Lakeland's allure is its location—and not just because it's a 45-minute drive from Walt Disney World.
Many cost-conscious commuters work in the larger cities of Tampa, a 40-minute drive to the west, and Orlando, an hour northeast, but live in Lakeland. And why not? Home prices are way cheaper than Tampa's median $261,362 or Orlando's $299,950.
This influx of commuters is a huge step forward for the city, which was clobbered by the financial crisis. Long known for its breezy citrus groves and grassy pastures, the city faced vacant storefronts and foreclosure signs for years after the crash. But these days, houses have doubled in value and are selling fast, says Jason Brown, a real estate agent at S&D Real Estate Service based in Lakeland
“There’s very little inventory," he says. "And there are still buyers out there chomping at the bit.”
Central Florida commuters aren't the only ones rushing to move to Lakeland. Students are moving here to attend area schools such as Southeastern University and Florida Southern College. Plus, retirees and first-time home buyers are coming nonstop, lured by the warm weather, the city's new housing developments, and very low prices.
“There’s construction all over the place," Brown says.
Buyers in the Lakeland city limits can score new, three-bedroom, two-bathroom housesstarting at around $180,000. Or they can snap up existing condos and townhomes in gated communities for between $110,000 and $200,000.