Let’s face it, for the past year or longer, home prices have only increased. I’m not even sure increase is a suitable word for what has happened in the Orlando area. The term skyrocket may show a more accurate degree of change. The thing is, before the pandemic, Paul and I were going to easily be able to afford a home near Disney World. Perhaps we would move to Davenport or Clermont. Neighborhoods as close as Doctor Phillips or Winter Garden would be a possible choice along with many other similar options.
These are places that are often recommended in our group by those who have lived in and enjoy these great areas. But, here’s the thing. Unless you’re actively looking to purchase a home in one of these locations right now, you might have lost sight of how expensive they have truly become. And in addition to the sharp increase in home prices in these areas, other costs such as utilities, HOA fees, moving expenses, and basic costs of living have gone up.
What was easier for many of us to purchase only a year or two ago is not the same now. This makes the dream of living close to Disney a lot less attainable. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. We’ve been in your shoes. We’ve felt the drastic increases and watched as they made our goals of living close to the magic fade. It seemed like we were all but fantasizing about moving, until we realized we needed to pivot our plans a little to make them a reality.
The median home price in Florida according to Realtor.com is $407K and yet the median price in Clermont in October was closer to $489K and around $600K in Doctor Phillips (where I have found many of the homes to be too small for us). Maybe living the dream in a way that doesn’t price out the average consumer doesn’t have to mean living on the doorstep of Magic Kingdom. Maybe living the dream means a compromise. Not compromising home size, safety, and community, but instead distance. Maybe living the dream meant we had to be a little further away.
What we didn’t realize until recently is there are a lot of great communities and places to live within an hour of Disney World that could offer us everything we wanted aside from living close to the parks. Once we opened up our minds to choosing something a little further away, we realized there was a lot to love about these areas. Here are just five places you might want to consider for your move to Florida:
Winter Haven is located 35-55 minutes from Disney depending on traffic and your location within the town. While our address isn’t Winter Haven, we live in a very small neighborhood next to Winter Haven and we love it. We have everything we need a close drive away: plenty of shopping and restaurants. There are lots of beautiful lakes. Our area is quiet and safe. And best of all, we could easily afford a new build home with four bedrooms so we have room for family to visit.
While Disney World and Universal are a little further than we had originally planned on moving, we have found if we leave during non-peak times to avoid traffic, the drive is fine. We also have the option of going the opposite direction to Tampa or one of the many beautiful beaches on the gulf coast. Winter Haven has a lovely downtown area and Farmers Markets twice a month in the Central Park area. If you have young children, Legoland is also here. If you’re more like us and your children are of the furry variety, there are more than 13 miles of trails and a variety of parks.
Auburndale is a neighborhood near Winter Haven, with a little bit of a closer route to Disney. Located 30-45 minutes from the parks, Auburndale is also somewhere you can find safe communities with affordable homes and new construction. Like Winter Haven, Auburndale is full of lakes and beautiful trails and parks. You’ll also find everything you need for shopping and dining a close distance. There some great new developments currently selling in this area as well. Two of my favorites are Enclave at Lake Myrtle and Juliana Village both by Highland Homes.
If you are looking for an up and coming area that still has some rural charm, Lake Alfred is a good neighborhood to consider. This is where Paul and I were originally building a home. We did switch due to some construction delays, but we always felt this was a beautiful place to live. There is a small town charm here with great small businesses to eat and shop. And Lake Alfred is only 28-45 minutes to Disney World and a quick drive to Haines City, Davenport, or Winter Haven where you can find anything you need. It’s a small, safe, quiet, and affordable place to call home.
I adore Lakeland. Lakeland is a little further from Disney, around 45-70 minutes, but also only 40-60 minutes from Tampa. We head to Lakeland often to visit some of the great shopping areas such as Lakeside Village. In addition, there are lots of neat breweries. There is an area we love called the Munn Park historic district. It offers a unique shopping and dining district surrounding a large beautiful park. Lakeland is a little larger than the previous two places I mentioned. Therefore, it has a variety of neighborhoods, but there are plenty of great places to live here for reasonable prices.
Haines City is the closest area to Disney of the five I mentioned. Being only 29-40 minutes, Haines City has a lot of things going for it. I used to think it was a place to avoid. However, we have driven through here often since we board our dogs at a fantastic facility here. I now realize there are a lot of really beautiful new developments and great neighborhoods to live in the area. In addition, Haines City offers beautiful orange groves, lakes, trails, golf courses, and tons of shopping and dining. There are plenty of nice areas to buy or build your new home.
The cost of living near Disney has certainly gone up. But, you can still find a beautiful home in a great area to call home. And you can find it within a reasonable distance for a date night or day trip to Disney. While many people still have to commute daily to a job, you will want to take this into consideration when looking for your new neighborhood. I only highlighted some great areas between Orlando and Tampa, but there are lots of other affordable communities in all directions once you start getting a little further from the parks. If you work remotely like we do, you have a lot more flexibility. I’m curious to know what other places you have found to be great neighborhoods in the Central Florida area while maintaining a level of affordability for the average home buyer. Let us know in the comments!
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