Changes in Latitude
Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys, is the only county in Florida that has steadily lost population over the past five years. Is it part of the Keys' ebb and flow or something more ominous?
Kelly and Terry McMurtrie were already fed up with life on Big Pine Key when their windstorm insurance bill came in the mail: A $5,000 annual premium for a house insured for $149,000.
PRICED OUT: Steep increases in the cost of living are driving families out of the Keys. Home prices in Key West average $1 million. Meanwhile, Monroe County homeowners pay the highest windstorm rates in the state.
Kelly is a union pipe welder whose work takes him around the country. He and his wife, in their 40s, can live wherever they wish. In 1997, they bought their peach-colored home on stilts for $117,000 in what they thought would be paradise. But like many others who move to the Keys expecting life will be as laid-back as a beach chair, they were in for a surprise. "Paradise is great for vacation," says Terry McMurtrie. "But to live there every day is a very hard life."
Today, the McMurtries' canal-front home is up for sale, for $489,000. They've moved to Homosassa Springs on Florida's west coast, where they bought a cozy block home on three acres for $84,000. They're thinking about farming blueberries.