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How I Moved to South Beach

Budget-Minded Tips from A New Resident
July 09, 2007 By Doug in Miami: Local News  | 90 Comments

Above: South Beach apartment for rent on 10th and Jefferson.

Let me preface these comments by pointing out that I’m extremely frugal.  Cheaper than Jack Benny! So if you’re planning to move here, rent a dee-luxe apartment in the sky and sip $12 martinis at Mansion every night, this probably isn’t for you!  I was drawn here, not by the allure of velvet ropes, the possibility of a J-Lo sighting, or the bling bling, so much as by the warm turquoise seas, tropical foliage, car-free lifestyle, and cheap Cuban food.  The steamy sexuality of the place was admittedly a strong draw as well, but these days, I am less concerned with the competitive aspects of seduction, and am more content to sit back and let all the pretty people be my ant farm.  It’s a lot less stress, and I get to hang on to my Toyota Tercel and my ratty jeans.  For those of you, who, like me, want to follow your bliss without forfeiting your life savings, listen up! I’ve picked up a lot of useful knowledge in my escape to paradise, and I’m happy to pass it on!

Why South Beach?

For me, South Beach is the perfect synthesis of cities I’ve lived in before: it has the diverse, walkable, neighborhood feel of a Manhattan borough, the sunshine and palm trees of LA, and the exotic, party atmosphere of New Orleans.  I experienced a connection with the place when I came down for my first visit in 1996, and have day-dreamed of moving here since then.  I would meander down this way at least once a year on vacations,  and my fascination with its tropical, international, sensual villagey vibe never waned.  This year, one of my resolutions was to stop postponing my joy, and to take the plunge.  Post-Katrina life in my hometown of New Orleans had me in a funk.  I’d endured one too many blinking red lights, potholes and TV news stories about out-of-control crime and FEMA woes.  There was a level of tension present in everything from the supermarket check-out lines to the traffic flow, so much so that it would make a road-enraged Miamian blush.  My Brangelina-inspired altruism running low, I knew it was time to pack up the truck and move to SoBe (take my shoes off; sat a spell…)  And here I am!  I actually pulled it off! This was my strategy.  Feel free to copy it or amend it as you see fit!

Above: South Beach apartment for rent south of 5th Street.

Finding your niche neighborhood

The first step in changing this mythic dream into reality was to find the apartment locale.  South Beach, though a relatively compact area, has a surprisingly diverse array of neighborhoods.

From my many past visits, I’d gleaned that life here flows a little easier at a stone’s throw from the hormone-driven craziness of Washington, Collins and Ocean.  Their equally buzzing Westside cousin, Alton Road,  main drag for the locals, was also something I wanted to be a little insulated from.  I also knew that close to Lincoln Road, parking becomes more difficult to find and, despite the appeal of the lilting samba melodies wafting out from its sophisticated sidewalk cafes, the density is at its densest.  South of Fifth, or So-Fi, has more condos and yuppies, and was therefore a little rich for my blood.  Consequently, I decided that the best spot for me would be in the neighborhood between Alton Road and Washington, close to Flamingo Park.  The streets there tend to be quieter, the foliage a bit more abundant, and the energy, a bit more mellow—but it‘s still a quick walk to the happening spots.  In this area, there are many older deco buildings, with a little new construction mixed in.  They tend to fall into three classes:

  1. people renting out the condos they’d so eagerly bought up during the now-defunct real estate boom
  2. rentals managed by professional real estate companies, like Regatta, Chrisken, and Keystone.
  3. privately owned multi-unit properties.  Of these three, privately-owned multi-unit properties are the best bargain, by far—if you can find them!

Condo rentals generally require application fees and a review process by the condo board—lots of red tape.  If you’re a pet lover, as I am, you’ll also discover that many places will charge hefty deposits and even non-refundable fees for your furry companions.  Additionally, property management companies are notorious for these petty (no pun intended) fees and deposits, some of which you may never see again! Along with the South Beach standard of first, last and security for move-in, these places will tack on anything else that sounds good: application fees, agent fees, cleaning fees, etc.  They want to make a profit, above and beyond the rent they’re collecting for the landlord, and this is how they do it.  My frugal, though perhaps somewhat risky strategy was to cut out the middle man, and find a property managed either directly by the owner, or by an on-site manager who dealt directly with him/her.

My first move was to visit my target neighborhood a few months before my intended moving date in the early summer, summer being the time when the vacancy rate is at its highest, and the best deals can be found.  I walked up and down Lenox, Michigan, Meridian, Jefferson, and Euclid.  I found the area closest to 5th had the highest amount of shady-looking characters, but shady here is a far cry from shady in my hometown of New Orleans, and I opted not to cross it off my list.  I zeroed in on one property in the 700 block of Michigan.  The two-story, 12 unit building oozed South Beach; it was ripe with character and nautical deco style .  The owner happened to be there that day, preparing a couple of units to rent.  I wandered in and he showed me around.  He told me that he had two units available, for $950 and $1000.  I regretfully explained that my move was still a ways away, and I took his name and number so I could check back with him when I was ready to get a place.


Above: South Beach news stands.

