Tampa can trace its founding to the establishment of Fort Brooke at the mouth of the Hillsborough River in 1824. That is the equivalent to where the downtown area of the city is today. This community was created almost immediately after the United States took over possession of Florida from the Spanish. It was a small outpost, but it brought some civilians to the area over the next 30 years.
Tampa would receive incorporation in 1855, but growth for the city was slow compared to other “frontier” areas in the United States. There were poor transportation links, repetitive bouts with yellow fever, and the local Seminole tribe didn’t appreciate settlers coming into the region. With the Civil War and Reconstruction happening, the city government made the decision to disincorporate.
Once the first railroad links were completed to support the phosphate and cigar industries in the area, an influx of immigrants came to Tampa to establish a home. There were only 800 people living in the area in 1880, but that figure jumped to 15,000 by 1900.
Now Tampa is a modern commercial hub, focused on tourism, trade, and the financial sector. If you are thinking about a move to this community, then these are the pros and cons you will want to review.
List of the Pros of Living in Tampa, FL
1. You can still find a quiet patch of paradise when living in Tampa.
Tampa might be the third-largest city in Florida with over 300,000 residents, but the metro area is fairly extensive. You’ll find several adjoining towns and cities nestled into the region where over 4 million people live. Even with all of that activity, there are plenty of quiet spots where you can find a home.
Neighborhoods like Hyde Park, the Channel District, and Ybor City all have unique opportunities to consider. You might even find some properties that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
2. There are more bilingual job opportunities available in Tampa.
Because of the influx of immigrant populations from the Caribbean, Mexico, and the surrounding region, you will find that the cultural diversity offers more bilingual jobs than average in the United States. If you are fluent in Spanish and English, then it is fairly easy to find a good paying job in the region. Healthcare, finance, and shipping industries are all robust employers in the region.
3. The cost of living in Tampa is still relatively low when compared to the rest of the state.
If you like the idea of living near the beach, then Tampa can make that a possibility without needing a six-figure household income. There is no state income tax in Florida, so that means you get to keep more of your money if you manage your spending habits wisely. The property tax rate is around 2% in the city as well, which is a reasonable expense that you can roll into your monthly mortgage payment. You’ll also find that the median home value in the area is $219,000 for 2019, which is significantly lower than many other places in the country.
There are some expenses that are higher than average in the region, including HOA fees and flood insurance, but you can enjoy an excellent standard of living here for less if you decide to move to Tampa.
4. The educational system in Tampa provides a top-quality education.
The Hillsborough County School District serves the entire Tampa metro area. That makes it one of the ten largest school districts in the United States. Because you have access to such an expansive network, there are numerous resources and unique extracurricular activities for your children that are not available in more rural areas. There is also the University of Tampa and the University of South Florida for learning opportunities after K-12.
Some schools are better than others in the region, so you’ll want to plan a walkthrough with the facility before you select a home to purchase or rent. Check the online ratings and reviews that are available for some institutions as well.
5. The traffic around the Tampa area is reasonable for its size.
The Tampa metro area is home to over 4 million people, so there can be some traffic and congestion that you’ll need to manage. Because the area is more spread out than cities of a similar size, you will discover that traffic jams are not as bad as you might expect. The average time for a commute in the city is about 20 minutes, and that includes the “bad” days.
What you will want to watch out for when driving in the city are the different red light cameras and speed traps that are in place. Driving on the interstate during rush hour can be a bit of a challenge too, so you’ll want to develop alternate routes.
6. Tampa is a world-class culinary destination.
The claim to fame that Tampa makes in the culinary world is the development of the Cuban sandwich. You’ll find plenty of them here in the city to enjoy, but there are plenty of ethnic food options to explore when you start living here too. There are many Latin-inspired restaurants and food trucks, farm-to-table establishments, and locally-owned masterpieces that serve a variety of dishes. You’ll have access to your favorite chain and corporate dining establishments as well.
One place that you must try after you start living in Tampa is Berns Steakhouse. It has served the community for over 60 years and is a James Beard award winner for its wine.
7. You can enjoy outdoor activities all year long when living in Tampa.
You can stay outside throughout the year when living in Tampa because the winter temperatures typically average about 60F. You can get the occasional freeze in some winters, but it stays relatively warm into January and February. That means you can enjoy one of the more than 150 parks in the area at your convenience.
There are plenty of family-friendly activities to enjoy when you live in Tampa as well. The Lowry Park Zoo lets you feed giraffes and lets you sleep overnight sometimes in the facility. You can learn more about the area at the Tampa Bay History Center. Don’t forget about the Gasparilla Pirate Fest, which is a PG-rated Mardis Gras type of event for the city.
8. You can make it to the beach in less than an hour.
Although you won’t be living at the beach when you find a home in Tampa, it is less than an hour’s drive to find one. There are several choices available to you, such as Treasure Island, Fort Desoto, and St. Pete’s Beach, so make sure that you choose one that has the amenities you want. All of them are clean and inviting, and some of them offer playgrounds, family events, and equipment rentals to make the most out of the day.
9. Rental prices in Tampa are exceptionally competitive.
Compared to other metro areas of a similar size, you will discover that the Tampa region is very affordable. You can find a one-bedroom apartment in the city for an average of $1,100 per month. Stepping up to a two-bedroom place will cost you an average of $1,340 per month. Even though this region is the 18th-largest population grouping in the United States, the city doesn’t even break into the top 40 most-expensive places to live. That means whether you buy or rent, you’ll have some extra money to save each month or spend on the items that you want.
