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Boca Raton, Florida, is well-known as a warm oceanside getaway where palm trees sway in the breeze amid Japanese gardens and beautiful beaches. But Boca’s not just for tourists. The southernmost city in Palm Beach County of just under 100,000 is a mix of families, young professionals, and seniors who enjoy year-round temperatures between 60 and 90 degrees, plenty of outdoor activities for humans and canines alike, museums, shopping, and a thriving restaurant scene.
Boca is known for historic waterfront mansions and excellent schools. Homes here have median price tags over $100,000 above the national average, and the real estate market is highly competitive. Potential buyers must have skilled, locally knowledgeable real estate agents to ensure sellers and brokers are interested.
We spoke with a lifelong Florida resident and real estate agent about the unique real estate climate in this seaside locale. Our comprehensive guide will help you choose a neighborhood, understand local inventory, and learn why it’s critical to get a home inspection when you buy a house in Boca Raton.
What’s the lay of the land in Boca?
Boca Raton is about 20 miles from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport and 23 miles from Palm Beach International Airport. You can easily access it from global destinations like London, England; São Paulo, Brazil; and Toronto, Canada. Boca Raton Airport serves recreational, corporate, and training clients who want a more personalized experience.
How do people get around?
About 76.1% of Boca Raton residents drive to work, but there are a lot of other transportation options. It can be less expensive and more sustainable to take public transportation to get around — and beyond — the city. The Tri-Rail regional commuter rail system runs from Miami Airport to Mangonia Park, stopping at the Yamato Road Tri-Rail Station in Boca. There are also free shuttles from the stop to local hotspots like the Town Center at Boca Raton and nearby universities. The Palm Tran is a countywide bus system that features seven routes throughout the area, connecting to the Tri-Rail Shuttle. This makes it easy for visitors to get from the airport to most areas of the city.
What do people do for fun?
Boca Raton earns an A+ for amenities on AreaVibes because there is so much to do! If you like getting outside, head to one of the three public beaches or 46 parks to catch some sun, play Frisbee, or relax. Dog owners can head to Mizner Bark Dog Park off Banyan trail, or visit the Bark Park Dog Beach to play fetch and cool off. Don’t forget to bring sunscreen and your pup’s favorite toys!
The Festival of the Arts Boca is an annual cultural arts gathering spread throughout the city. The gathering includes concerts, theatrical productions, and author talks. This year is the 14th anniversary of this area staple! If you like outdoor concerts, check out the many musical performances at The Pavilion at Old School Square. Recent performances include The Wailers, Keller Williams, and Easton Corbin. Bring ear plugs or covers for little ones as this venue can get pretty loud.
The Fogelman Sports Museum at FAU houses over 1,200 sports-related items for public viewing. Check out Babe Ruth’s New York Yankee uniform and the 13 original rules of basketball. These exhibits are free and will entice sports lovers of all ages. It’s an excellent place to cool off after playing in the waves.
Visitors and locals love the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach. The park features stunning Japanese gardens that’ll calm even the busiest of minds! Head to the museum to sip authentic tea and view rotating exhibits. Past galleries have included tattoo art, pottery, and samurai armor. And you just might leave with some inspiration to update the landscaping on your property!
For those who like to hit the links, there are a handful of golf courses within city limits, including the 200-acre Boca Raton Municipal Golf Course. This well-manicured 18-hole, par 72 Championship Course is open to the public year-round, and requires reserved tee times. Grab your argyle socks and slather on the sunscreen to fit in and stay sun-safe.
Is the area environmentally focused?
Boca Raton residents are increasingly focusing on sustainability and minimizing their impact on the environment. The area gets sunshine nearly 230 days a year on average, and homeowners are tapping into the solar potential. The Palm Beach County Solar Co-op is free for residents to join to earn competitive installation rates and bulk pricing on solar energy. Why not take advantage of this free, limitless natural resource? Residents also may be eligible for help paying for new systems by partaking in PACE, the Property Assessed Clean Energy program.
Will the schools be a good fit for my kids?
If you buy a house in Boca Raton, you’ll enjoy excellent schools. In fact, Addison Mizner Elementary and Waters Edge Elementary have earned 10/10 GreatSchools scores. This measurement accounts for academic improvements, performing above-average on state testing, and offering opportunities for disadvantaged students.
Getting to know local housing
Chris Cusimano is a lifelong Florida resident with nearly 16 years of experience as a real estate agent. He has sold 82 percent of his listings and sells 13% more Boca Raton homes than local agents. Cusimano lives in Boca Raton, and he — like his clientele — loves it for the weather and variety of houses.
If you like condo living, you’re in luck. Boca Raton offers these private residences with shared common areas throughout the city, including waterfront penthouses with unforgettable views. Many condo communities offer pools, patios, and fitness facilities perfect for people interested in staying fit, having fun, and getting to know their neighbors.
Check out One Thousand Ocean condos off Ocean Boulevard for one- and two-story villas and penthouses. The waterfront residences each have a plunge pool, private terrace, and outdoor kitchen. Listings range from a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half-bathroom condo for $3,995,000 to penthouses around $13 million.
Akoya Boca West off Boca West Drive features luxury residences with over 400,000 square feet of clubhouse amenities from golf courses to pools. Condos range from $1.4 million to over $4 million, and residents love the immediate access to nearby I-95, Mizner Park, and Town Center at Boca Raton. Amenities include private elevators, private parking, and a top-notch fitness center that is open 24/7.
People looking for older, historic homes should head to East Boca Raton. Many of these houses are Old Floresta style, offering Spanish Mission style with stucco, lots of windows, and barrel tiled roofs. Mizner Industries, a local developer in the late 1800s through early 1900s, created this architectural trend.
