Just in case common knowledge isn’t your stronghold, we should inform you that the Tampa Bay area is a hotbed for tourists, snowbirds, and especially retirees. Several apartment complexes in Clearwater are inhabited entirely by the AARP crowd, and many others only accept age-appropriate applicants (usually age 55 and above). The further you get from the manmade Clearwater Beach, however, the more likely you are to find neighborhoods populated by working professionals and families with children.
Clearwater is also a tourist-driven community. The city usually gets flooded with college students on spring break during March and April and again by vacationing families during the summer months. In the downtown area, meanwhile, the disciples of L. Ron Hubbard rule the streets. Clearwater is home to the headquarters of the Church of Scientology, which owns and operates several downtown buildings, including the gargantuan Flag Building. Although the relationship between the church and the rest of the Clearwater community has certainly improved over the years, many locals still maintain a measure of distrust for the Scientologists, and protesters frequently make their presence known on the downtown streets (who says the only thing to do in Tampa is lounge on the beach and play bridge?).
What about entertainment? Is there anything to do there?
The biggest and most obvious attraction is the manmade Clearwater Beach, whose coastline extends for about two miles and attracts a mixture of silver-haired sunbathers, families with kids, and Spring Breakers. Every Thursday through Monday beginning a couple hours before sunset, tourists and mainstays flock to the “Sunsets at Pier 60” festival, which features live entertainment, themed cruises, and activities for peeps of all ages. Other parts of the city are dotted with a variety of pubs and clubs to keep the night owls entertained.
How’s the traffic situation?
Unfortunately, it’s about as pleasant as an alligator bite to your back side. Only one major road connects Clearwater to the rest of the Tampa Bay area, so gridlock during rush hour and especially around the holidays is problematic, to say the least. So if you plan to live in Clearwater and work in Tampa or St. Pete, be prepared to spend a solid chunk of your day crawling along the roadways at a snail’s pace.
I bet apartments are crazy expensive, aren’t they?
Surprisingly, no. The average apartment costs only around $900 a month and even bayside crash pads can easily be found in the $700-$1100 range. Whether you’re in the market for a basic 1BR unit, a pre-furnished luxury unit with all the bells and whistles or anything in between, you’ll find a variety of affordable options in Clearwater.
Anything special I need to know about scoring my dream dwellings?
If you’re not a card-carrying AARP member, you should check to see whether or not an apartment complex is age-sensitive before scheduling a visit. If you’re a retiree looking to enjoy your golden years in Clearwater, we recommend you stick to one of the several amenity-packed retirement communities located along the shoreline, which offer easy access to the beach, Pier 60, and tons of dining and shopping options. Plenty of rental properties are available for leasers from all age groups and income brackets, so explore your many options before settling on a place.
Most apartment managers will conduct a background check on you (at your expense, usually) to make sure you don’t have a history of being a deadbeat renter, so be prepared to fork over a non-refundable fee of $50 or more when submitting an application. Other documents you should bring along include a list of previous residences, proof of income, and banking account statements.
Finally, if you plan to bring Fido along, scope out a place online (like, at apartmentlist.com, maybe?) to see whether or not it’s pet-friendly. Many Clearwater apartment communities allow small pets while others practically frown at the thought of a mere goldfish living there.
What about life outside the beach?
Downtown, aka the “Cleveland Street District,” has received a major facelift in recent years and now boasts an assortment of retail, entertainment, and residential options. New high-rise condominiums and ultramodern loft spaces continue to sprout up, most of which are available for $800 or less. Located a mere five minutes from the beach but exuding a decidedly urban vibe, downtown Clearwater has become a popular living locale for Scientologists, working professionals, and young urbanites alike.
Anything else I need to know?
Just remember to bring along plenty of that sky-high SPF lotion and leave your cold weather gear behind. Even in the most “frigid” months of the year, temperatures rarely drop below the mid-50s at night and the low-70s during the day. So be sure to enjoy your Mai Tai on the beach in February while the rest of us are freezing our behinds off!
And now you’re all set to begin your search for the perfect apartment. Welcome to Clearwater and happy hunting!