Most outsiders know Florida as a beachy land where the occasional tropical storm is an acceptable trade-off for year-round warmth and sunshine.

Many Floridians, whether born and bred or transplanted from points north, know the state for something else: an energetic real estate investment scene that attracts capital from the four corners of the globe. 

Seasoned hands like Miami real estate investor Ralph Serrano are quick to advise first-time Florida property investors to pick their spots. The trouble is, Florida is a target-rich environment for prospective landlords. There’s a case to be made for just about every “spot” here.

With that in mind, let’s delve into five regional Florida real estate markets with clear appeal for owner-occupants and investors alike. Which calls your name?

1. Pensacola-Destin-Panama City (Northwest Florida)

More Alabama than Miami, this stretch of the coastal Florida Panhandle blends “Old Florida” charm with spring break energy and military values. (Pensacola has an impressive concentration of U.S. military assets.) The relatively diverse economy and solid base of government employment don’t hurt the housing market here, either.

2. Jacksonville

Jacksonville is Florida’s largest city by population and land area — surprising facts to most outsiders. Although the housing market is more subdued here than points south, Jacksonville and its environs are increasingly popular with Northern snowbirds seeking respite from winter. 

3. Daytona Beach & The Space Coast

Further down the Atlantic Coast, this beautiful and largely unspoiled stretch is pure Florida — beaches, nature preserves, golf courses, and a healthy dose of history. With so much beachfront, there’s plenty of space to stretch out here, too.

4. Orlando

The world’s theme park capital doesn’t disappoint. Nor is it shy about welcoming outsiders, including foreign nationals eager to gain a toehold in the Lower 48’s southernmost state. (Orlando has a high concentration of British expats, among others.) That’s great news for prospective homeowners and property investors.

5. South Florida

In real estate parlance, “South Florida” refers to the long, narrow urban coastal strip running approximately from Jupiter in the north to Homestead in the south. The Florida Keys, beyond Homestead, are their own thing; across the Everglades, the built-up area running along Florida’s Gulf Coast from Naples to Bradenton stands apart as “Southwest Florida.”

South Florida is the state’s glitziest, most glamorous region, and real estate prices reflect that. Don’t fret: If a multimillion-dollar Miami condo is out of your budget, newer subdivisions away from the coast should suit you fine.

The Water’s Fine

Florida is a big state: America’s third largest by population, in fact. Of the country’s 10 largest jurisdictions, only Texas grew faster between 2010 and 2019.

Even so, much of Florida remains largely undeveloped. Sure, entire swaths of the state, like the vast Everglades of South Florida and the vast, ecologically sensitive coastal estuaries along the state’s Big Bend, never will see the business end of a bulldozer. But eager developers know that thousands of square miles of unremarkable grassland and pine forest remain for the taking.

For those pondering whether to dip their toes into Florida’s real estate waters, that’s welcome news. If homeowners and land investors who’ve been here for decades already know one thing, it’s that the water’s just fine.