Avoiding the hustle

Over the next few months, I followed Craigslist religiously to study the rental trends.  Prices appeared to be heading upwards from the previous low of $900-950 (for a one bedroom) earlier in the year, to the $1000-$1100 mark.  The cost of rental housing was being dictated not so much by the vacancy rate as by rising property taxes and insurance rates, a byproduct of the 2004-2005 hurricane season.  I was hoping prices would fall after Easter.  They didn’t.  I also noticed that there and in the online listings (courtesy of, certain professionally-managed listings with artificially low prices stayed in from week to week—obviously a bait and switch tactic.  They would advertise something like, “Jr. one bedroom with balcony, French doors at 15xx Pennsylvania Avenue, $850”—and it would appear in issue after issue.  On Craigslist, one place with the same pics kept popping in week after week advertising parking, a pool, and really low rent.  I didn’t go for that, either.  I learned early on that when dealing with Craigslist, look for phone numbers in the ads—otherwise they are very likely bait planted by spammers who harvest the email addresses of people who reply!


About a month and a half before my moving date of June 1, I began contacting some of the local property management companies, sending emails to Regatta and Columbia Asset Management, the latter recommended by an online acquaintance in South Beach.  Regatta didn’t respond to my query, and neither did Columbia.  I followed up with Columbia by phone a few days later, and after much ado, was able to get a hold of an agent.  He mentioned a one-bedroom apartment that would be coming up on May 15 in a building near Lincoln Road for $950.  When I asked what part of the building the unit was located in, he became vague, replying that May 15 is just a rough date in which various units tend to become available there.  When I inquired about move-in costs, he was equally nebulous.  “Do you mean cable and stuff?” he countered.  I explained that I wanted to know if the move-in costs included first, last and security, first, last and half-security, or just first and last.  He said it would cost first and two months of security—in other words, they didn’t want me to be able to apply any of the security toward the last month’s rent.  Knowing that some South Beach management companies have a tendency to avoid refunding security deposits, this wasn’t a chance I was willing to take.  There would be another fee to check my credit, and an additional, undisclosed refundable deposit for my cats.  This, he explained, was a favor, because I had mentioned the name of my online acquaintance when I first contacted them—because they normally don’t accept pets at all, he said.  This struck me as odd, because I know from experience that things can get disharmonious really fast when some of the tenants are allowed to have pets and some aren’t.  So, as a courtesy for my efforts at namedropping, he would allow me to pay two months of security and an additional pet deposit? This was like a favor that wasn’t a favor.  Perhaps the scenario he was describing was a standard property management policy in South Beach, but I decided to look elsewhere.

My goal in having a June 1 move date and finding the property before May 1 was to avoid the dreaded phenomenon of “overlapping rent.”  My penny-pinching instincts convinced me that paying rent on my old apartment and even a partial overlapping month on the new apartment would throw my tightwad budget into a tailspin!


Not finding any fruitful results through Craigslist or the NewTimes, I opted to go with plan A: check back with the landlord I’d previously spoken with to see if he had any upcoming rentals in that building on Michigan.  I rang him up on the number I’d so dutifully scrawled into my little notebook months before.  Naturally, he didn’t remember me.  South Beach has the attention span you’d expect in a Greyhound bus station.  Not that that‘s necessarily a bad thing…  I refreshed his memory and asked if he had anything coming up.  “I do have one upcoming vacancy,” he replied, “but it won’t be ready until June 1.  That may be too late for you, huh?”  I smiled, contemplating my serendipitous Celestine Prophecy moment. “That’s perfect!” I said. 

Not wanting to rent his unit sight unseen, he asked how we would arrange things.  I offered to drive down at the beginning of May, see the apartment, and leave a deposit.  He agreed.  All the way down, I worried about what kind of requirements a South Beach landlord might have to rent his apartments.  Proof of income? Two years of tax returns? A local pay stub? Credit and criminal background checks? I flooded the forums with my obsessive concerns.  The site administrators very patiently explained that qualifying wasn’t the major concern.  I should be more worried about getting my deposit back. 


I arrived in South Beach the following day and met with the landlord.  My worries had indeed been unfounded.  He asked for half the security to hold the apartment, and had me fill out a form in which I listed a handful of references and employment information, none of which he checked.  He also agreed to let me have my cats with no additional deposit.  It was a done deal.  $500 later, my mission accomplished, I headed back to New Orleans, ready to begin a seamless transition into my new life on the Beach at the end of the month.

At the end of the month I arrived in my trusty Tercel.  My belongings arrived a few days later via ReloCube.  I gave my new landlord a cashier’s check for the first and last month’s rent, and began the process of settling in.

Costs you might not have added in

First, last and security: As mentioned above, whereas most landlords in other locales require the first month’s rent and one month’s security for move-in, in South Beach world, the norm is first, last and security—basically your monthly rent times three.  It’s more to come up with at first, but the good part is that, as a general rule, landlords are less fussy about issues like proof of income and the state of your credit.  And, as Gus, head owl at recommends, don’t be afraid to bargain.  Don’t want to pay the pet deposit? Application fee too high? Just say no!  Also, try to whittle your security deposit down to half a month.  It’s a concession landlords are often willing to make.


U-Haul mileage madness: My first surprise was renting a U-Haul on South Beach to fetch my things from the ReloCube terminal in Hialeah (although Relo-Cube companies offer location dropping, they don’t generally like to leave their containers on public property and Miami Beach has a lot of requirements about storing them on the streets).  The in-city U-Haul rental, like most other cities, ranges from $19.95 to $39.95 per day, depending on the size of the truck.  However, unlike most other cities, the mileage rate at the Miami Beach location was considerably higher.  Whereas I’d paid 69 cents per mile in New Orleans, here it was $1.19 per mile! And, unlike New Orleans, where you were asked if you wanted to purchase the optional ($14) SAFE-MOVE insurance, here they just stuck it on automatically.  Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem, because I was going to get it, anyway.  But it is a factor to consider, nonetheless.

