Moving to West Palm Beach: Everything You Need to Know
Jun 3, 2022 / Laura Bolt
Sun, sand, and surf–those are just a few of the reasons people move to West Palm Beach, Florida. With its warm weather and sandy beaches, it’s no wonder that West Palm Beach is an attractive place to visit, but would you consider moving there?
Located on the Atlantic Ocean, West Palm Beach is one of Florida’s premier beach destinations. With Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Boca Raton (to the south), as well as Orlando (to the north) just a couple of hours away, it’s easy to explore the coast from here.
With an ample tourism sector, you can expect to find plenty of high end shopping, dining, and nightlife options if you decide to become a local. There are no shortage of arts and cultural events, including the popular annual Palm Beach International Boat Show.
If the idea of living by the beach sounds like home to you, check out our tips for what to know before you move to West Palm Beach. Of course, if you do decide to move, don’t forget to read our expert tips on how to pack your truck before you hit the road.
Who lives in West Palm Beach?
With its warm weather and laid back vibe, it’s no surprise that Palm Beach is an attractive option for retirees. In fact, just over 24% of the residents in the area are 65 and older. With 20 golf courses in the area (and 80 more within 20 miles), you can expect a crowd that takes leisure seriously.
While tourists and retirees make up a healthy amount of the population, employment opportunities, low taxes, and a robust school system also attract young families looking to settle in south Florida.
What should I know about West Palm Beach?
Of course, enjoying that beach life can have some downsides. Like all of coastal Florida, West Palm Beach is subject to difficult weather, including tropical storms and hurricanes. Hurricane season lasts for about six months, so you’ll want to make sure your homeowners or renter’s insurance is up to date when you purchase in this area. (Check out our blog for more tips on preparing for a natural disaster.)
With I-95 as the main thoroughfare in the city, traffic can get congested, especially during peak tourism times when crowds are flocking to the beach.
There is a Palm Tran public bus service that can take you downtown, but if you’re commuting around the area, you’ll likely be driving.
With more than 7 million people visiting Palm Beach County annually, jobs in the tourism and service sector are always in high demand.
Major employers that operate or have headquarters in the area include ADT Security Services, aerospace company Pratt & Whitney Technologies, Florida Crystals (organic sugar producers), Lockheed Martin, and Office Depot. In fact, Forbes Magazine listed West Palm Beach at #37 on their list of The Best Places For Business And Careers in 2019.
West Palm Beach’s unemployment rate of 3.5%, just under the national average.
The Palm Beach County School District is the 10th largest in the nation, with above average ratings. In fact, the district has a 95.9% graduation rate, a good deal higher than the national average of 83%. Those stats are especially heartening if you’re moving to the area with young kids.
There isn’t much to speak of in the way of colleges and higher education, however. Those looking for local colleges and universities should note that schools like the University of Florida and the University of Miami are about four hours away.
According to the City-Data Crime Index, crime in West Palm Beach County is 1.6 times higher than the national average. However, crime (both violent and property related) has been decreasing since a peak in 1990.
How expensive is West Palm Beach?
The cost of living in West Palm Beach is about 10% higher than the national average according to Salary.com, but cheaper than comparable coastal cities like Miami and Fort Lauderdale. It’s also important to note that Florida is one of seven states with no income tax, so if you’re moving from another state, you might find that your paycheck goes further.
According to Realtor.com, the average listing price for a home in West Palm Beach is $325k. Of course, if you’re looking for that prime beachfront real estate, you can expect that price to go up. While it varies by neighborhood, the average rent in West Palm Beach runs from approximately $1,974-$2,582, according to RentCafe.
Where should I live in West Palm Beach?
From beachfront property and condos to historic homes, you can find it all in West Palm Beach. When it comes to settling in to your new home in West Palm Beach, professional organizer and owner of West Palm Beach organizational service Your Wife’s Wife Camille West recommends “doing a lot of research in terms of location and neighborhoods, areas, and possibly even rent for six months.”;
As far as what to expect before you move, West notes that many of her clients overestimate how much they need to bring to the area.
“Homes can often be smaller than in the northeast,”; she notes. “You probably won’t need a lot of heavy rugs and wool drapes in the 95 degree heat. And don’t forget that outdoor space can be as important as indoor space.”;
Before you make the move, check out some neighborhoods that locals love:
Running along the water, Southend has grown in popularity over the past few years. You can find a variety of home designs, including ranch homes, Mediterranean styles, and sleek, modern offerings. This location offers both access to the beach and an array of schools and amenities, so prices tend to be high.
With its proximity to everything (you can get to downtown and the beach easily), as well as historic homes, Flamingo Park is popular with younger residents and professionals.
Like Southend, historic homes in El Cid (which tend to be in the Mission or Mediterranean styles) often fetch high prices due to their water access and solid school options.
Grandview Heights has snuck onto the radar since being added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999, but it’s still possible to find some decent prices in this neighborhood that offers quick access to downtown, beaches, and the highway.
Old Northwood Historic District
With sprawling homes (many of which have undergone renovations in the past few years), Old Northwood is a great neighborhood for when you want to stretch out. If you find yourself moving into a historic home that needs some extra love, our blog has some tips.
What is there to do in West Palm Beach?
With everything from snorkeling to classic concerts, if you move to West Palm Beach, you won’t have to worry about staying busy.
For some indoor fun, the Norton Museum of Art boasts over 7,000 pieces of both modern and classic art, while the Society of the Four Arts has well respected libraries and a sculpture garden. The Kravis Center for the Performing Arts also offers a variety of shows, from big name acts to traveling Broadway shows.
The whole family will enjoy a trip to the Palm Beach Zoo and the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium, with both freshwater and saltwater exhibitions.
After the kids are in bed, head down to Clematis Street downtown for trendy dining, cocktails, and nightlife. Just south of downtown, you can do some shopping along Antique Row and the design district.
And of course, there’s always the beach! With a variety of both public and private options, you’ll always find a place to stick your toes in the sand. Check out John D. MacArthur Beach State Park, Peanut Island (great for snorkeling), and Lake Worth, where you can fish and walk along the pier.