List of the Cons of Living in Tampa, FL
1. Many of the suburbs are operated through homeowners’ associations.
You will find that the best suburbs in Tampa will give you the option to spread out and have some space, but it will come at the cost of convenience. Many of these properties fall under the governorship of an HOA, and their rules can sometimes be strict. Each association has board members that work to make sure the needs of each resident are met. That means there will be additional fees and dues that you must pay when purchasing a home here.
You cannot get out of an HOA membership in Florida either. When you purchase a home that falls under its supervision, then your status is automatic. The transaction creates a contract with the association, which means you have no choice but to pay their fees, dues, and any special assessments.
2. HOAs can hit you with a special assessment to pay for specific repairs.
Although the fees and dues from a homeowner’s association in Tampa are somewhat predictable, Florida law allows them to charge a special assessment for significant improvements or repairs that the neighborhood might need. These are one-time large fees that you cannot avoid. You’ll want to see the history of special assessments for an HOA before purchasing a property so that you can have an idea of how the community uses its reserves.
If you cannot afford the special assessment, then the HOA has the right to pursue this cost as a debt. It is not unusual for homeowners to find themselves in foreclosure proceedings because they were unable to afford the unexpected expense.
3. Good jobs in Tampa are not always easy to find when living here.
The job market is growing in Tampa, but it is not the most progressive city in the region for developing new opportunities. The corporate culture that you’ll find here can make many of the positions feel like you’re taking a step backward in your career. Before you decide to finalize anything about a move, make sure that you have a position that works for your current and future needs.
The cost of living is not as high as it is in other cities in the region, so you can do more with less under the right circumstances. If you move without a job, you might find yourself settling for a low-paying entry-level position to manage your expenses.
4. You will need to own a vehicle when living in Tampa.
It is not impossible to get around the Tampa area without a vehicle, but it is rather difficult. If you commute around the downtown area, there is a trolley and streetcar system that works with public busing. There isn’t a rail system that brings commuters in from the suburbs though, so anyone not living in the city core must drive or carpool to get to work.
Because of all of the tourism industries that are in and around the Tampa area, the airport is pretty fantastic here. If you can make it out there, then traveling around the region is rather simple. It’s just going to take some money.
5. The weather can turn nasty in Tampa during hurricane season.
Because of its location in Florida, Tampa faces a higher-than-average risk of being affected by a tropical storm or hurricane. Many of the neighborhoods and homes are classified as being in a coastal region because of where the land sits, which means flooding issues are common during heavy storms. That is why you must carry flood insurance if you decide to buy a home in or around the city.
Between June-November, you will want to keep a close eye on the weather report to see if a significant storm is blowing toward the Florida coast. You’ll have a day or two to evacuate if the weather turns dangerous.
6. You will need to get used to the humidity when living in Tampa.
When the summer months roll around in Tampa, the humidity levels love to start climbing. The air can become heavy with the moisture, which pushes up the heat index on a hot day. Temperatures can easily climb into the 90s, so you can find yourself enduring some stifling days during the summer. Even making it out to the beach isn’t always enough to find the relief that you may need.
You’ll also find some outdoor activities are limited during the rainy season when living in Tampa. It can be helpful to have a robust HVAC system in your home to help you manage your comfort level and then have a variety of indoor activities to enjoy with the family until the weather clears.
7. Allergies can be a problem for some people all year long.
Because the weather is always somewhat warm in the Tampa area, even in the winter, there are plants that bloom throughout the year here. If you have a pollen allergy, then you can experience bothersome symptoms every month. For those with a potential allergic reaction to insects, this city can be a problem as well.
Mosquitoes can be a significant problem in the region, especially since there is evidence that they can carry Zika and West Nile Virus. There are other pest problems that you’ll want to manage as well when living here. It will help to have a good doctor and an affordable pest control specialist to help manage life here.
8. Part of the population that leaves during the summer.
Tampa deals with the “snowbird” population every year, which is an issue that many communities around the Gulf of Mexico face during the winter months. When people from the north come down to enjoy the better weather in December, January, and February (and sometimes longer), then it drives up the prices of everything. You’ll deal with a lot more traffic during that time as well, which can make it a challenge if you have a long commute to work.
The growing influence from the Caribbean, Central America, and South America also mean that more Spanish is being spoken in the city. If you are not bilingual, then it can be problematic at times to finish running your errands – especially if your preference is to work with local businesses.
9. There is always the risk that you might run into an alligator.
Alligators do not live in Tampa Bay, but you can find plenty of them living in the region. There are lots of ponds, lakes, and rivers in the area where you can run into them. They are known to live in the Hillsborough River, for example, even though people use kayaks or canoes all of the time in the water. If you have small pets that you’ll be bringing with you, then make sure that they stay inside. Large alligators are a risk for children too.
Some alligators are protected by Florida law because of their size, so sometimes they can’t be removed from a residential neighborhood after they are found.
Conclusion of the Pros and Cons of Living in Tampa
If you like warm weather, access to the beach, and affordable living expenses, then Tampa can check off many of the items on your list. Even though it is the 18th-largest metro area in the United States, it still provides you with an experience that feels local and friendly. There are several great neighborhoods from which to choose.
Whether you’re coming here because of a job or you want to switch up your circumstances for a fresh start, this city can help you to reach your goals. It is affordable even if you can only find an entry-level position at first.
The pros and cons of living in Tampa can help you to determine if this is the right place to call home in the future. Consider this guide as you weigh your options to see if this choice makes sense.
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.