The dreaded gas company deposit: While my good credit enabled me to set up an account with Florida Power & Light without any deposits, I wasn’t so lucky with TECO, the Gas Company.  They wanted a hefty $60 before they would activate service in my name! I asked if they would waive the fee based on my good credit, and they replied that they didn’t have the ability to check past credit! Additionally, there is a $2 fee for using a credit card to pay the deposit, even though you have no other option if you’re setting up an account over the phone.  So, $62 later, I can say they’ve definitely given me gas.

Bargaining with Ma Bell: Also, the telephone company (ATT, doing business as BellSouth) will try to charge you a $41 connection charge, even though there isn’t really any connecting to do.  However, this age of cellphones gives you a little leverage! If you start to reconsider, they will waive it.


The all-important parking decal: Parking is at a premium on South Beach, so the city leaders came up with the handy parking decal as the solution.  Unless you find a building with parking, or are willing to commute from the decal free zone on the streets between 5th and 6th (an area, which in addition to free parking, also provides a plethora of aggressive panhandlers and scrutinizing police patrollers), you’re going to have to get yourself one of these babies.  The good news: unlike most other places, in transient South Florida, you don’t have to register your vehicle in the state or get a local drivers license before you can get your decal.  The bad news: the renewal dates are fixed at a certain time of the year, the next one being April 30, 2008.  So you still have to pay the same yearly $50 fee even if you arrive after April 30.  Your fee can cover anywhere from 7 to 12 months, depending on when you arrive.  It’s rather confusing.  And if you want a visitor’s pass, expect to pay an additional $6-$10 for a coupon book of visitor’s passes, good for two-week segments.  Insider tip: don’t get caught in the bureaucratic ping-pong game.  At the time of this writing, City Hall, located at 1100 Washington Ave., is being renovated, and the parking/traffic office has been temporarily relocated.  When I asked at the nearby police department where I could go to purchase my decal, they told me to go to the Clerk of Courts office at 225 Washington Ave.  This, regrettably, wasn’t the correct advice, I soon learned.  225 Washington is where you go to pay traffic tickets and to resolve other civil matters.  I was informed upon my arrival there that the current location of the parking decal office is actually in the Palm Court Building at 309 23rd St, suite 200.  Needless to say, by the time I arrived, I was really sweaty!  Hopefully, this little tid-bit will prevent you from getting sent on a grand tour of the island.  Bring your drivers license, vehicle registration and proof of residency (copy of the lease or a utility bill) with you, in addition to the cash.

Where’s the Wi-Fi? Ah, back in the day in New Orleans, finding a free unsecured Wi-Fi signal was as easy as finding a radio station, but here people are a lot more conscious—and stingy—about their internet signals.  Hotels here often require security codes to access their internet services, as do coffeehouses like Starbucks.  For me, accustomed to the Nawlins ways of cyberlife, the idea of having to actually purchase a Wi-Fi modem and service was a little disheartening.  If you aren’t lucky enough to have a neighbor who doesn’t realize or care that his unsecured signal is floating around the hood, ready to be latched unto by whatever laptop user happens to be in range, you may still be able to avoid having to purchase the modem by subscribing to a local pay service, Wireless Oceans, recently named by Miami SunPost as the “best internet provider.”  Coverage is somewhat limited.  Their pricing and download speeds vary, available in segments ranging from one hour to multi-month subscriptions.  Consult their website for details.

Hindsight is 20/20

It’s now been a month since I made South Beach my home.  Despite concerns from friends back home that it was expensive, superficial, and impersonal (including one priest who cautioned me: “Don’t move there, Doug! It’s trendy!”), I’ve found that it’s whatever you want it to be.  It’s as shallow or deep as you are.  The thrill of being near the ocean never wears off (though the all-pervasive sand in everything can become a little annoying!).  As Pancho, a frequent contributor to this site, mentions on his website,, “estar cerca de la playa es un premio al espiritu (to be by the beach is a reward to the spirit).”  People here, while a little more cautious than they might be in, say, Austin, have the same basic needs for friendship and affection as people do everywhere else.  If you’re open to meeting new friends from different cultures and learning new languages, this will be a wonderful experience for you.  Naturally, life’s complications will stay with you no matter where you go, but they’re a lot easier to deal with among the palm trees and the turquoise water!

Related Categories: Miami: Local News,

Douglas Eames is a freelance writer, homespun philosopher and budget bon vivant who divides his time between Southern California and South Beach.

See more articles by Doug.

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90 Comments on

"How I Moved to South Beach"

joseph G says:

Awesome, very thorough reporting.  These suggestions would be useful to anyone considering an out of town move, to South Beach or Kathmandu.

Posted on 07/15/2007 at 12:00 PM

Bonnie says:

Thanks for the info on the parking pass!  It does get costly and the tickets add up real fast!!

Enjoy living in Florida!

Posted on 07/23/2007 at 11:44 AM

Doug says:

Hi Bonnie, Glad I was able to give you some useful advice on the parking, and thanks, Joseph G.!  No plans just yet for Kathmandu, but you never know…

Posted on 07/23/2007 at 3:24 PM

sophie says:

I like your “How I Moved to South Beach. Budget-Minded Tips from A New Resident”.
What is the address of South Beach Apartment rental and phone please?

