Are you considering moving to Florida? Maybe you can’t decide which city in the Sunshine State is best. Let’s compare two Gulf Coast cities and you decide.
Which city do you prefer, Sarasota or Ft Myers? Let’s dive in and find out. Please let me know your favorite city in the comments.
Ft. Myers, is the county seat and commercial center of Lee County, Florida, As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 62,298 and in 2019 was estimated at 87,103. Together with the larger and more residential Cape Coral, it anchors a metropolitan statistical area that comprises Lee County and has a population of 770,577 in 2019.
Sarasota is located in Sarasota County and is part of a 2 county region of Sarasota and Manatee counties that included over a million people today and spans more than 24 miles.
Though Ft Myers is known as a retirement hotspot, you would be surprised to know the variety of age groups that live in Ft Myers, from retirees to young families and college-age students. However, 25% of Ft Myer’s population is over the age of 65.
Likewise, Sarasota still attracts retirees, but in recent years, Sarasota is continually attracting younger, working professionals. Sarasota is getting younger too, but currently, the median age in Sarasota is 45, and Ft. Myer’s median age is 49. Both cities’ small-town feel is definitely more of a draw for retirees and new families as well. Although both cities are currently attracting more and more families as younger people move to Florida and are still able to work from home.
Economy: Cost to Live in Sarasota and Ft Myers:
Florida’s competitive edge is of course – No State Tax! This means pensions, Social Security benefits, and incomes from IRAs and 401(k)s all go untaxed. In the past, Florida’s cost of living was also a competitive edge. For many years, Florida cities were much more affordable than the national average. However, today, this is no longer the case. If you have been researching the price of real estate in Florida, I’m sure you have noticed that home prices are not nearly as affordable as they have been in years past.
According to payscale.com, Sarasota, Florida’s COST OF LIVING is 9% higher than the national average. Likewise, HOUSING is 6% higher, UTILITIES are 2% higher and GROCERIES are 20% higher than the national average. In comparison, Fort Myers is 6.3% less expensive than Sarasota. And Fort Myers housing costs are 21.1% less expensive than Sarasota housing costs. However, health-related expenses are 20.2% more in Fort Myers.
One of the best things about living in Florida is the weather! With 271 sunny days per year and annual temperatures averaging between 65 and 85 degrees, you can enjoy warm weather and sunny days all year long. Of course, that doesn’t mean you won’t see some precipitation. Because of its tropical savanna climate, Fort Myers and Sarasota get around 54 inches of rain per year. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a warm Florida city along the Gulf Coast with good weather year-round, either city could be the place for you!
Fort Myers is 40-60 mins from Sanibel and Captiva Islands. While the entire Gulf Coast is abundant with world-class beaches, Sarasota’s 35-mile stretch of coastal paradise boasts some particularly stunning gems. It is home to Lido Key Beach, Siesta Key Beach, and Longboat Key as well as Anna Maria Island. Most people have heard of the award-winning Siesta Key for its powdery soft sand.
In addition, Sarasota’s world-class beaches are much closer to most area neighborhoods and have lots of access points, PLUS many of them are free to park. In comparison, parking is difficult to find near Captiva and Sanibel. And once you do find parking it is pricey – $6+ per hour.
Real Estate Stats
Sarasota has many has grown significantly in the past 2 decades and features amenity-rich neighborhoods such as the Meadows, University Park, Palmer Ranch, and Gulf Gate. Fort Myers/Cape Coral Metro area has grown significantly too. According to the U. S. Census Bureau, it is now the 15th fastest growing city in the US.
The average cost of single-family homes varies greatly neighborhood by neighborhood in both popular cities but as of Dec 2021, the average price in Ft Myers for SF homes was $335K, as opposed to the average cost of $459K, in Sarasota. With fewer options and the small number of homes on the market, Sarasota will definitely come in a little more costly in today’s market.
In this category, Sarasota is undisputedly ranked better than Ft Myers. Sarasota County Schools are ranked the second-best performing schools in the entire state of Florida.
