Pros and Cons of Relocating to Highlands County, Florida

Highlands County, situated in the heart of the sunshine state of Florida, offers a unique blend of leisure and lifestyle to those considering a move. Tucked behind glamorous beachfront cities, this hidden gem is teeming with charm and opportunities. From hospitable small towns like Sebring and Avon Park to bountiful recreational choices, Highlands appeals to a diverse demographic. While contemplating a relocation, prospective movers commonly factor in the cost of living, educational infrastructure, healthcare facilities and the overall demographic landscape. This discussion presents a detailed guide to offer you a clearer perspective on these critical elements, painting a comprehensive picture of life in Highlands County, Florida.

Understanding Highlands County,

Overview of Highlands County

Highlands County, located in the state of Florida, is a diverse and vibrant region known for its welcoming atmosphere and array of recreational activities. Two of the main towns in the county include Sebring, the county seat, and Avon Park. Both towns provide an authentic Floridian experience, equipped with a wide range of amenities and services, alongside a deeply ingrained sense of community.

Lifestyle in Highlands County

The lifestyle in Highlands County is generally laid-back with a strong focus on outdoor activities, due to the region’s favourable climate and natural beauty. The community-centred lifestyle is heavily influenced by the region’s history and culture, further consolidated by regular social gatherings and local events.

In the towns of Sebring and Avon Park, the way of life revolves around simplicity, valuing community ties and a pace of life that allows for relaxation and personal growth. Sebring, also known as “The City on The Circle”, boasts a tranquil lifestyle infused with cultural heritage. Avon Park, “The City of Charm”, embodies classic small-town Americana with its friendly community and traditional downtown area.

Geography of Highlands County

Highlands County, part of Florida’s central ridge, is mainly characterized by gentle rolling hills and freshwater lakes. The lakes play a significant role in the county’s identity, both as a water source and a locale for numerous recreational activities. With its rich ecosystems, Highlands County acts as a sanctuary for a wide array of flora and fauna, enhancing the region’s natural beauty.

Climate in Highlands County

Highlands County experiences a humid subtropical climate, which means residents enjoy warm, sunny weather most of the year, tempered by cool ocean breezes. The summer months typically see higher temperatures and increased rainfall, while the winter months are cooler and drier. This climate makes Highlands County an attractive location for both full-time residents and vacationers looking to escape colder climates.

Recreational opportunities in Highlands County

An abundance of recreational opportunities make Highlands County stand out. With numerous lakes in the area, water-based activities such as boating, fishing, and swimming are popular pastimes. The county is also famous for its golf courses, with Sebring often referred to as the “Golf Capital of Florida.” Avon Park hosts several cultural-fests throughout the year that cater to different interests, such as music, arts and crafts, and local cuisine.

Furthermore, Highlands County hosts several parks and nature trails for outdoor enthusiasts who enjoy hiking, bird-watching or simply soaking in the serenity of nature. With its combination of tranquil natural landscapes and dynamic communities, Highlands County seems to have something for everyone.

Exploring Highlands County

Highlands County is a charm nestled in the scenic surroundings of Florida, known for its tranquil life and natural beauty. The vibrant communities of Sebring and Avon Park in the county provide a hearty welcome, instilling a warm sense of home. The region’s picturesque terrain, coupled with a wide choice of leisurely activities, makes Highlands County a sanctuary for those seeking a quiet yet fulfilling lifestyle.

Cost of Living in Highlands County,

Affordability in Highlands County

One of the significant benefits of calling Highlands County home is its affordability. The cost of living in this part of Florida is notably lower than the national and state averages, making it an economically viable choice. According to the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER)’s Cost of Living Index, Highlands County scores below 100, which stands for the average cost of living across the United States. This advantageous cost index prominently reflects in essentials like housing, groceries, healthcare, and transportation, making it even more attractive to residents.

Job Market and Income Levels in Highlands County

Despite the lower cost of living, the job market in Highlands County is not as robust as some other places in Florida, or the national average. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in Highlands County was 5.1% as of June 2021, slightly higher than the national average of 5.0%.