Posted on 08/29/2007 at 1:55 PM

Dani says:

Love your article. My friend and I are planning to relocate there from DC in November and are finding the same issues w/craigslist and such. Everyone thinks we’re crazy to just up and leave. But we love SoBe so much and have grown tired of our hometown. Glad to know this move can be done without costing a million dollars. Do you know of any reputable rental sites or companies I should contact?

Posted on 09/03/2007 at 5:42 AM

Doug says:

Hi Dani, thanks! The rental companies are listed in the link —Regatta, Columbia Asset Management, Chriskin, and Keystone are the main ones.  Regatta, of all of them, is what I hear is the most reputable.  But they didn’t respond to my emails or phone calls when I tried to contact them. 

For finding an apartment, nothing really beats a good old-fashioned walk around the neighborhood.  Good luck!

Posted on 09/03/2007 at 9:03 AM

Malcolm Gammah says:

thanks Doug! excellent article - much appreciated!

Posted on 09/24/2007 at 4:37 PM

Doug says:

Thanks, Malcolm, glad I could help!

Posted on 09/24/2007 at 4:59 PM

Carmen says:

Hi Doug,
I just found out this web-page and I read your article, and it’s very informative, and interesting. I’ve been wanting to move to the beach for a couple of months now, but no success. no luck with condos, rreal estates, nor privete landlords.
Do you know what are the rent ranges nowadyas!?
I’ve been looking in craigs, and many other pages, but like I said before not luck! I would appreciate your help!! ALOT!!!
Thank you,
Carmen F.

Posted on 10/03/2007 at 6:21 PM

Doug says:

Hi, Carmen! Thanks! I’m glad you found my story useful.  I can only speak about one bedrooms in the less ritzy buildings, and they seem to be hovering around the $1000 mark, give or take a little.  My best suggestion would be to visit the neighborhood before your moving date, and see what signs are up.  I see them around when I go for walks.  Aside from that, and taking your chances with a management company, craigslist, or a classified ad, I don’t really have any other ideas…

Posted on 10/03/2007 at 9:09 PM

Jimi Impossible says:

Thanx!!! I appreciate you taking the time to let us know the real deal about SoBe. I found a killer apartment off of Arthur Godfrey. They want 1000 bucks a month. I’m pretty sure I’m going to rent it but I have some concerns. Does Miami Beach have rent control? I don’t want the rent to hike astronomically in the near future. Also, the building has a garage but will I still need a parking permit? Will it allow me to park in all spaces in Miami Beach including the metered ones?

Posted on 12/12/2007 at 2:54 PM

Doug says:

Hi Jimi, glad you enjoyed the article.  To answer your questions, Miami doesn’t have rent control, unfortunately, but the good news is that means less waiting lists.  Lately, the rents seem to have fallen a little, oddly enough, though you’d expect with the real estate crash that it would be the other way around.  If you park in your building’s garage, you don’t need a parking permit.  But even if you did have one, you’d still have to pay to park in metered spaces—unless you have a handicapped plate.

Posted on 12/12/2007 at 3:52 PM

Lisa says:

Hi, just wondering about vets in the area, since you mentioned you had cats. Also what about grocery shopping?  I am planning a move from Chicago by about April 2008.

Posted on 01/14/2008 at 4:19 PM

T says:

Hi Doug!
Thank you so much for posting this. You have NO IDEA how much i have been looking for input from someone that is honest. Thanks. I will keep all of your tips in mind! I’m looking to move from DC to Miami!

Posted on 01/14/2008 at 7:55 PM

T says:

Oh, also, i’m looking to move in March w/ fingers crossed. Would you say that is a good time to find vacancies? I plan to go job hunting and apartment hunting in a couple of weeks to feel out the neighborhoods.

Posted on 01/14/2008 at 8:03 PM

Doug says:

Hi Lisa and T, glad you liked my article! As far as vets, I haven’t gone to one yet.  There are a few vets in South Beach, but I can’t comment on them one way or the other.  You may want to post your vet question in the forum section, under general discussion—maybe someone with pets has been to one already and has some advice. 

As far as supermarkets, I usually go to the smaller market by my house, the Meridian Market on 6th and Meridian; however, when you need more stuff, the place to go is Publix.  I usually hit the one on Dade Blvd—you just go up Alton to Dade and take a right, and it’s just ahead on the left.  Supermarket prices on the beach are no worse than the mainland—unlike gas, which you should always get on the other side of the bridge!

T, as far as vacancies, I’ve noticed a lot of for rent signs up now.  I think that’s because when the housing market was doing well, people bought up a lot of “turn-over” properties for investments—but when it crashed, they couldn’t sell them and are now having to rent them out, which causes a higher vacancy rate, and lower rents! I don’t know how March is every year for finding rentals, but this year it should be great, due to the housing crunch.  Good luck!

Posted on 01/14/2008 at 9:11 PM

T. says:

THANK YOU SO MUCH!!! VESPA? Thoughts on that?

Posted on 01/14/2008 at 9:42 PM

Doug says:

Can’t comment on the Vespas, yay or nay.  When I want to get around South Beach, I just walk—because no one can steal my feet!

Posted on 01/15/2008 at 3:24 PM

Lisa says:

Hi, it is Lisa again.  Have you been to the library branch in South Beach?  I use the library system in Chicago to get free DVD rentals.  Wasn’t sure if FL worked the same way.

Posted on 01/16/2008 at 9:54 AM

Doug says:

Hi Lisa, interesting you should say that! I just wrote an article about the local library! That should answer all your questions.

