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On the southeast coast of Florida, just thirty minutes south of West Palm Beach and an hour north of Miami, lies Boca Raton, an attractive and enticing beach community. With a smaller population of just under 100,000 people and a landscape full of golf courses, country clubs, and beaches, Boca Raton is a popular destination for tourists and retirees but still manages to attract families, business leaders, and young singles. The weather is largely hot, humid, and cloudy in the summer and warm, windy, and clear in the winter. Of course, being in Florida, there is a fair amount of rain, with the rainiest month being September, and hurricanes are a real threat, particularly during the months of June to November.
With no shortage of natural attractions, some of the top sites in Boca Raton include the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. This huge 20-acre coastal sanctuary is an excellent place to view sharks, turtles, and iguanas in their natural habitat. There are opportunities to kayak among the mangroves or stroll along the boardwalk trail. The center includes an aquarium, butterfly garden, a turtle walk and hatchling release program, and the Sea Turtle Rehabilitation Facility. For more of a swampy experience, the Daggerwing Nature Center offers an exhibit hall and boardwalk through swampland where alligators can be seen. Fans of outdoor water recreation can visit the beaches in Red Reef Park or Spanish River Park where there are options for snorkeling, body surfing, stand-up paddle boarding (SUP), swimming, and kayaking.
For those with children in tow, Boca Raton is much more than golf courses and fine dining. Sugar Sand Park, a massive 132-acre complex, houses a carousel, playground, nature trails, and the Children’s Science Explorium, a free and interactive experience that offers kids the chance for some hands-on learning. Another venue sure to please kids and adults alike is the Coconut Cove Waterpark, which offers stomach-churning water slides for the adrenaline junkies and a lazy river for more laid-back visitors.
As you might expect, given the city’s reputation for being an amusement park for wealthy retirees, Boca Raton’s Mizner Park has excellent shopping and dining options. However, it also houses the Boca Raton Museum of Art, an outdoor amphitheater, and on Sundays, the Artisans and Green Market, which is the best place in the area to snag some fresh produce. A handful of other noteworthy attractions include the Boca Raton Historical Society and Museum, the Sports Immortals Museum, and the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, where visitors can enjoy 16 acres of serene landscaping including a lush waterfall and a peaceful bamboo forest.
Drawn by Florida’s business-friendly tax code as well as the notably lower housing market prices when compared with San Francisco, Los Angeles, or New York, Boca Raton is a growing economic power. Over 200 companies are headquartered here, including Tyco Integrated Security, ADT Security, and Office Depot. The three main industries in the city are professional, scientific, and technical services, retail, and educational services.
Boca Raton was initially designed to be a resort town, and it wasn’t until 1925, during the height of the Florida land boom, that the city was incorporated. Architect Addison Mizner had a grand vision for the town as a haven for the rich and famous, planning it all to be in a Mediterranean Revival style. Though many of his initial plans were never completed, he did leave an indelible stamp on Boca Raton, and Mediterranean Revival architecture is a common style here, with its trademark light-colored stucco exteriors, smooth arches, wrought iron details, and barreled Spanish tile roofs. For an example of Mizner’s work, the Cloister Inn, constructed in 1926 and now a wing of the Boca Raton Resort and Club, is still standing. Mizner dreamed of making Boca Raton the “world’s most architecturally beautiful playground,” and though his vision never fully came to fruition, Boca Raton’s architecture remains visually stunning, even if more stylistically mixed than Mizner had intended.
In the 1960s, IBM came to Boca Raton, and famed modernist architect Marcel Breuer designed their local campus in the Brutalist style. Characterized by blocky, chunky exteriors and massive amounts of poured concrete, the IBM Campus became an important feature of the Boca Raton economy and is credited as the site where IBM’s personal computer was born. Even though IBM left Boca Raton in the 1990s, the building still stands as an important architectural feature in the city. It is currently an office park known as the Boca Raton Innovation Campus, or BRiC.
As is to be expected in a land originally destined for only Mediterranean-style architecture, many private homes in the Boca Raton area feature Spanish and Mediterranean Revival qualities. The most tell-tale sign is their signature reddish-hued Spanish tile roofs. Surprisingly, another popular style is Art Deco. These feature sleek-edged exteriors and chevron-like detailing. The Aragon Condominiums, built in the 1990s, showcase this kind of geometric retro-style design.
Key West-style homes are also popular throughout south Florida, which take their inspiration from old Caribbean plantation-style homes. These often feature clean, white interiors, pastel-colored exteriors, raised patios (to mitigate flood risks), and shuttered windows. The classic American ranch-style is also easy to find in Boca Raton. Proliferating through the middle of the twentieth century, these homes are often one story with a built-in garage, wood or brick exteriors, and sliding glass doors.