The median household income in Highlands County is also lower than the national average. According to the US Census Bureau, it was estimated around $37,500 in 2019, approximately 20% lower than the national median. Opportunities for employment are primarily in the retail sector, followed by healthcare, food services, and agriculture.

Growth Potential

Despite the current economic climate, Highlands County has promising growth potential. The same natural beauty that draws tourists to the area also attracts businesses and families, contributing to population growth. The population of Highlands County has continued to increase over the past ten years, and that trend is projected to continue. As more newcomers arrive, more businesses, services, and housing developments will follow, potentially opening up more job opportunities and contributing to economic growth.

Property Costs in Highlands County

One area where Highlands County decidedly beats national averages is in property costs. The average home value in Highlands County is significantly lower compared to Florida and U.S. averages. According to Zillow, as of 2021, the median home value in Highlands County was $133,105, while the median home value in Florida was $249,943 and the United States median sat at $277,700. For those looking to buy, this makes Highlands County an attractive option.

General Economic Situation

Although the income levels, job prospects, and growth rates in Highlands County may currently lag behind national averages, they should be considered alongside the lower cost of living. After accounting for the decreased expenses associated with living in Highlands County, the lower income levels may not impact the quality of life as significantly as it appears on the surface.

The general economic environment in Highlands County is one of steady, but slow growth. The county’s economy heavily relies on agriculture and tourism, both of which are vulnerable to factors such as weather conditions and global economic downturns. However, efforts are being made to diversify the economy by attracting more industries, which could improve job prospects in the future.

Deciding on the Move

As you ponder the various factors influencing your decision to relocate, Highlands County, Florida, may emerge as a viable option for consideration. The lower cost of living, reasonably priced real estate options, and opportunities for economic progress each contribute to the potential allure of this part of Florida. Obviously, these benefits would come along with certain trade-offs, but on balance many find them to be economically advantageous.

Educational and Healthcare Facilities,

Charting the Course of Education in Highlands County

The considerable educational opportunities offered in Highlands County could further raise its attractiveness as a destination. With a total of around 17 public schools in the district, covering all levels from elementary to high school, the area possesses a significant support system for quality education. Several among these schools garner recognition for above-par performances, adding to the appeal of the local school system.

Beyond secondary education, Highlands County also boasts of a reputable institution in the form of South Florida State College. Offering degree programs at the associate as well as bachelor level across various disciplines, it provides ample scope for post-secondary education. It further amps up its educational appeal with its adult education wing, offering programs aimed at helping individuals enhance basic skills, acquire a GED, or become proficient in English if it is their second language.

Healthcare Facilities in Highlands County, Florida

The Highland County healthcare system is fairly comprehensive, with facilities strategically located for easy access. AdventHealth Sebring is the largest hospital and it provides exceptional healthcare services in cardiac care, orthopedics, and neurosciences among others. Additionally, there’s Highlands Regional Medical Center, which offers a broad range of services including emergency care, rehabilitation, maternity care, and general surgery.

Apart from the hospitals, the region also hosts several specialized healthcare facilities. These include the highly regarded Florida Hospital Heartland Medical Center, which specializes in cardiac care and several dialysis centers that cater to patients with renal issues. The county also boasts multiple clinics and primary care providers, ensuring residents have access to immediate medical attention when needed.

In terms of costs, the overall healthcare pricing levels in Florida are slightly lower than the national median. However, individual costs will greatly depend on a person’s insurance coverage and specific treatment needs.

Public Services and Infrastructure in Highlands County, Florida

In Highlands County, Florida, you can expect modern and reliable public services. The county is equipped with an efficient waste management system, numerous parks and recreation facilities, and well-kept roads and other public infrastructure. These provisions contribute to the safe and secure living environment for its inhabitants.

Law and order are handled by the competent Highlands County Sheriff’s Office. This unit is known not only for quality policing services but also for its admirable history of engagement within the community. Additionally, proficient Fire Rescue units are always ready to respond to emergencies.