However, Fort Myers takes education very seriously too. If you have school-aged children then you will be happy to know that the public schools in the area are very highly regarded. The Lee County Public School System including Fort Myers High School and Florida Southwestern Collegiate High School are some of the best in the area. For those that are seeking higher education opportunities then you are in luck. Not only are there many well-established institutions to choose from but having the opportunity to study in paradise has its perks.
Definitely do some checking into the schools if moving with children.
Looking for job opportunities in sectors like healthcare, retail, education, and tourism? The Fort Myers area has the employment you’re searching for! Lee Health is one of the largest employers in Fort Myers and the largest healthcare system in Southwest Florida, but the healthcare jobs don’t stop there! Hope Hospice and Radiology Regional are other big employers in the city. You can also find jobs with companies like Chico’s FAS, which is headquartered in Fort Myers, as well as Lee County School District or Publix.
Sarasota’s biggest employers are also in healthcare, retail, education, and tourism, as well as grocery stores and law enforcement agencies. Tropicana, known for fresh orange juice (this is the Sunshine State, after all), still operates in Bradenton, where it was founded in 1947 by an Italian immigrant who arrived in America with $25 in his pocket.
The top seven Sarasota employers are:
- Sarasota County Schools
- Tropicana Products Inc.
- Bon Secours (healthcare)
- PGT Industries (building materials)
- Winn Dixie
Over the last year, Fort Myers has seen the job market increase by 1.9%. In comparison, Sarasota has seen the job market increase by 2.6%. Future job growth over the next ten years is predicted to be 44.0% in Ft Meyers and 44.6% in Sarasota. Both cities are predicted to have higher job growth than the US average of 33.5%.
The Sales Tax Rate is 6.0% in Fort Myers and is 7.0% in Sarasota. The US average is 7.3%.
There’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy in Fort Myers. Locals and tourists flock to Fort Myers for its pristine beaches, professional baseball, and theatre. There is much to indulge like museums, bustling nightlife, and its litany of nature preserves and sea excursions!!
Because Fort Myers hosted many notable citizens like Thomas Edison and Henry Ford, the city became famous for its historical estates. These homes once housed guests like Hedy Lamarr, Teddy Roosevelt, and Charles Lindbergh.
Sarasota has no shortage of activities either. It has a little bit of something for everyone when it comes to adventure. Stroll around and take photographs at the Bayfront Park or channel your inner child at The Ringling Museums and Mansion. Stop and smell the roses at the Marie Selby Botanical Gardens or visit parrots, flamingos, and alligators at Sarasota Jungle Garden. Sarasota hosts endless amounts of fun on the water too. Whether you enjoy kayaking in the mangroves, zooming around on a jet ski, fishing off of a charter boat, or snorkeling in a beautiful reef- Sarasota has it all!
The added bonus for Sarasotians is that they can experience all of the destinations and adventures that Sarasota has to offer or take a short 45-60 min drive to either the Tampa/St Pete or Ft Meyers- as SARASOTA is conveniently situated between both.
Since Fort Myers is a coastal city, there is no shortage of seafood restaurants to appreciate. Serving up classic Florida cuisine alongside internationally influenced dishes, Fort Myers features plenty of flavors and must-try plates. But Sarasota will not be outdone. With more Zagat award-winning restaurants than any other city in Florida Sarasota is known for great seafood and relaxing venues.
Both cities boast delicious Florida dishes to devour including fresh-caught southwestern Florida pink gold shrimp best served lightly battered or fired, grilled Cuban sandwiches, sweet and tangy Florida key lime pie, pan-seared scallops and oysters, and state famous gator tail bites.
The Bottom Line
Both Sarasota and Fort Meyers are full of adventure, beautiful beaches, and delicious restaurants. So which city is right for you? Is Ft Myers or Sarasota winning out when it comes to your Gulf Coast Florida home? Contact us today to find your dream home in this tropical paradise. 941-373-5880