When it comes to pure sizzle, it’s tough to top Miami. With a tropical climate, world-famous beach, next-level nightlife, and more Spanish speakers than a Telemundo talk show, this city is a multicultural, international icon. There’s just 36 square miles of real estate for the city’s 400,000 residents, but that acreage seems really minute when you consider the Miami metro area’s population of roughly 2.5 million people. Yep, finding your perfect place here will take some buena suerte (good luck), but once you get it, an amazing blend of style, culture and climate will be yours for the taking.
Condos are king—that’s the first thing you’ll need to know about renting in Miami. Sure there are some apartments here, but South Florida is practically the condo capital of the world. Brokers are often used here, so enlisting a specialist to help you is a good idea. If you see something you like, it’d be wise to jump on it.
How much will it cost?
The cost of living here is higher than the national average according to Kiplinger’s 2010 rankings, but affordable apartments can be had, and condo prices came tumbling down when the housing bubble burst (it burst pretty hard in Florida). Renting a condo will generally cost a lot more since the owner is responsible for assessment fees (aka association fees), which are payments each owner makes towards the overall upkeep of the property.
Besides the extra costs, condos can also be tricky because of the extra humanoids that are often in the mix. You’ve got the condo association, the owner of the unit, and the tenant. Remember that the units are owned by someone, so that means people will be a little more concerned about their upkeep and the building overall. That’s great for maintaining a nice place, but it’s also a pain in the neck when the old lady in 9G complains about your stamp collection being “too noisy.”
When to start looking
Give yourself about 4-6 weeks of time to find a place in Miami. Any less than that and you could wind up spending more time watching Jai alai matches than you anticipated. Keep in mind August and September are the months most likely to feature tropical storm activity, so if Hurricane Harry is about to blow through, your real estate agent might be about to blow you off.
What you need
Nothing too fancy needed here. Bring your credit report, proof of income, rental history, and references.
Got a bilingual bone in your body? An estimated 2/3 of the population list Spanish as their first language, and for the uninitiated, some neighborhoods will have you checking your GPS to make sure you’re still in los Estados Unidos. If you don’t speak any Spanish, your choice of neighborhood is muy importante.
Aventura: Technically its own city (since 1995), Aventura is part of Miami-Dade county and a lovely area full of high-rise condos and fancy homes. It also has the famous Aventura Mall.
Brickell: The financial district center and part of the greater downtown area, Brickell is chock full of towering condominiums that will cost plenty. This section is growing fast and it’s also one of the best spots to live sans car, as the city’s Metrorail and Metromover train systems stop here.
Coconut Grove: This famously festive neighborhood has lots of condos and pricey single family homes. Nightlife and the arts are very well represented here. You also might bump into LeBron James at the supermarket.
Coral Gables: One of the original planned communities, Coral Gables is a scenic area that’s home to the University of Miami. There’s lots of upscale restaurants and shopping to be found here, and it’s a great place to rent if you can find a place.
Design District: A small area south of Little Haiti, this neighborhood is a haven for dozens of art galleries. You’ll find many warehouses here and just a few places to live.
Downtown: The urban center and heart of the city. High rises are expensive but increasingly populated.
Hialeah: A predominantly middle class Hispanic neighborhood.
Kendall: A pricier suburb of Miami between Coral Gables and Downtown, this area strikes a good balance between affordable and comforting.
Key Biscayne: An island retreat for the wealthy.
Little Havana: As its name implies, this spot is home to many Cuban immigrants and a mecca for Hispanic culture. Some areas are really on the upswing.
Little Haiti: A home away from home for the huge Haitian population in Miami, this area is full of Creole cooking and Creole-speaking residents.
Miami Lakes: A pleasantly planned town, Miami Lakes has a hometown feel that’s hard to find in many parts of the city.
Miami Shores: An inviting area of North Miami that stretches in from Biscayne Bay.
Opa-Locka: A small city within Miami-Dade, Opa-Locka is considered a place to avoid.
Overtown: A depressed area and another spot to skip.
South Beach: The beach. The celebs. (The diet.) South Beach features a dizzying mix of clubs, restaurants, hotels and shopping. Even if you have the cash to live here, vacancy rates hover around 2%.
Sunny Isles Beach: This small barrier island brings you plenty of beachiness with its condos. Lots of retirees here.
Habla Español? If that question has you perplexed, Miami may not be for you. In many parts of the city, English will not be the native language, and in some parts, you’ll have a tough time finding anyone who speaks it. Learning Spanish, or at least having a working knowledge of basic phrases, will make your time in Miami much easier.
Cars vs. Speedboats
So after watching season three of Miami Vice, you’re left wondering, “Do I need a car or a speedboat in Miami?” Sadly, the answer is the less exciting of the two. While the Metrorail (high speed), Metromover (free rapid transit downtown), and Metrobus options are great if you live downtown, everyone else will likely be in a car. Walk Score gives Miami a 72, so compared to Florida’s average score of 45, this is one city where you can strut your stuff.
Hurricanes Can Hurt
Winter won’t be a worry here (January’s average high temperature is 75 degrees), but hurricanes – or the threat of them - will get your attention each summer. The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30, but August and September are the months that you’ll find yourself watching way more of The Weather Channel than you’d like. Buy yourself some peace of mind by having an evacuation plan and organizing a disaster supply kit complete with water, non-perishable food, a flashlight, batteries, portable radio, cash, and whatever else you think you might need if you lose power for several days.
Living in Miami can present some challenges in the way of language, cost and climate, but if you find a nice place to live, you’ll call one of the most vibrant, action-packed cities on the globe home. Enjoy it!
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