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Living In Tallahassee

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  • Living in Tallahassee

    Like many living in Tallahassee, we are transplants from the Midwest and Abbe came here for graduate school.  When deciding on a graduate program, Abbe visited Florida State University in February.  After getting on the airplane in Cleveland surrounded by snow, hovering grey clouds, and freezing weather, she got off the plane to a sunny, and bright 72 degrees.  In January, the daily highs are in the 60s and the overnight lows in the high 30s low 40s.  In June, the daily high temperatures are in the 90s and the lows in the 70s. By the way, it has only snowed in Tallahassee a handful of times and only once with any accumulation, but locals will be happy to tell you about the time they ‘experienced’ snow.

    The area around Tallahassee is often referred to as the Big Bend area of Florida. Being tucked in North Florida helps us manage to miss most of the major storms that hit Florida. Tallahassee sits in Leon County which has a population of fewer than 200,000 people.  It is the seventh-largest city in Florida and the surrounding area is rural and wild.  There are hundreds of miles of trails to wander (both hiking and water trails).  We are also the home to two major universities and a thriving community college.

    If you do visit you will find Tallahassee lives slower than most of the other major cities in Florida.  Most Tallahasseeans do not get in a hurry for anything (we see you students driving 60+ on TN St) and if you become impatient, or otherwise mark yourself as ‘not from around here’ a local may say to you, “Bless your heart.” That blessing may not mean what you may think it means.  It is actually a kinder way of saying, “Your mama didn’t raise you right.  How have you made it this far in life?” You could say we are a friendly city; we wait until you leave to talk about you.

    All kidding aside, Tallahassee is a wonderful place to live.  The high schools have been ranked as some of the best in the state by private websites designed for that stuff.  The weather is mostly mild, as are the people. There are tons of free things to do outside.  The parks are some of the best in the country (and pet-friendly!!). As a group, we have found Tallahasseans a mostly live and let live group (unless you plan to cut down any ancient oak trees) and that appeals to us.

    Tallahassee is the capital of Florida, and the accompanying government jobs provides a stable employment base in the area.  During the housing crash, Tallahassee was impacted later, recovered earlier, and did not have the historical decreases in value some other parts of the state saw (with the exception of some condos and townhomes).  Although we are the state’s capital, we are more like southern Georgia than sou90th Florida.  There’s a little more southern drawl and friendly talking than you will find in Miami.  As you travel south in this state, the population becomes more ‘northern’ in attitude. In fact, if you are asked if you are from Miami, you are subtly being told “Bless your heart.”

    Tallahassee’s weather and climate

    There is a nine-month growing season and the winters days are short but beautiful with temperatures in the 50-70s and mostly bright blue skies. We have an average of 233 sunny days and the average yearly temperature is 68 degrees. Even those few hours during the day when we have freezing temperatures (usually only overnight) the skies are bright and sunny.  The summers can be brutal with 90-degree heat and 100% humidity.  The coastal wind from the Gulf (about 30 miles away) drops afternoon rain most days in the summer.  Even though we have almost daily rain, few locals carry umbrellas.  We know if you wait ten minutes the weather will change. For locals, ten minutes is not late for an appointment.

    We average around 60 inches of rain a year and while July and August can be brutal, it is unusual for us to have temperatures in the 100s.  During the summer especially, we often have 100% humidity though. That means 90 degrees can feel like a sauna when you walk outside and your glasses fog and condensation forms on your skin.  Air conditioning changed the economy of Florida.  (Little noticed history – each state has two statues in the National Statutory Hall for Congress.  While many states selected politicians and philanthropists to represent their state, one of Florida’s statutes is of John Gorrie – the inventor of mechanical cooling.  Once you move here – this will make perfect sense.)

    What about hurricanes?

    We cannot really talk about the weather in Florida without discussing the hurricanes that often take aim at our state.  Fortunately for Tallahassee, being in the Big Bend area and 30 miles from the coast has protected us from direct strikes of hurricane-force winds.  We have had several tropical storms in the past decade, and most have been ‘rain’ events more than the dangerous and destructive wind events our neighbors have gotten hit within the panhandle.

