What Are the Cons of Living in Clearwater, Florida?

June 4, 2024

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When we first moved from Long Island, NY, to Clearwater, FL, many of our friends and family said they could never relocate because of the hurricanes. Since we left, Long Island has had its share of blizzards, nor’ easters, and, yes, hurricanes (remember Superstorm Sandy?). Meanwhile, until Hurricane Irma in 2017, we may have had a tropical storm or two, but we never had to evacuate.

Since then, we’ve had two more evacuations with Ian and Idalia, and though we thankfully were relatively unscathed, this year, when June 1st rolled around with the start of hurricane season, I found myself wondering if an “I” storm would be out to get us again.

As a longtime Florida resident, I have accepted that hurricanes — preparing for them, evacuating from them, cleaning up after them — are part and parcel of life on the coast.

Clearwater and Clearwater Beach are in Pinellas County, and many of the neighborhoods in these areas are on the waterfront, which allows for a picturesque and unique lifestyle. However, residents should be aware of certain considerations and potential concerns associated with life on the coast. Spoiler alert: the storms aren’t the only scary part; snowbird season can be frightening too. Here are four factors to keep in mind if you’re thinking of moving to our area:

1.Storm Risks: Our hockey team isn’t called the Tampa Bay Lightning for no reason. We are the lightning capital of North America. Thunderstorms, some of them pretty epic, are almost a daily part of life from June through September. The rule of thumb when you live here is, “When thunder roars, go indoors.”

During hurricane season, coastal areas, including beachfront properties, are more susceptible to hurricanes and tropical storms, and residents should be aware of evacuation routes, have a hurricane preparedness plan, and consider the property’s resilience to severe weather.

Beach erosion is another common issue in coastal regions. In 2023, crews placed about 245,000 tons of sand across local beaches after Hurricane Idalia destroyed most of the dunes in Pinellas County. Residents may need to stay informed about local coastal management plans, beach renourishment projects, and other initiatives to mitigate erosion and protect properties.

2. Flood Insurance: Savvy potential buyers may have noticed that inventory in waterfront communities is up. According to a local Fox 13 News interview with Ed Kearns of the First Street Foundation, FEMA’s new formula for calculating flood risk “Across the Tampa Bay area and much of Florida, is substantially raising rates for most – on average more than doubling costs. Sometimes it’s as much as four times higher. It is a wakeup call as reform is being brought to the national insurance program.”

Rising insurance costs can negatively impact affordability, but beachfront properties here are often in flood-prone areas. It’s crucial for residents to have appropriate flood insurance coverage to protect against potential damage caused by storm surges, heavy rainfall, or other flooding events.

3. Property Maintenance: In general, beachfront properties may require more frequent maintenance due to exposure to salt, wind, and sand and routine inspections of roofs, windows, and exterior surfaces to address any issues promptly. The salty air and water in beachfront areas can accelerate wear and tear on buildings, outdoor furniture, and vehicles. Regular maintenance and protective measures may be necessary to mitigate the corrosive effects of salt exposure. For more information on buying a home specifically on the beach, check out our video here.

More specifically, property maintenance of condo buildings has become a huge concern. As a result of the Surfside Condo collapse in Miami, Florida now requires condo buildings 3 stories or taller to have structural inspections called “milestone inspections” once they reach 30 years of age and every 10 years after that.

Milestone inspections have two phases. The first is a visual inspection that checks for observable structural deficiencies. The second occurs if the first uncovers signs of concerning structural deterioration. Any structural deficiencies discovered must be remediated. In addition, all associations are required to complete a Structural Integrity Reserve Study (SIRS) and use the SIRS to fund structural reserves.

As you can imagine, the condo market has slowed as buyers are wary of possible assessments and/or increases in monthly fees as condo associations rush to get their milestones done by the end of this year.

4. Tourist Season: It’s not just the weather that can negatively impact life here. Beachfront areas often experience an influx of tourists during peak seasons. Clearwater and especially Clearwater Beach residents should plan for increased traffic, crowded beaches, and potential changes in the community dynamic during these periods.

For our area, things get a little crowded over the holidays as snowbirds make their way back down and families visit while the kids are on vacation. Things really pick up over February winter break, college spring break in March, and once again for the Easter and Jewish holidays in March and April.

I will not sugarcoat it. It is VERY frustrating to not get a parking spot at the beach or a table at the restaurant because there are so many tourists in town, and sometimes you feel like a visitor or an outsider in your own community.

The kicker is that now it seems the tourists don’t leave. According to Forbes, “The state of Florida saw the biggest increase in population in 2022 with 319,000 new residents, according to the United States Census Bureau. The state witnessed an overall population boost of 1.9%.”

Despite these considerations, many people find the benefits of living in Clearwater and Clearwater Beach to outweigh the challenges. Stunning views, access to recreational activities, and a unique coastal lifestyle can make life here a highly desirable choice for many residents. It’s essential to be informed, prepared, and engaged in the local community to make the most of the “another day in paradise” lifestyle we have here.