There’s never a shortage of “best” lists circulating the Internet, ranking cities, beaches, hotels, schools … whatever might be good for marketing people. Typically, however, these lists are as scientific as the ones David Letterman might use in his “Top 10” comedy bit on “Late Show.”
A new list released last week, however, compared some real numbers important to people looking for a place to settle down: availability of good homes that are affordable in an area with solid growth. And one of the areas that have excelled in all these categories is very close to home: Wesley Chapel.
The designation comes from NerdWallet, a San Francisco-based online financial services advice company that is run by, for a lack of a better term, nerds. Wesley Chapel was compared against nearly 180 other areas towns, cities and areas in Florida, and ranked the fourth best area for homeownership in Florida.
“The beauty of Wesley Chapel is that everything you need is right here,” said Hope Allen, the Greater Wesley Chapel Chamber of Commerce’s executive director. “Here you have a world class hospital, a fabulous shopping and dining experience, and it’s a great place to buy a home.”
Amenities are important, of course. But NerdWallet was paying close attention to slightly different questions: Are homes available? Can people afford to live there? And is the area growing?
The answer to all three questions was a resounding yes for Wesley Chapel. The median monthly income for residents in the area is $6,153, but housing costs are just under $1,700. That means people in Wesley Chapel are spending just 27 percent of their income on housing, a number that would make any statistician smile.
“Homeowner costs and the percentage of household income is a really important measure,” said Maggie Clark, an analyst with NerdWallet who worked the numbers for the Florida study. “Generally, anything under 30 percent is considered affordable.”
The area also had population growth of nearly 11 percent in a two-year period between 2010 and 2012, second only to Jacksonville’s Oakleaf Plantation, which also finished at the top of the overall survey.
And affordability is key to attracting new residents, not just from the Tampa Bay area, but beyond.
Sam Turgeon, a broker and owner of Sunlight Realty in Lutz, said his home state of Connecticut is feeling the pinch of higher taxes and homes that are being priced out of many people’s range.
“Many of them are hitting retirement age and realize very quickly they can’t afford to live there on the pension and savings they have,” Turgeon said. “People started doing the math, and realized that they were going to outlast their money. So they’re selling their houses up there, and coming down here. And I think that is good.”
The only area in the Tampa Bay region that finished higher than Wesley Chapel was the Keystone area, located just outside of Odessa in Hillsborough County, at No. 2. Housing there is a bit more expensive — nearly $2,400 a month — but income is a little higher too at nearly $8,900 monthly.
What really pushed Keystone over the top, however, was the fact that 94 percent of its residents own their home, compared to just 75 percent in Wesley Chapel. In fact, the only other area that even came close to the high ownership rate was Jacksonville’s Fruit Cove area, which chalks up a 90 percent rate.
Yet a good mixture of owned homes and rental options means a solid, diverse community. It also means that someone looking to call Wesley Chapel home can do it whether they want to own a home, or just rent one. And when renters are ready to invest in a new home, they’ll likely stick with the area they’ve already been spending time in.
“Pasco County is just an attractive place to live,” Turgeon said. “The taxes are far less because you’re not in the middle of a city, you still have access to anything you might need, and you don’t have that same overhead cost as you would in Hillsborough.”
And Wesley Chapel will only continue to grow. More than 12,000 homes are ready to be added to the mix, the chamber’s Allen said, and statewide polls like the NerdWallet one can help make those homes fill up even faster.
“It’s another great highlight of the area,” Allen said. “You can tout something like this to people who are looking to grow and expand business in Wesley Chapel because their work force can have affordable housing with all the amenities.
“This is just another notch in our belt in getting more business here.”
To read the complete study from NerdWallet, click here.
Published Feb. 26, 2014.