    The closest a strong hurricane came to Tallahassee was Hurricane Michael.  It came ashore near Mexico Beach on October 9, 2018. Mexico Beach was where Dan and Abbe were married. It was a tiny town along Rt 98 about 75 miles from Tallahassee. It was destroyed by the category 4 winds. A small number of Tallahassee neighborhoods were without power for weeks, and most were back to normal within a few days.  We were in a townhouse near the Tallahassee Mall and lost power for about two hours.  On our farm in Monticello, we were without power for about six hours.  (If you are curious about the damage Hurricane Michael (2018) brought to our area, NASA has some photos from space that are fascinating.  Check them out here:  https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/92868/florida-slammed-by-hurricane-michael And if you are in that area – Please support those local businesses.)

    History of Tallahassee, Florida

    Many people living in Tallahassee today can trace their roots all the way back to before Tallahassee was even founded in 1821.  Long before that, a Mississippian culture of farmers had their capital located in Tallahassee, then called Anhaica.  Archeologist B. Calvin Jones found evidence of Anhaica near Myers Park in 1987.  It is easy to see why this area has been populated for as long as 10,000 years.

    One of Tallahassee’s claims to fame is that it was the only Confederate capital (east of the MS) not captured during the civil war (never mind the fact that it was not important enough to capture). There was a battle for it in March, 1865 which is re-enacted the first full weekend of March every year.  If you go, be prepared for the sounds of battle – including real-life cannons.  One year we attended we watched as the confederate reenactors found themselves unprepared to defeat the final Union assault (as happened in 1865).  One lone confederate soldier (the quickest to reload) stood up and (mock) fired his pistol and dropped seven union soldiers spread out across the rise.  The crowd cheered and laughed!!  Check out their webpage here:  https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/natural-bridge-battlefield-historic-state-park

    If the Civil War interests you, you may want to check out the historical trail designated by the state.  More information can be found on their webpage (along with a 56-page book that can be downloaded – for free!) that included background information as well as maps.  https://dos.myflorida.com/historical/preservation/heritage-trails/civil-war-heritage-trail/

    Florida also maintains several other heritage trails and individual markers throughout the state as well.  Check this link for other heritage trails:    https://dos.myflorida.com/historical/preservation/heritage-trails/

    Check this link to a map search of the historical markers. They are everywhere!  http://apps.flheritage.com/markers/map/

    And if you think old pictures are cool, check this out: https://www.floridamemory.com/

    For locals that love research, the State’s library is open to and free for Florida residents.  That includes access to books, peer-reviewed journals, historic maps, decades of newspaper articles, genealogy records – including access to ancestry.com, and so much more!!!  If you are a bit of a knowledge nerd (like me) you could spend a day nosing around the second-floor library.  Check it out: https://dos.myflorida.com/library-archives/research/plan-your-visit/

    Mission San Luis was built on the second highest hill in Tallahassee in 1656 and later the catholic church added a friary and kitchen to the location.  This is a great place to spend several hours touring the grounds and gardens and listening to the re-enactors tell their stories.  Most of the tours are outside, so plan accordingly.  They have events most weekends and even a free pet blessing ceremony in November. The entrance is located west of FSU’s campus on Tennessee Street.  Admission is $5 per adult, but the mission is closed now due to COVID19.  There are several online tour options available for free now.  Check it out here:  https://www.missionsanluis.org/learn/httpsmissionsanluisorglearnvirtual-resources/

    Tallahassee is also home to the disappearing lake – Lake Jackson.  The lake has an average depth of only six-seven feet except over the two sinkholes (Porter Sink and Lime Hole) that randomly drain the lake into the aquifer.  Lake Jackson is not the only disappearing lake.  There are several lakes in the Tallahassee area that are considered prairie lakes, including Lake Lafayette, Lake Iamonia, and Lake Miccosukee.  Prairie lakes regularly drain through sinkholes every ten years or so.  They fill quickly over the summers as the afternoon rains help the springs fill in the lake basin again.