Posted on 01/16/2008 at 11:54 AM

Lisa says:

How ironic, I just found the library on the net today.  I have been to the Bass Museum, a little disappointed after Chicago’s Museums.  I do like the holocaust memorial and the Jewish culture museum.  I am assuming this library system is similar, if you don’t see something from your local branch, you can request it from one in the area that has it.

I am looking at a place on Collins (6000 block) any suggestions on that area?  I haven’t ever been that far North in my SoBe travels.

Posted on 01/16/2008 at 12:01 PM

Doug says:

Hi Lisa, Not familiar with the housing in that area, but if you post in the miamibeach411 forum in the relocation section, I’m sure someone will be able to give you some info.

Posted on 01/16/2008 at 12:08 PM

Bev says:

Very good info, Doug.  My 19 yr. old daughter is moving there this summer.  Are you willing to provide the contact info to your landlord?  It sounds like a nice place to check into for her.

Posted on 02/11/2008 at 2:38 AM

Doug says:

Hi Bev, Sure, if you’d like to PM me your contact information, I’ll pass it on to my landlord, though I’m not sure if there will be a vacancy or not in this building.

Posted on 02/11/2008 at 8:02 AM

Javier Anderson says:

Love your article! I’m doing the same this coming monday and it’s nice knowing I"m liable to meet other “budjet bon voyants” like myself in the area. Cheers!

Posted on 02/14/2008 at 11:17 AM

jenifer de leon says:

D: are you a new orleans native? I live in BR and I am ready for the move,,I moved from Houston so I miss big city! I know I will enjoy my stay….thx for info..when is the best month to go? june, july, or august?

Posted on 02/24/2008 at 1:43 AM

Doug says:

Hi Jenifer, I grew up in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Ponchatoula. 

The summer months are the slow season here in South Beach.  Normally, that’s the best time to find the best deals.  However, due to the current mortgage crisis, condo owners are having to hold on to and rent out their turn-around properties, causing a higher-than-normal vacancy rate—that means good deals for renters! So, if you’d like to give Miami or South Beach a try, it’s a good time right now!

Posted on 02/24/2008 at 8:28 AM

Colette says:

Great story here, and very motivating.  Look out Miami here I come!  Will you help me find a place Doug?  I currently live in the GRap (Grand Rapids, MI) and I want OUT!  I discovered this site, because one of the guys who started it up has a girlfriend that works at Eastern Floral in Grand Rapids with one of my best friends.  It’s been full of great information for me.  I’m a single female, so I need to find a safe, but not expensive, area to live.  Whether it’s an apartment or condo, they have to allow cats—and we prefer a room with a view!  I work as a barber, and I’m an artist/photographer/poet. I wanna be where there are more artistic opportunities for me.  The sun, ocean, and diverse people living in Miami/South Beach will certainly keep me inspired.

Any advice is appreciated!

Posted on 04/09/2008 at 5:27 PM

Doug says:

Hi Colette, thanks and I wish you lots of success on your upcoming move! As far as advice goes, I squoze every possible thing I could think of into the above article…the best plan is just to come down and do your exploring on foot.  Landlords will take you more seriously once they see you were willing to make the trip, and you’ll be able to get a better feel of prospective apartments.

Posted on 04/09/2008 at 5:40 PM

MiamiRentsAlot says:

Hi Doug,

I’m a realtor! As a veteran rental specialist of 12 years in the greater Miami area I found your article to be very informative. Yes, most if not all places for rent in SOBE is three month’s rent to move in. I agree it’s a lot of money to come up with, but that seems to be the standard at most places, because they are condo.

Another good tip is some buildings in SOBE are owned by slumlords. Watch out! If anyone decides to rent in those be prepared to do your own maintenance and don’t expect to get your security deposit back. My suggestion run like hell!

I was surprised to read your review on Columbia Management. I used to do alot of business with them and we had a great relationship. The agent you were talking about tends to be despondent and really doesn’t want to be bothered answering any questions, but their properties are well maintained. I rarely dealt with the so-called agent. I brought my people to the manager who was willing to lend an ear and accoma date any answers to questions asked. 

Great article!

Posted on 06/20/2008 at 12:53 AM

Dani says:

This is my second posting for this page. He has not lied about anything! lol. I moved into an apartment off0 the beach in an area called midtown/design district. The comples was really friendly and cool looking.

of course.. the apartment I got looked nothing like the models and i have been plagued by flying termites and ants (not just a few.. but huge swarms. they have gotten into my clothing and food). the complex has done nothing to remedy my situation and wants 3 months rent to break my lease.

Because I was an out of state relocator it was harder to find a place. But i’ve learned to look hard and don’t let the discount rates charm you.

Posted on 06/20/2008 at 8:48 AM

Doug says:

Hi Miamirentsalot, thanks for your feedback.  You make a good point—beware of slumlords when dealing with private parties.  There’s always a risk with any landlord that they might not be responsible about keeping up their property or returning security deposits.  The best way to ensure that this doesn’t happen to you is to do a little homework beforehand: when you visit the property, does it look like it’s been properly maintained? Is there garbage in the alleyways, mouse or roach droppings in the cupboards…drippy faucets? Even property that is managed by an outside company runs the risk of being neglected.  Also, feel free to interview the present tenants of the unit you’re looking at, if they’re around—out of earshot of the person who’s showing it, if possible.

As far as deposits go, one of the best ways to ensure that you get yours back is to 1) know the law and not be afraid to use it for your benefit, 2) take pictures of the unit before you take possession of it, paying particular attention to any defects that could possibly be blamed on you when you move out, 3) participate in a community forum like this one, and let your landlord know it in a friendly way.  Chances are, they don’t want to incur any bad publicity!

