Mindy Young | Naples Real Estate, Bonita Springs Real Estate, Estero Real Estate

Whether you're raising a family or getting ready to retire, there are a lot of desirable cities in the state of Florida that are worth considering for your next home.

Depending on your priorities, age, and lifestyle goals, different parts of Florida can offer the features and environments you're looking for -- everything from bustling urban settings to communities with a small-town ambiance.

Whatever mental picture you may have of Florida, right now, you'll discover that it's a vibrant state that's characterized by immense variety, diversity, and an overall high standard of living.

U.S. News & World Report publishes an analysis of some of the best places to live, every year, and has included nine Florida cities on its 2017 list of the 100 Best Places to Live in the USA. Since this list focuses on metropolitan areas -- as opposed to rural or other sparsely populated communities -- it's probably more useful to people interested in living in or near a medium-to-large size city.

However, if you want the best of both worlds, there's always the option of buying real estate in a quiet, less populated suburb that's within a relatively short drive to good jobs, entertainment, cultural venues, and recreation. An experienced Florida real estate agent will have the knowledge and ideas to help you find a new home that meets your criteria, budget, and lifestyle. So while there are plenty of nice houses, condos, and neighborhoods within a short walk to the ocean, there are also many inland properties that could prove to be an excellent match to your goals and requirements.

The Best Places to Live list is compiled using a variety of data, including "resident satisfaction" surveys, information on average commute time, and the strength of each city's job market. Other quality-of-life issues are also factored into the rankings, including crime rates, availability of quality health care, and educational standards at local high schools. One of several key elements in the rankings is a composite score from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. This data reflects the overall level of happiness residents derive from their day-to-day lives. If you're wondering what makes people happy in a particular location, the survey addresses that question by looking at a variety of influences and factors, such as people's financial health, degree of social interaction, community involvement, sense of purpose, and physical wellbeing. Other key elements used to rank the different cities include the annual cost of living for area homeowners, median household income, and how much population growth is occurring in each city.

While those nine cities listed in the report are not the only worthwhile metropolitan areas in Florida, the list can be a helpful starting point in narrowing down desirable areas for raising a family, building a career, or pursuing a retirement lifestyle.

Although several areas of the United States are considered desirable places to retire, Florida continues to be one of the leading choices among retirement age couples.

While the most obvious reasons relate to its warm climate, a vacation-like atmosphere, and close proximity to the beach, there are also some distinct financial advantages to living in the Sunshine State.

According to Kiplinger, "Florida has no state income tax, estate tax or inheritance tax, and it doesn't tax Social Security or other retirement income, either." While those advantages certainly wouldn't be the only reasons to settle down in Florida, those features could favorably affect your overall financial security and quality of life.

Since government and business leaders in Florida have long recognized the positive impact seniors have on the local and state economies, there are a lot of policies in place that are supportive of retirement-age residents. In addition to Florida's massive tourism industry, the state's retirement community plays a major role in helping to make Florida a vibrant and thriving place to live.

While the cost of living and health care varies from one Florida city to the next, those expenses are typically considered "average," as compared to other parts of the country. Whether you're in the market for an economical condo or a luxury mansion on the beach, you'll have access to a variety of appealing and affordable choices in Florida.

The starting point for finding a home that will meet your budgetary and lifestyle goals is to select an experienced and knowledgeable Florida real estate agent. Ideally, that person is someone who's responsive, proactive, and service oriented. Since you'll probably be spending a lot of time with them and communicating frequently, you'll also want to pick an agent with whom you feel comfortable and compatible. Although it's not always essential to interview multiple candidates before choosing one, it can be helpful to have points of comparison. Making that type of important decision in a vacuum can often produce less-than-optimal results.

Another element of a successful search for a Florida home is your own level of clarity. If you're unclear about your own requirements, priorities, or location preferences, then it will be difficult to communicate those needs to your real estate agent. The more details and specific information you can provide, the greater your chances for finding the ideal Florida home. While it does pay to have a little flexibility, there are certain things on which you may not want to waiver. If you need a certain number of bedrooms, proximity to the beach, or first-floor laundry, for example, those items would be included on your "must have" list. Access to quality health care, convenient shopping, and social activities might also be near the top of your priority list.