HEATHER MERRILL | St Augustine Beach Real Estate, St Augustine Real Estate, Palm Coast Real Estate

If you're looking for the best place to live in Florida, there are plenty of websites, magazines, and polling organizations that have examined that same question and offer some interesting possibilities.

Florida cities and neighborhoods that are considered by the website Niche to be among the best places in the U.S. to buy a house include two neighborhoods in Tampa: Easton Park and Grand Hampton. Niche bases its rankings on a variety of criteria, including property values, taxes, housing costs, quality of life issues, reputation of public schools, and the percentage of residents who own versus those who rent.

Money Magazine, which offers a different perspective, ranks St. Augustine among the top ten Best Places to Live in the South. In addition to what it describes as the town's historic charm, the article also speaks highly of its economy and lifestyle. Three positive indications of the quality of life in St. Augustine are its low unemployment rate of around 3.7%, an average commute time of 18 minutes, and the fact that more than 14% of residents either walk or ride their bicycles to work on a regular basis. Other desirable aspects of the area are the warm temperatures of the Atlantic ocean (mid-70s in November), cultural attractions such as the Lightner Museum, and the number of clear weather days -- reportedly 221 per year. As is the case in most Florida coastal communities, opportunities for fishing, beachcombing, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, and other forms of water recreation abound.

U.S. News & World Report ranked Sarasota as the best (metropolitan) place to live in Florida, based on its overall desirability, strong job market, and quality of life. The reviewer also cited factors such as the area's award-winning beaches, thriving arts and cultural scene, and what she referred to as "great restaurants and plenty of shopping options." Sarasota is ranked #21 on the website's list of 100 Best Places to Live in the USA. Other Florida cities ranked among the top 50 on the list are Tampa (#35), Orlando (#40), Jacksonville (#45), and Melbourne (#49).

With 800 miles of beaches, several popular retirement communities, world-renowned theme parks, more than 1,500 golf courses, and no state income tax, Florida is a popular destination for retirees, vacation home buyers, and those interested in owning luxurious waterfront properties. If your intention is to buy a home near one of Florida's top-ranked golf courses, you may want to narrow your search to the vicinity of Naples, Orlando, Jacksonville, Bradenton, Vero Beach, Delray Beach, West Palm Beach, Stuart, Jupiter, Boynton Beach, Fort Meyers, Boca Raton, Sarasota, Ocala, Bonita Springs, Tampa, Lakeland, Port Saint Lucie, Brooksville, and Kissimmee.

In spite of the fact that Florida does have a lot of high-end properties and attracts its share of wealthy buyers, there are also thousands of desirable homes available to those with a more modest budget.

In addition to researching Florida communities and desirable neighborhoods online, you may also want to consult with an experienced real estate agent -- one who can also help you make the most of your time, resources, and property search results.