The Surprising Smaller Florida Towns Where Increases in Real Estate Value are Among the Highest in the Nation

L. Cane

If one considers that Florida gained almost 320,000 residents in 2022, it makes sense that many of Florida's real estate markets would see huge gains in value.

That said, one might imagine that the biggest would be in the state's most popular relocation destinations. For much of 2022, those destinations were in large Florida cities such as Miami and Tampa.

However, according to recent data in the spring of 2023 from the real estate website Zillow, those two large markets weren't Florida's top markets for appreciation. Instead, that honor went to a much smaller market in the central part of the state of Florida.

And that market had the most gains of any market in the United States.

The Unexpected Florida Real Estate Market that Gained Over 25% in Value Over One Year (The Most in the United States:) The Florida city that topped the nation in real estate appreciation is located in Polk County (in central Florida) and has a population of 112,000, which is about a fourth of Miami's.

Lakeland, Florida, gained a 25.3% value over the course of one year. The real estate market in Lakeland is currently valued at $82 billion. (Lakeland is pictured at the top of this article.)

It may not be a coincidence that Lakeland is centrally located between Tampa and Orlando and is off Interstate. This makes it an easy city from which to commute to either Tampa or Orlando, while still enjoying living in a smaller town than either of those options. has previously put the Lakeland metro as one of the hottest in the country in 2019. Ashley Link, marketing director for Southern Homes, has said of Polk County:

"Our county has seen population growth, job growth and overall smart growth. Not to mention, the quality of life in Polk County is second to none. All of this positively impacts the real-estate market.”

The median home price here may still be considered reasonable by some, at $359,000.

The Next Surprise on the List: Although the Miami-Fort Lauderdale metro was the second most appreciated in the nation, number 3 may be a bit unexpected.

The reason is that it has a population of around 85,000 and the market - Fort Myers - is actively recovering from Ian. The Fort Myers market has risen 22.8% over the last year, with a value of $167 billion.

Although some might suspect that the influx into Fort Myers is due to retirees, the median age in this town is only just over 40.

Although the median home price here is $429,000, some feel that this is attractive when compared to other population beachy destinations such as nearby Naples.

Austin Allison, the CEO of Pacaso, a company that helps people find second homes, told Travel + Leisure of Fort Myers:

"I think the price has attracted buyers to Lee County as the average price of a second home is $525,000, which is a bit more approachable than the better-known second home communities such as Naples...where the average second home is nearing $900,000."

The Third Smaller Florida Market: Fourth on the list is Orlando, which probably isn't all that surprising. But the 5th city may be a bit more unexpected.

Melbourne, Florida is only a little over an hour away from Orlando, but it can feel like a world away. Melbourne's population is a little over 84,000 whereas Orlando's is over three times more.

Melbourne (which is known as "the harbor city") may also be appealing to those who want access to beaches. In light of Melbourne's recent popularity, it may not be surprising that REALTOR® Magazine ranked this metro as one of the hidden gems in the nation for 2022

Melbourne's real estate values have risen 21.5% over one year, with a median home price of around $425,000.

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