    Near Lake Jackson there is a state park preserving six 800-year-old earthen mounds built by Native Americans.  You can take the stairs to the top of the mounds and bask in the sun or check out the views of the park.  The hiking trail through the woods brings you within site of a grist mill from the 1800s. https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/lake-jackson-mounds-archaeological-state-park This park does have two private residences tucked nearby (in) the park.  I wonder what it would be like to have a home near ancient (burial?) mounds.  Seems like there would be a story there.

    Government

    To be honest, the overlap of government oversight can be confusing.  Be sure to call before you go so you know you have the right office – or better yet, many services are now available online.  The city of Tallahassee has offered as many services as possible online for years – including traffic cams, city utilities, city commission, pet adoption, public transportation information, etc.  Check their webpage here:  https://talgov.com/Main/Home.aspx

    They even have a crime map here (I check this all the time when showing houses – only good in Tallahassee city limits):  https://www.talgov.com/gis/tops/

    The city sits in Leon County.  While Tallahassee is the biggest city, it is not the only city in Leon County.  Woodville is the other city in the county – it sits to the south and east, just above the coastal county – Wakulla. There are some communities within the Tallahassee city limits that are annexed (meaning they are not part of the city) and therefore governed by the county (we see you Lakeshore!).  This is where it can get tricky.  Fortunately, it happens to many locals, so the government officials are quick to verify you are talking to the correct office.  Here is the county’s webpage:  https://cms.leoncountyfl.gov/

    Tallahassee is the capital of Florida, and many of the state offices are located within city limits.  That also comes with many state jobs.  The website for the state of Floridahttp://www.myflorida.com/ is beautiful and to the point.  It’s a great starting location for searching for state agencies, Florida statutes and representatives, etc.  If you are looking for a job with the state, check out this site:  https://jobs.myflorida.com/

    Parks – city/county/state

    With so many to choose from we cannot post them all here.  Tallahassee city parks have won awards from many organizations. Most public parks are pet friendly – as long as they are kept on a leash. Check out our Blog posts for the best hiking trails, water trails, walking tours, picnic areas and more!  Our favorite parks are Tom Brown, Klapp Phipps, Cascades, Alford Parkway/Lafayette Park, Lake Ella.

    Transportation and Traffic

    Like most cities now there are plenty of Uber and Lyft drivers to help you get around without a vehicle of your own in the city.  During game days there may be a long wait near the university.

    If you are near the capitol near lunchtime, there are FREE trolley rides each with a 20-minute tour that stops near some great restaurants.  One runs from the capitol north to Midtown and the other runs west down towards the college and back Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 to 2:50. There is also a dinner one that runs from 4:30pm to 1am.  Check out their routes and interactive map here:  https://www.talgov.com/starmetro/trolley.aspx

    Tallahassee does have a metro bus system – called the Star Metro.  The routes and rates can be found here: https://www.talgov.com/starmetro/starmetroHome.aspx There is even an electric bus that has wireless internet available for passengers.

    One more word about traffic in Tallahassee.  The city is in the shape of a tire with the capital at the center and the spokes are major traffic arteries heading to local towns.  So, no matter where you go in Tallahassee, you are half an hour from even the furthest location.  Unless you are on Capital Circle at rush hour, then you sit and watch the bicyclist make it home before you.  Ya – doesn’t every city have one of those roads?

    Sports facilities

    If you are looking for a place to toss the football around, we have lots of parks with open spaces, and pets on leashes are welcome!  If you are interested in intramural sports, there are lots of options between the city leagues, private groups, and universities. There are public boards posted in each park featuring groups looking for new victims participants.  There is an app called “Meetup” where locals create groups.  Many groups are dedicated to sports.

