in Sarasota.
There is year-round access to various cultural events, festivals, and activities when you start living in Sarasota. It is home to a world-class art museum, the Asolo Theater, and a popular artist collective that displays new exhibits throughout the year. The Sarasota Music Festival in June provides three weeks of classical music events, bringing in guest artists while featuring the work of local students.
Then you get to enjoy all of the coastal events that happen throughout the year, whether that means visiting a fish market with the catch of the day available, beachside restaurants, and everything else that is part of life near the water.
3. You will have access to high-quality healthcare options in Sarasota.
There are four hospitals in the Sarasota area that have all won awards for the quality of service they provide. Sarasota Memorial Hospital is one of the largest acute-care facilities in the entire state, and it regularly receives recognition for being one of the best hospitals and healthcare systems in the United States. Money also regularly recognizes the city as being one of the best in the country with the best healthcare systems.
That means families from every demographic can benefit from this advantage. Whether you are moving to Sarasota with a young family or this is one of the prime destinations that you’re thinking about with your retirement, living here can provide you with a sense of confidence about your health.
4. Sarasota offers a wonderful culinary experience.
There are more than 1,400 different restaurants to consider trying in the Sarasota area even though the city only has a full-time population of 55,000 people. You’ll find everything from food trucks to fine-dining opportunities in the community. Whether you prefer something that is rustic and coastal or an upscale steakhouse, you will find fresh dishes and local flavors that will want you to start coming back for more.
You will find that there tends to be more seafood options in Sarasota than you may be used to experiencing because of its coastal location. If you’re not a big fan of that culinary option, then you might find some of your options to be lacking. Otherwise, this culture is one of the best advantages you can find when living here.
5. It is easy to enjoy the outdoor life when you start living in Sarasota.
Sarasota is one of those communities that encourages you to get outside to start exploring. Whether you want to walk along the beach at one of the barrier islands, go birdwatching, or enjoy a day on the water fishing, there is something for everyone to enjoy here. One of the most popular options is the Legacy Trail, which occupies a former railroad route that served the businesses of the community in the early 20th century. You can hike the trail or take your bicycle out for an adventure.
The farmer’s market in Sarasota is also one of the best examples of downtown culture. You can purchase candles, get a fresh shot of wheat grass, and get your produce for the week. There is a little something for everyone, which is the perfect description of this community.
6. There is a lot of sunshine to enjoy in Sarasota.
When you decide to start living in Sarasota, then you will discover that the sun loves to come out all year long. There are about 250 guaranteed days of sunshine that you’ll get to enjoy every year. The temperature in the winter rarely dips below 60F as well, which means a fishing trip to the gulf or a day to the beach is possible at almost any time. The beaches are always beautiful and inviting too, although some of them can get crowded during Spring Break and the summer months.
That means you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the numerous festivals in the city. There is always something going on in Sarasota, whether it is a boat race, car show, art show, boat show, or the Harvey Milk Festival.
7. Location is a definition advantage when you decide to live in Sarasota.
Sarasota offers a centralized location for much of what you can experience in Florida, even though it sits on the western coast facing the Gulf of Mexico. You are right on the beach, so you don’t need to pack up for a day trip to enjoy the waves and sunshine. It’s a short drive to Miami, Orlando, and Tampa with all of the amenities that the larger cities offer. There are multiple state parks in the area to visit, or you could choose to take a trip out to the Everglades since it’s pretty close as well.
8. There is no state income tax for you to worry about in Sarasota.
Florida does not charge a state income tax, which is why many retirees look at a city like Sarasota when they’re ready to settle down. Your Social Security income remains intact. The property tax rate in the city is competitive with the rest of the United States as well. When you add in the lower costs of attending cultural events, going to the movies, or even buying groceries for the week, this community is the perfect place for a family who is just starting out or retirees who are ready to enjoy a slower pace of life each day.
9. Sarasota is a relatively safe place to start raising a family.
Crime rates in Sarasota are fairly low thanks to its small-town feel and transitory population that moves away during the summer. The rate of violent crime is significantly lower than the national average in the United States, while property crime is about average. One of the ways that the city is working to combat the latter issue is to make it illegal to sleep outside on public properties without permission.
Although some critics would argue that this criminalizes homelessness, there is an extensive network of social services and shelters in Sarasota that can work with people who have fallen on hard times.
10. There are neighborhoods for every lifestyle.
Are you relocating to Sarasota because of a job? Do you want a safe spot to settle down so that you can raise a family? Whether you prefer the city life or something closer to the suburbs, the neighborhoods of this community have something to offer everyone. Laurel Park is a popular area if you’re currently single or a young professional chasing an opportunity. You might choose Harbor Acres if you like ocean views, great food, and fun boutiques to explore.