If you decide to use a property management company, just be as cautious as you would a private owner.  Even if they returned your security deposit when you moved out, if they charged you hefty application fees, nonrefundable pet “deposits”, and other sundry expenses at move-in, it could easily come out to more than the $500 I had to shell out for my security deposit.  So you could fare better going with a private owner who didn’t return the deposit than going with a company that charged you a lot of upfront fees to move in!

Miamirentsalot is right: just about anywhere you rent in South Beach will require first, last and security.  However, in today’s rental market, you may be able to negotiate security down to half a month, as I did.

Dani also makes an excellent point: don’t rent an apartment after just looking at a model unit.  Insist on seeing the actual unit you will be renting, because it may look nothing like the model! 

Happy hunting!

Posted on 06/20/2008 at 10:47 AM

QUEEN says:


Posted on 06/22/2008 at 3:09 AM

QUEEN says:


Posted on 06/22/2008 at 3:12 AM

Margery L. Tarnoff says:

Hi Dani,

Did you by any chance move into DPlace? By your description it sounds like it. I’m not shocked! I had some friends that lived there and they moved out after three months, because it was so damn nasty. Rats, mice, roaches you name it! Maintenance was horrible and there was doggie poo all over the place. Ack! I visited them several times I had no problem parking and the security guards were really nice, but I thought it was a dump for the most part. 

The Midtown/Design District is expensive so it’s good for it’s value if that’s where you want to live. To move in the first month’s rent is free and the security deposit is $99 providing you have good credit. Just don’t expect much. Sounds charming eh? Caveat emptor!

Posted on 06/26/2008 at 10:58 PM

Lisa says:

Hey Doug! I lived in South Beach from 2000- 06. The last two yrs there was with Columbia Asset Management. They are great! My expierience with them at the time was golden. They take care of problems right away and I even found a apt for my ex, and another friend threw them. I would definately recomend them. I now reside in Mpls, MN. I moved after Katrina, but I miss it there with all my heart. Thanks for all the fantastic tips! Who knows, my gypsy ways may bring me back. smile

Posted on 07/02/2008 at 11:15 AM

BobbyG says:


I’ve landed a position on Alton Road and I’m supposed to start August 1. I know, it’s only a few weeks. I’m stuck, but I’m a lot like you, frugally speaking. Are there any spots available in the bldg you moved into? Thanks for posting the info. Appreciate any help you can offer

Posted on 07/12/2008 at 2:11 PM

Doug says:

Hi Bobby, I don’t know what the current availability is like in my (now) old building, but you should find plenty of available rentals between Fifth and Eleventh from Alton Road east to Meridian.  The economic downturn has resulted in more buildings being on the rental market—especially condo units.

Posted on 07/12/2008 at 6:08 PM

paula says:

Great article. Could you tell me how many days a year air conditioning is needed?

Posted on 07/24/2008 at 7:23 AM

Doug says:

Thanks.  There are about 4 months with comfortable weather, ranging from pleasant to the odd cold day, so prepare to use your ac for at least 8 months of the year!

Posted on 07/24/2008 at 10:25 AM

BobbyG says:

Thanks for all the helpful tips. I’ve gotten to Miami Beach more frugally than expected. First I rented a fully furnished and adorned condo from an actual owner right on Ocean Drive. I decided to go this route to see if the job was going to work out before I spent thousands of dollars moving down here. My landlord was really cool. I paid him 2 months up front with NO security deposit. These people really are negotiable and my guy has bent over backwards to help me make this move as easy as possible. Thanks for all your good advice. I would not have known where to start or what to expect if it had not been for your column.

Posted on 07/25/2008 at 12:09 PM

Doug says:

Hi Bobbyg, glad my article was helpful to you.  Welcome to South Beach!

Posted on 07/25/2008 at 12:40 PM

Sylvia Winston says:

Hey Doug!
My family and I are planning to relocate from Shreveport to the Miami area very soon. Your aricle was so on point! Any advice on great neighborhoods in Miami and how to actually get started moving? We are planning a very spontaneous move so I am trying to be as prepared as possible. And thanx for the info on the gas company!

Posted on 09/02/2008 at 10:16 PM

Doug says:

Hi Sylvia, I’m so glad you enjoyed the article, and hope you all made out well in the storm.  Miami does have several nice neighborhoods to choose from in addition to South Beach.  What I would recommend is that you repost your question in our forum section in the relocating part, explaining some other details, such as your rental/purchase budget, what part of the city you’ll be working in, if you have kids, etc.  That way, I and other even savvier members of the site will be able to give you some practical advice on your move to Miami! Good luck with your move!

Posted on 09/02/2008 at 11:42 PM

Cher says:

Your detailed story was tremendously insightful as I’m beginning my search for a place in South Beach.  Any advice on temporary rentals?  I’ll only be around for 3 months.

Posted on 10/24/2008 at 3:26 PM

Cher says:

Also, do you have any advice on finding furnished apartments or renting furniture?

Posted on 10/24/2008 at 3:28 PM

Doug says:

Hi Cher, glad you liked the article! For temporary rentals, the newspaper and craigslist would likely be the most helpful.  Try looking under vacation rentals, and maybe they’ll be open to negotiation.  It would also probably be easier to find a furnished apartment by looking in the Miami Herald or NewTimes classified, although it never hurts to check with the property management companies listed in the article.  Happy hunting!