    We recently checked out the frisbee golf course at Tom Brown Park.  While I can’t claim to be any good, it was a day full of laughs and fun in the sun!  Tallahassee also has beautiful golf courses open to the public. Tallahasseans love to live outdoors and there is plenty to do if you are stir crazy from being indoors – no matter the season!! You can bring your leashed companions to most public areas outdoors.  Many restaurants have outdoor seating under a roof that allows you to bring well-behaved and leashed fur-bearing family members.  Check out our blog articles and remember – our lists are not exhaustive. They only include a few of our favorites.  Check back often for more information and pictures of our ever-growing list of favorite local spots.

    County’s webpage for open spaces and areas for sports:

    http://cms.leoncountyfl.gov/Home/Departments/Office-of-Resource-Stewardship/Parks-and-Recreation/Sports-Facilities?page23367=1&size23367=50

    Hikinghttps://www.trailahassee.com/

    City leagues:  https://www.talgov.com/parks/sports.aspx

    FSU Campus and off-campus recreation sportshttps://campusrec.fsu.edu/

    Cost of Living – Taxes

    Florida does not have any state income tax, so it relies on sales tax to fund the government jobs and services throughout the state.  However, if you live in Florida and work in Georgia, as some of my neighbors do, you will pay Georgia income tax.

    The sales tax for Florida is 6%.  In Leon County the sales tax is 1.5%, making it a total of 7.5% for sales in Tallahassee.  Tallahassee does not have a city sales tax but does have a gas tax and a 10% utility tax on water and electricity.

    The property tax for every homeowner is collected by the county each year.  If you purchased a home you will be responsible for paying the entire year but will be given credit at closing from the seller for their pro-rated tax responsibility.  Many moving into the area are surprised by the low amount of taxes and some people feel that they are high.  There are many exemptions available to help lower that tax burden – including the homestead exemption.  With all their available exemptions, two customers of mine who bought homes at $250,000 this year both have a tax burden of around $2,000.

    If you live in your Florida home, you can claim a homestead exemption up to $50,000 (though only $25,000 of that is an exemption for non-school taxes).  There are also exemptions for blind persons, those totally and permanently disabled, widow(ers), those over 65, and veterans and their families.  I heard tax officials say that it never hurts to ask to have your property tax assessment reviewed.  Check out their webpage for more explanation: https://www.leonpa.org/_dnn/General-Info/FAQ

    Cost of Living

    According to nerdwallet.com, the cost of living in Tallahassee is 20% lower than living in Chicago, IL and 45% lower than Brooklyn, NY.

    Check this link out here to see how your city compares to Tallahassee, Florida.

    Cost of Living – Housing

    In the time I have spent working with people moving to, in, and around Tallahassee, many are told to purchase a home in the northeast side of Tallahassee.  Tallahassee is set up like a wheel with the capital complex in the center and the spokes are the major roadways out of town.  Tallahassee is split east/west by Meridian Road that runs along the meridian line for a time in town.  It is roughly split north/south by Apalachee Parkway or Rt 20.  While the northeast is popular and growing, it is not the only desirable location anymore.  Southwood (in the southeast) is constantly expanding and very popular with families with young children.

    Check out our pages for each of the zip codes in Tallahassee.

    The median sales price of a single-family home in 2020 was $225,000, up 13% from $199,000 in 2019.  We have a lower inventory of sales but have sold more of them than we have in previous years.  Fewer homes expire without a sale, and days on market have dropped in 2020 for sellers.  Even during the pandemic (or perhaps because of it) we still have many people moving to our mild climate and awesome city from around the country.  If you have thought about selling – call us!  We would love to help!

    Is the Crime High in Tallahassee?