Finally, in a city and housing market with lavish tastes, there is one final aesthetic that is exceedingly popular: French country style homes. These can often be found in country club communities around golf courses. They feature wood and stone exteriors, heavy garage doors with iron accents, as well as high ceilings with elevated roofing to match. Often designed to mimic a French chateau or farmhouse, they exude luxury and casual grandeur.
But whether the lowly ranch or the palatial French chateau, Realm found several commonalities throughout the Boca Raton housing market. Like many areas of Florida, pools are a desirable amenity. In fact, Realm’s data analysis found that they were the most popular feature in the housing market, highlighted in 2,180 recent real estate listings. Other outdoor features like patios and fences were also popular in the local housing market. Patios had 1,106 mentions, putting them in second place, while fences were the fifth most popular feature, with mentions in 570 listings. On a more functional note, HVAC systems came in third most popular with mentions in 787 listings, while roofing was featured in 782 listings. This is good news since Boca Raton’s hot and rainy weather make a solid HVAC system and an up-to-date roof very important features.
Realm’s data analysis found that most homes in Boca Raton were built in 1988. On the whole, major structural issues seen in older homes can likely be mostly avoided here. However, there are a few quirks in 1980s homes as well as some basic maintenance and upkeep that homeowners should be aware of. As an aesthetic side note, even if you like the home’s exterior, you may find the interior of a 1980s home needs some updating. Layouts in homes from that era were often more closed, and portions of the home may simply feel dated. If you’re thinking about renovating, Realm’s free dashboard can show you how much a project will cost, as well as the long-term value a renovation can add to the property.
Though this is not true of all homes constructed in the ‘80s, many houses had their plumbing done with polybutylene pipes instead of the traditional copper ones. The idea was to make plumbing lighter and less expensive, but polybutylene ended up being a poor choice in material. The plastic reacts with chemicals that are often found in municipal water supplies, like chlorine. This causes the piping to scale, flake, fracture, and potentially burst, which can lead to water damage in the home, in addition to the obvious plumbing expenses. This kind of piping can usually be identified in areas where the pipes are visible like attached to the sink or toilet, or at the water shutoff valve.
A home from 1988 is now over thirty years old, and depending on the maintenance that has been done, it may be time for a new water heater, HVAC system, or roofing. Though these items may have already been replaced once, it is important to learn their age and determine whether a replacement is necessary now, or how far down the line it will become necessary.
The foundation, as with any house, should be closely inspected for any erosion, or diagonal or stair-step cracks that could indicate structural issues, and the property’s grading should be assessed for proper drainage. Hidden water damage is a big issue for homes in a rainy area like Florida, and potential homeowners should be hyper aware of their property’s propensity to flood, get damp, or hold on to water. This could be very costly and damaging to the property in the long run.
Considering that Boca Raton does get quite a bit of rain, the threat from floods is relatively low. Realm’s data analysis found that 94% of homes in Boca Raton were not in a flood zone. Even though hurricanes can cause unpredictable damage, and residents of Boca Raton should remain vigilant about the weather, this is a great little piece of data for potential homeowners to know. Additionally, 100% of homes in Boca Raton were outside of a designated perimeter for a wildfire that has occurred in the last five years.
Is Boca Raton an expensive area?
Relative to the rest of the state, which is more in line with the national average, Boca Raton is considered an expensive area, coming in at about 25-30% higher than the rest of the country. It is cheaper than large metro areas like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Boston but that isn’t saying much. Housing in Boca Raton comes at a premium, and depending on the buyer’s priorities, the value of their new home may not line up with just how much cash they’ll have to shell out to secure it.
What is it like to live in Boca Raton?
Despite its smallish population, Boca Raton still exudes an urban feel, and with many excellent schools and attractions, living in Boca Raton will likely feel safe, upscale, and fun. However, depending on income and financial means, those looking to relocate to Boca Raton should be prepared to spend a fair amount on housing. As of October 2021, the median home value in the city was $458,600, compared to the national median of $217,500. Real estate pricing is higher here than in other areas of the state, but for many, the amenities a luxury community like Boca Raton provides make it well worth the price tag.
How much does it cost to live comfortably in Boca Raton?
As stated above, Boca Raton is a moderately expensive city. Housing prices are higher here on average, and the general cost of living is above average for the United States. It is hard to know exactly how much an individual will need to live comfortably since the definition of comfortable can vary greatly from person to person. However, for some context, the average salary in Boca Raton is around $67,000 per year (median is cited as $83,114) compared to the average wage in the US which hovers around $51,000-$52,000 (median of $62,843). It would appear that one needs to make a bit more than the norm to make ends meet in Boca Raton.
We currently cover most standalone, single-family homes