Prices range from $824,900 for a four-bedroom, two-bathroom home to $2,750,000 for a five-bedroom, six-bathroom estate. These large homes also feature larger lots. However, they may require more maintenance because of their age and proximity to the ocean.
Some of these residences are a part of the Historic District, which preserves important area architecture. The narrow, tree-lined streets give way to beautiful beaches, shopping opportunities at Mizner Park, and The Boca Raton Resort & Club. Families love the Science Explorium at Sugar Sand Park, where they can check out the science playground and try interactive educational exhibits. It’s a great place to entertain your kids during South Florida rains.
Check out West Boca for retiree communities and residences for those age 55 and over. Century Village is a popular social living space with amenities like a theater, clubhouse, and library. Listings here run from $54,000 for a 715-square-foot unit to $365,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo. You’ll barely use a car when you have immediate access to all this entertainment.
Many families move to western Boca, where homes were built in the 1990s or more recently, and have less upkeep than their eastern neighbors. Neighborhoods like Clint Moore Rd/Jorg Rd offer many parks and walking paths. Here, you’ll find Calusa Elementary School and Waters Edge Elementary School, which have earned 10/10 ratings on GreatSchools.
What’s your Boca budget?
The median home value in Boca Raton is $529,415 as of February 2021. That’s higher than the national average home price of $309,800, but the wide variety of offerings make the city a desirable place for many to call home. Boca homes range from $85,000 for one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments to $16 million for seven-bedroom, 13-bathroom mansions. There’s truly something for everyone.
Property taxes in Palm Beach County are around 3.68%, around three times the national average of 1.1%. If you want a better idea of how much taxes will add to your bottom line, you can use a calculator to estimate the property taxes on a listing you’re interested in. Owners can pay property taxes once or twice a year, depending on what fits their budgets.
Are you thinking about renting, instead? The average cost for rent in Boca is $2,000, about $500 more than the national average. High-end areas like Boca West average $2,614, while Royal Oak Hills averages $1,662 monthly rent.
If you’re looking for a home to live in seasonally and rent out on Airbnb, Boca may not be the place for you. The local legislature is cracking down on short-term rentals, barring them from many single-family neighborhoods. Some area residents support this ruling because it limits unruly parties and potential security risks. Snowbirds hoping to winter in the area may be in luck, as rentals of 6 months or more may be legal. Talk with your agent about whether listings you like are legally rentable.
Competing in a hot market
The Boca housing market has started the first months of 2021 hot, and Cusimano advises buyers that there is no room for negotiation. “Multiple bidding wars are very common right now, and sellers have the luxury of choosing,” he says. “Contracts are being accepted above market value.”
With mortgage interest rates around 2.88%, demand is high, making it a seller’s market. Additionally, COVID-19 has contributed to low inventory levels, as many people, especially seniors, don’t want to risk exposure through open houses and showings. As a result, simultaneous closings are common, with sellers waiting to accept an offer before searching for a house themselves. The turnaround time is typically 60 days from offer acceptance to closing, allowing sellers to purchase and relocate.
Understanding Florida HOAs
It’s difficult to find a home in Boca that isn’t part of a homeowners association. Residents pay annual and/or monthly fees for the HOA to maintain community property, such as landscaping, paved areas, clubhouses, golf courses, and pools. These prices go up in accordance with the number of and size of the community features.
Many monthly HOA costs are under $400, while low-cost HOAs may have annual fees under $500. Cusimano says some homes on golf courses or within clubhouse communities may have fees topping $20,000 per year.
These governing bodies may facilitate utilities like garbage pickup and internet access, and make rules on what aesthetic and construction changes are allowed for yards and buildings. Be sure to ask the listing agent about the last 10 years of HOA fees to understand the changing cost. The HOA fee may seem more reasonable when you account for all the utilities and amenity fees you won’t have to pay separately.
Are there common concerns when buying a home in Boca?
If you plan to buy a house in Boca Raton, it’s important to get a home inspection to provide insight into potential issues with the house, like roof leaks, foundation instability, and electrical wiring problems. Boca homes also come with additional considerations that are unique to the area.
Boca Raton homes are vulnerable to many ant species that make their homes in walls along moisture-damaged areas or in kitchens, basements, and crawl spaces. Homeowners can help avoid infestations by caulking potential entrances around pipes, vents, or foundation cracks. Address leaks immediately to limit moisture damage that may attract insects and keep kitchens clean so you won’t attract the tiny invaders. But if you’re going to buy a house in Boca Raton, it’s worthwhile to get a pest inspection to identify infestations and damage so you can prevent repeat offenders.
Boca Raton is vulnerable to damaging winds due to tropical storms and hurricanes. Buyers looking to own houses adjacent to the ocean should get seawall inspections to understand the structural stability, necessary repairs or updates, and the wall’s lifespan. You don’t want to invest in a property only to find that it could be under water!
Most of the city is in a flood hazard area, designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This means it’s a region with drainage trouble, and that may require special building permits. Areas near waterways like canals and inlets can flood as the city is only 9 meters above sea level. Those who buy a house in Boca Raton should look into getting flood insurance, as standard homeowners insurance policies don’t typically cover damage from rising waters.
Find a top buyer’s agent
If you buy a house in Boca Raton, you could be trading busy, gray city streets for tropical pathways and oceanside dining!
The key to having your Boca Raton offer approved is to work with a top agent who understands the local market and area. They’ll know how to negotiate on your behalf and can leverage their relationships with local brokers to give you a leg up on competing offers.
The best local buyer’s agents sell 4.5 times more homes per year than their competitors, and at a 52% lower sale price. Talk to a top Boca Raton real estate agent to start your home search today.
Header Image Source: (katie manning / Unsplash)