Marion County, Florida Real Estate on the Rise

By: Phil Laboon

One of the fastest growing counties in the nation, Marion County Florida is quickly becoming a viable investment option for those looking for an alternative to costly, crowded major Florida cities. With less than 70,000 residents, the county has nearly quadrupled to a population of 250,000. For the past few years the county has consistently ranked as one of the three fastest growing areas in the nation while still maintaining a diverse community where country life still dominates some areas. Comprised of five different vastly different cities, Marion County boasts a well-preserved history coupled with the vitality of a major metropolis.

Even with its continuous growth, Marion County remains affordable. Modern single-family new homes are priced from $120,000 up, while brand new apartment complexes offer monthly rates starting at just $570/ month. Local developers have caught onto the recent trend of building gated communities, but, like other Marion County real estate, home prices in these luxury communities remain affordable. In fact, in 2000 the National Association of Realtors named Marion County's Ocala as having the third most affordable housing in the nation.

Ocala, the seat of county government, is by far the largest city within the county and was recently named one of the top 50 small metropolitan areas in the country by Inc. Magazine. Ocala also boasts the second highest real estate appreciation rate in the nation at 25.9%, just behind the recovering Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But the region is not shaping up to be an industrial, urban smog kingdom; the air quality (91.2%) is 20 percentage points higher than the average of CNN's top ten places to live. And the city is surrounded by historic districts, a national forest, and Florida's second largest artesian spring.

Among the many nature-based attractions is Marion County's equestrian industry. In 1999 the U.S. Department of Agriculture named Marion County the 'Horse Capital of the World' due to its number of horses in residence exceeding everywhere else in the country and praised its near 50 different breeds. Equestrian enthusiasts can seek employment in the county's massive thoroughbred industry that employs 29,000 Marion County residents. However, if you keep you with the times and modern culture interests you, the technology industry is also thriving. And the construction industry is one of the quickest in the state, issuing over 200 building permits each month. The new industries mark significant progress from an economy based solely on agriculture just thirty years ago.

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