The Highlands Transit System makes traveling within the county convenient through its fixed-route bus service and paratransit services for elderly and disabled residents. This means no individual is denied access to necessary services due to mobility constraints.

The county also offers several libraries such as the Lake Placid Library, the Avon Park Public Library, and the Sebring Public Library. These hubs provide access to a multitude of information and community programs for residents of all ages. They also offer computer and internet access for public use.

When it comes to utility services, Highlands County does not disappoint with its reliable and cost-effective water and electric services. The Highlands County Utilities Department manages the distribution of potable water and wastewater services, while power supply is mainly provided by Duke Energy and Glades Electric Cooperative. These units work relentlessly to deliver uninterrupted service, even during the severe weather conditions Florida often experiences.

Demographics and Community Life,

Population and Diversity in Highlands County, Florida

The population of Highlands County, Florida, contributes greatly to its distinct cultural environment. As per 2019 U.S. Census Bureau data, the county is home to approximately 106,221 residents. The median age is 52.1 years, well above the state average of 41.8, implying a large community of retired individuals. Whilst the majority of the population identifies as White (87.8%), the county still boasts notable representation from Latino (21.8%) and African American (10.7%) communities.

Community Involvement

Highlands County residents exhibit strong community involvement. The county hosts several social, environmental, and cultural initiatives for its citizens to actively partake in. Several organizations, such as Highlands Social Services, work towards community development efforts, offering diverse programs that cater to different age groups and interests. The county’s older demographic indicates a strong presence of senior centers, offering fitness classes, hobby clubs, learning activities, and social events designed for retirees.

Safety and Quality of Life

In terms of safety, Highlands County shows mixed results. While violent crime rates are considerably lower than the national average, the county’s property crime rates are slightly above national averages. However, Highlands County Police Department is actively involved in community safety initiatives, including neighborhood crime watch programs.

Highlands County offers a high quality of life reflecting through its diverse array of recreational parks, nature reserves, lakes, and golf courses. The county has a reputation for its serene landscapes, tranquility, and slower pace of life, which is especially appealing to those looking for a quieter, rural environment to call home.

Cultural Events and Festivities

Highlands County hosts an array of cultural events and festivities that makes it unique. The Sebring Soda Festival, which showcases thousands of craft sodas, is a notable annual event held in the county’s largest city, Sebring, also known as “The City on the Circle”. The Highlands County Citrus Festival is another annual event that celebrates the county’s rich history in citrus farming. It involves several community-based activities, agricultural fairs, and citrus-themed competitions.

The Avon Park Chamber of Commerce also organizes community events such as the Avon Park Christmas Parade and the historic Avon Park Art Walk. Meanwhile, the annual Caladium Festival in Lake Placid, the “Caladium Capital of the World”, draws crowds with its beautiful caladium flower displays and art competitions.

Music events like the Highlands County Bluegrass Festival and the South Florida State College Jazz Concert Series add another diverse cultural element to the area. The county’s commitment to maintaining and showcasing its unique cultural traditions adds to the sociable and community-centric environment here. The ongoing efforts to celebrate diverse cultures and traditions generates a sense of comradery and belonging among its residents.

Overall Assessment

Overall, Highlands County presents a compelling blend of vibrant community life, enriching cultural traditions, and a tranquil environment for its residents. While the average crime rate and older demographic may be a consideration for potential movers, it still remains a beautiful and active location with much to offer.

With its welcoming communities, vibrant lifestyle, appealing climate, and a plethora of recreational activities, Highlands County epitomizes the essence of Floridian charm. The cost of living, although varied, offers rewarding potential for income growth and property investments. A strong educational structure and robust healthcare facilities make it a conducive environment for families. The demographic diversity and the emphasis on nurturing the community life further contribute to its charm as a potential home. Whether you’re seeking a scenic escape, engaging social life or a stable environment to grow your career and family, Highlands County is a destination worth considering for a rewarding lifestyle.

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