Posted on 10/24/2008 at 4:15 PM

Van says:

I believe that this has been the most informative, honest, and captivating side of living in SoBe I have heard yet!  (And I have friends who live there, they do not even share this much info!)  My partner and I have been contemplating the big mmove, as we fell in love with South Beach 5 years ago.  The Glamor, Glitz, and opprotunity there seems untouched by the recent economy.  I guess it has to do with the international clientele.  My question is this..I want to move, but do not know the names of the companies/people renting out.  Is there a central sirte to overview listings?

Posted on 11/21/2008 at 12:47 PM

Doug says:

Hi Van, I’m very happy to hear my article was so encouraging to you and your partner! There isn’t a central listing site, per se; it’s a matter of
combing craigslist, The Miami Herald, Miami NewTimes, and/or exploring your “target” areas on foot looking for for rent signs on desirable buildings.  You may want to try your luck with property management companies like Chrisken, Keystone and Regatta also, and compare results.  This page lists the contact info for the leading management companies.  You’ll find something nice…where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Posted on 11/21/2008 at 12:59 PM

supreme says:

I love South Beach. I live there as well. The area is beautiful. I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else.

Posted on 12/24/2008 at 7:36 PM

Karlg says:

Hi Doug and Members,
I was wondering if anyone had any experiences or knowledge with La Playa Properties Management ? I want to move down to Miami Beach and there’s an apartment that they have listed which might be what I’m looking for, but would like to find out if they are reputable or disreputable?

Posted on 01/13/2009 at 4:35 PM

Doug says:

Hi Karlg, I haven’t heard anything about them good or bad, but maybe someone else has had some experience with them they could share.

Posted on 01/13/2009 at 5:55 PM

karlg says:

Thank you for responding. Like you said, perhaps someone else will respond with more information.

Posted on 01/14/2009 at 12:04 AM

Johnny Repo says:

Doug your a rockstar!  I wonder how you made friends in Sobe? All through Craigslist?  Or did you meet quality friend through meetup or any other venues?  Suggestions/help would be appreciated in your socialization techniques.  8-)

Posted on 01/16/2009 at 3:25 PM

Doug says:

Hi Johnny, finding friends in South Florida can be a big challenge.  Most people here seem to connect through work, volunteering, or some kind of common interest group, like a yoga group or a church.  I went to non-credal spiritual group called SOUL, and that’s where I met most of my local friends.

Posted on 01/16/2009 at 5:16 PM

Valerie Schields says:

I loved this sentence that you wrote about South Beach: it has the diverse, walkable, neighborhood feel of a Manhattan borough, the sunshine and palm trees of LA, and the exotic, party atmosphere of New Orleans.  Your article has helped me confirmed my thoughts about renting my apartments.  In your article you stated you figured out the best way to find an apt is walking the neighborhood and finding an owner-operated apt bldg.
I own a beautiful 1927 Mediterranean bldg on Meridian and 14 St. directly across from Flamingo Park. When I have an apt for rent, I’ve found that I get almost no calls from my listing on Craig’s list.  99% of my calls are from my For Rent sign.  The calls are from people that have decided that they love Meridian Ave, love the park and love my building which is very charming, romantic and reminds people of Havana or Spain.  My tenants are, for the most part, artistic-type people that prefer living in a “large house” where they can walk around the neighborhood.  They are not the high-rise, elevator and long-hallway type people who live in cubicles because they have “a great city or bay view”.  I appreciate that you shared your truthful experience that landlords like me (I own only this building and live in it) that ask for only first, last and a tiny security;no pet deposits; and check only if the person is employed.  My gut instinct in meeting someone has never failed me. 
But I’m having a dilemma now.  I did not think the economy would affect my renting apts in my bldg—not South Beach, not Meridian, not my beautiful, romantic bldg.  But it has!  I have two one-bedroom apts for rent for $1150 and $1275 and I get only 2 calls per week and have not rented them yet.  Just last year and every year previously (I’ve owned my home/bldg for 18 years)
I would have at least two people wanting to rent every apt.  I had available. I had the luxury of choosing the people who would most fit-in with the other residents.  It’s always been that the type of person who falls in love with my building The Sandra Apartments is the type of person I want to live here.  But I need now to be more pro-active.  Today I decided I need, for the first time, a realtor specializing in rentals to help me but I didn’t know which was the best in terms of the amount of people that seek the company out.  I think your article has steered people toward several so I’ll be calling them to discuss my situation. 
  Thank you again for your comments about living in South Beach.  Now a days people say South Beach is “so yesterday” but when new people move here for the reasons you did, it’s not “yesterday”—it’s “today” and as really refreshing and as fun as you make it.  Valerie

Posted on 03/21/2009 at 6:38 PM

Doug says:

Valerie, thanks so much for your complimentary and insightful comments! I love Meridian Avenue—it’s truly one of the most beautiful streets on the Beach—and your location right across from Flamingo Park is probably the nicest part of it! I think I know your building and have admired it as I’ve walked by.

Does hiring a real estate person mean that you can no longer accept walk-bys as well? Good luck with your plans!

Posted on 03/21/2009 at 10:50 PM

Katie says:


I am moving to Miami from Ohio right now and have not found the right place to live. I am a college student so I don’t have a lot of money to give up right now. I was wondering how to get a hold of the land lord you had met. It sounds like a good deal and I could use anymore ideas of where to buy a 2 Br. apartment as I can get! Loved the article!

