The recession and housing market collapse of the late 2000s undeniably smacked Tampa hard. Tens of thousands of jobs were lost over 2008 and 2009, and that led to thousands of foreclosures and vacancies. There are ample apartments and condos for the picking here, so you’ll probably have a tougher time deciding on a place rather than finding one.
The cost of living in Tampa is slightly less than the national average, and a spring 2011 survey of 93,000 rental units in Tampa showed the average monthly price for a 1 bedroom/1 bathroom was about $730, with 2 BR units averaging out at $925 a month.
Grab a map, find your job, and determine how far from your place of employment you want to live. Lots of people in the Tampa Bay area live in one city but work in another, and they pay the price for that. If you’re the type of person who wants to keep your travel time in the range of say, five mind-numbing Top 40 songs as opposed to 10, choose your location carefully.
Florida’s nonstop, rabbit-on-Viagra-like growth slammed into a brick wall when the recession hit. That trend has carried over to apartments as well. A check of 31,000 rental units in Tampa shows 23,000 of them are at least 30 years old, while just 8,000 were built within the last five years. If you like your apartments with fewer ghosts within its walls, do your homework to find a newer place.
In many ways, Tampa is like a big cluster of small towns. Clusters, when they’re made of nuts and honey, are often delicious in cereal, but in a city? That’s up to you to decide.
Downtown Tampa: Chock full of business, the downtown area is also emerging as a rental area with newer condos and construction. Much of the city’s culture can be found here at places like the Tampa Theater, St. Pete Times Forum and the University of Tampa. Ybor City, the famous Cigar-inspired neighborhood, is just northeast of downtown and home to a few thousand Tampa residents. Westshore is Tampa’s core business center, but some rentals are here as well.
New Tampa: This area is home to a lot of renters, and has seen a lot of growth over the past two decades. There’s a good chance you’ll have a few places from New Tampa on your short list.
North Tampa: While the neighborhood of North Tampa itself is sparsely populated, it’s also adjacent to the University area which is home to the University of South Florida and plenty of apartments.
South Tampa: Home to MacDill Air Force Base and thousands of its employees, South Tampa is a more prosperous area. Lots of nice rentals are available in this desirable region.
West Tampa: Cultures converge here as a large Hispanic population calls this area home. There are both newer and older rental options here.
Tampa offers some of everything that’s great about Florida. You’ve got warm weather in the winter, the inviting Gulf of Mexico, theme parks; but this city also has some of its drawbacks.
Dude, where’s my job?
As we’ve mentioned, the recession hit Tampa hard. The unemployment rate has been mired in the double digits for a few years now, and the economic recovery here has been slow. Even if you’re kicking butt at your job now, it’s still wise to have a Plan B stashed somewhere in the back of that cerebellum of yours.
The lightning, not the Lightning, strikes
Considered by many to be the lightning strike capital of the world, Tampa promises lots of heat, humidity and yes, flashy bolts of organic electricity firing down from the sky. While that can be dangerous, or a nuisance, or just pretty cool, we can thankfully report that Lightning strikes – meaning actual assaults by members of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team on unsuspecting civilians – are on the decline. The summers are quite hot and humid here, and hurricanes are also an occasional concern.
If the idea of hot summer and warm winters, ocean access, and big league sports appeals to you, Tampa will be a great place to call home. Good luck!