If you like a quiet spot with a chance to get outside to walk every day, then consider Glen Oaks. Then there is Alta Vista, which is rated about 80% safer than other cities in Florida, so that makes it the idea spot to bring the kids.
11. You will find several educational opportunities waiting for you in Sarasota.
Even though the community is only 55,000 strong, there are almost 90 public and private schools that serve the community. Most of them are in the top 20 in the state for quality, while a handful of them achieve that ranking for the country. Pine View School even received recognition for being the best public elementary school in the United States. You can then choose to further your education by attending one of the community, technical, or arts colleges and universities in the region.
List of the Cons of Living in Sarasota, FL
1. Rental costs are high in the Sarasota area.
If you plan to purchase a home when you start living in Sarasota, then you have access to a pretty good deal. Renters might not have the same advantages. According to information published by Zillow, the median rental price in the city is $1,950 per month. If you want to live north of the city in the Bradenton area, then you’ll pay $50 to $100 more for that opportunity.
Rent Café suggests that your costs could be a little lower, publishing an average in Sarasota of $1,400 per month. You’ll want to check with property managers and landlords closely because prices increased by almost 20% from 2017 to 2018.
2. Traffic can be disruptive during the winter months in Sarasota.
Because Sarasota is a prime location for retirees, you will find that there is an extensive snowbird population that migrates into the city for the winter months. You’ll find a significant population increase happening around Thanksgiving each year, and then it begins to taper off around the Easter holiday. During these months, you will need to budget some extra time for your travel needs because the traffic noticeably worsens.
3. Hurricanes and tropical storms are still a danger in Sarasota.
Although some people believe that the western location of Sarasota along the Gulf coast gives it protection from hurricanes and tropical storms, the opposite is actually true. The city can be hit by a storm that travels across the mainland from the Atlantic Ocean, and it can also be struck by one that curls around the peninsula to strike from the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll want to watch the weather reports closely between August and October, although the season does start earlier than that in some years.
4. Humidity during the summer months can make it suffocating outside.
Sarasota might offer a playground full of outdoor adventures for everyone to enjoy all year long, but the summer humidity can be brutal during July and August. It is not unusual for the actual temperature to be in the 90s, while the heat index can exceed 110 on some of the hottest days of the year. Most homes and businesses have air conditioning because of this issue, which means your utility costs will be higher in the summer instead of in the winter in colder climates. There is no net utilities savings.
5. Housing costs are rising rapidly in the Sarasota area.
If you want to live along the coast in Sarasota, then there are some downtown condos that are priced in the $600,000 range – and that is your starting rate. It’s difficult to find something that is new and under that level, which means you’ll need some savings or a great job to finance the property. There are some older buildings that you can find along Gulf Stream Avenue in the $400,000 range, but it would be fair to say that some of them are fixer-uppers.
The growth of the city is contributing to this disadvantage. There are fewer properties available than what buyers want, so it is a perennial seller’s market. There are numerous cranes along the city skyline that are working on 500,000 square feet of new office space, retail locations, and restaurants. Another 4,000 new apartments, condos, and hotel rooms are coming to the community as well.
6. The social scene can be limiting in Sarasota.
Most people fall in-between the extremes of life in Sarasota. As Brittany Ortega told Sarasota Magazine, “I love it, but sometimes I hate it.” The social scene is the city tends to be a cycle between going to the beach or going to the bar. There are few creative outlets for 20- and 30-sometimes in the community, which means people sometimes leave because they want more of a challenge to life.
The reality of Sarasota is that it can be a challenge to earn enough to stay. Over 50% of the households in the country earn between $30,000 and $48,000 per year. 1 in 3 people who live in such a household are cost-burdened with their rent or mortgage expenses. 82% of those earning less than $30k annually fit into that category as well.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of Living in Sarasota, FL
Sarasota is one of those communities that is rare today. It offers you elements of a big city vibe, yet it still provides the charm of small-town America. You’ll get easy access to the coast, plenty of entertainment options, and a potentially better taxation picture for your finances.
There are some challenges to consider here as well. The minimum wage is barely livable, so you’ll want to line up a job before you move. You may also find that it is necessary to travel to Tampa for some of the niche needs that your family might have.
The pros and cons of living in Sarasota, FL, suggest that now is the right time to move before prices get too far out of reach. If you enjoy warm sands, lots of sunshine, and a slower pace to life, then this is an opportunity that you won’t want to miss.
Blog Post Author Credentials
Louise Gaille is the author of this post. She received her B.A. in Economics from the University of Washington. In addition to being a seasoned writer, Louise has almost a decade of experience in Banking and Finance. If you have any suggestions on how to make this post better, then go here to contact our team.