    Tallahassee has a bad rap when it comes to crime, some of it is not deserved.  Until 2019, Tallahassee had the highest crime rate in Florida for five years.  It made local news in 2020, that we had lost our place at the top of that ignominious list and had a 12+% drop in crime.  Our numbers for the index crimes still place Tallahassee near the top of crime rates for cities in the state of Florida.  Part of that is that Tallahassee is not a large town and in the influx of 20 – 30,000 students is a sizable percentage of our census population.  Those students, while not counted in our census numbers, are committing a higher rate of crimes here.  On top of that, we have seven law enforcement agencies in Tallahassee.  That many officers in a training ground are likely to lead to a lot of traffic tickets, DUI stops (we are a party town), drunken assaults, and searches incidental to arrests.  Many officers I have spoken to have said crime would be less of a problem if students locked their doors.

    Like many cities, we have areas that are ‘rougher’ than others.  If you decide to buy a home here, hire a professional realtor that knows the town.  There are some areas that are in transition and unless your Tallahassee Realtor has been paying attention to the trends, they may not see the warning signs of potential investment loss.  Most neighborhoods in Tallahassee are safe from crime and investment loss. We have had positive growth for years in Tallahassee.

    Tallahassee does put its police activity online.  This is only for Tallahassee, outlying areas are not included on this page. You can see some crime history here as well when you type in your address: https://www.talgov.com/gis/tops/

    If you are wondering whether police have ever been called to your home, most government documents in Florida are public record.  You can travel to the Tallahassee Police Department and/or the Leon County Sheriff’s Office (depending on the location of your potential home) and ask for any records that comes up with your address.

    When I did that public records search for the first home I bought in Tallahassee, I found out that the previous owner had committed suicide in the backyard. In Florida, Realtors are not required to tell you whether there has ever been a murder or death in the home.  Many wouldn’t even know how to find out even if they were asked.

    Hospitals

    There are two large hospitals in the Tallahassee area.  Tallahassee Memorial Hospital is located near mid-town on Miccosukee Road.  The hospital was founded in 1948 and is a private, not-for-profit facility run by a board of directors.  Whenever I have had surgery, I have found TMH to be professional and caring. Check them out here: https://www.tmh.org/

    Capital Regional Medical Center is located near Capital Circle off Miccosukee.  The CRMC hospital is part of the HCA network and is operated for-profit.  Their website does have a cool ER wait time timer (also used in billboards and other advertising) to let you know how long the wait might be if you do go.  If you have more questions, check them out here:  https://capitalregionalmedicalcenter.com/

    Tallahassee Schools

    One of the highest-rated high schools (on both greatschools.com and schooldigger.com) is the Florida Virtual School.  One of the comments made by a poster who claimed to have recently graduated from FVS is that there was a lot of choices and as a student, he felt that he had a voice.  Perhaps if you have a motivated student, the virtual school is an option, and apparently a highly rated one.  If you do not feel tied to a school zone, there are bargains to be had in real estate – even in a seller’s market.

    Many parents want to know about the schools they are zoned for and on this page you can plug in any address and see the school zone.  https://www.leonschools.net/domain/101

    If your child has special needs or excels in a particular area or you want them to attend a school near their family caretaker, you can request that your child be moved to an alternate school.  There are some schools with very long waiting lists and you can choose up to three schools on the form.  You can find more information about school choice here: https://www.leonschools.net/site/Default.aspx?PageID=2665

    Tourism websites

    We are not the only ones who love Tallahassee.  If you just can’t get enough of our darling little city, check out these pages too!

    https://visittallahassee.com/

    https://www.visitflorida.com/en-us.html

    Looking for something to do?  Check out these Tallahassee Event pages!

    Here are some business-related upcoming events: https://www.850businessmagazine.com/things-to-do/

    History related events:

    https://museumoffloridahistory.com/programs-and-events/monthly-events/

    https://www.missionsanluis.org/events-calendar/

    https://www.goodwoodmuseum.org/goodwood-events/

    Tallahassee

    https://visittallahassee.com/events/

    Nature

    https://tallahasseemuseum.org/events/

    https://wakullasprings.org/wakulla-springs-events

    https://www.railroadsquare.com/events

     

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