Posted on 04/04/2009 at 4:40 PM

Doug says:

Hi Katie, I’m glad the article was helpful to you. The building I lived in only had 1 bd apartments, but the landlord also has a few others.  His name was Steve Starr, and his number was 305-527-7959.  Good luck!

Posted on 04/05/2009 at 4:24 AM

Allyson says:

HI! Loved your very informative article…I’ve visited Florida atleast 2 dozen times growing up and like you the allure of the palm trees and turqoise waters has convinced my husband and I to take the leap and move to sobe. We’ll be moving from Long Island NY as soon as I sell my co-op (we’re aiming for winter/spring 2009/2010). I currently work as an Interior designer and my husband a carpenter- may I ask did you have a job lined up before you got there? Or did you do the waiter gig til you found something in your field??? Also did you feel it necessary to learn Spanish before you moved there?? thanks!!!

Posted on 04/07/2009 at 4:38 PM

Doug says:

Hi Allyson, thanks! I started to work with this website about the same time I made the move, so it worked out very fortuitously for me.  I also do some other freelancing gigs online, which enable me to have a little flexibility with where I go.  The Spanish I started learning when I was about 14.  I’ve always loved languages, which made South Beach a natural choice for me!

Posted on 04/08/2009 at 12:07 AM

Liam Crotty says:

Hey Doug—-That was a GREAT article.  Well done.  I just visited Miami Beach twice in the last month, thinking about a move there in early Fall.  But just can’t decide on location because, like you, I am very frugal.  And it seems south beach is a tough place to be frugal.  Thanks!  Liam from Maine

Posted on 04/08/2009 at 6:09 PM

Doug says:

Hi Liam, glad you liked it.  You might be surprised how frugal you can be in South Beach.  There is a lot of competition there so it forces them to have more deals.

Posted on 04/08/2009 at 6:58 PM

Justin Tate-Johnson says:

Great article, very informative but I have to say to potential tenants that are walking the street. BE CAREFUL! Some owners are going into Foreclosure or some are in short sale and will sell the property anytime leaving you stranded. There are several more scams… Use a licensed Realtor, verify their license. They will steer you in the right direction and give you the most up to date info on pricing. A lot of ads on craigslist are scammers and people that have no morals. If you use a Realtor they will Check for Foreclosure, Verify the REAL Owner and also make sure the contract represents your best interest.  I have thousands of units available on South Beach and answer the phone and return emails very fast. Dont let some of these fly by night companies give you anything less than A+ Service. I pride myself on my work and I love to meet new people and make you happy in your move.

Posted on 06/21/2009 at 9:37 PM

Sarah says:

Thanks for all of the helpful information.  I am moving to Miami Beach the end of Sept. and am having a very difficult time finding a furnished one bedroom apartment in a safe neighborhood. I am not getting any return calls on my inquiries.  Do you know of any availabe apartments? Any help would be appreciated!!!!

Posted on 08/19/2009 at 8:13 AM

lisa says:

I am just so jealous of everyone.  I am not able to sell my condo in Chicago to be able to move to Miami as I want.  Good luck to everyone who can.

Posted on 08/19/2009 at 8:19 AM

Doug says:

Sarah, you might try giving my old landlord, Steve Starr, a ring.  He owns and manages several buildings around South Beach.  His number is 305-527-7959.  I didn’t have any problems as his tenant and I got my full deposit back after I moved out.

Lisa, hope you can make your plans happen soon!

Posted on 08/19/2009 at 9:14 AM

Sarah says:


Thanks, I did call Steve and he has one apt. available on Sheridan.  Will check it out. It’s an unfurnished apt. and am wondering how hard it is to get reasonable furniture.  Not planning on bringing a lot of stuff down because I only have a car.

Posted on 08/19/2009 at 1:13 PM

Doug says:

Sarah, I would recommend that you click on the “discuss” button at the top of the page, and join our forum.  You can post your question there and get many good answers to your question.  Unfortunately, I never bought furniture in South Beach, but I’m sure others can give you some suggestions.

Posted on 08/19/2009 at 1:18 PM

Jose says:

Hey Doug,

I have lived in Miami all my life, and I’m finally ready to make a move to the city of Miami Beach (Sobe) I found your article very informative. I will e-mail shortly with any possible questions. Just wanted to say thanks for the advice.

Posted on 12/29/2009 at 12:07 AM

Doug says:

Hi Jose, thanks! Sounds like it will be a pretty easy jump for you! Be sure to check out the relocation section of our forum on this website.  You’ll get sage advice from a good number of Miami Beach residents!

Posted on 12/29/2009 at 10:39 PM

al says:

as a new orleanian preparing for a move to south beach, i very much related to and apprecitiate this column! i found many of the same difficulties written of here and being used to the new orleans way of things found this to be a huge suprise!

Posted on 05/24/2010 at 1:44 PM

Doug says:

Hi Al, I’m glad the article was helpful for you! New Orleans is still very much a part of me, and fortunately, Miami is a good counterpart for it on the whole.  I do miss the informal feel of New Orleans, though, sometimes.

Posted on 05/25/2010 at 7:47 PM

Beverly says:

I love your article!  I am planning a move from St. Louis to Miami for a job relocation and a.  am cheap and b.  must be because I’m poor!  Thank you!

Posted on 06/13/2010 at 10:20 PM

Michele says:

Finding this article felt like fate. I just visited South Beach yesterday for the first time (I currently live in Str. Pete, FL). My drive home was full of reflection and excitement. I repeated to anyone that would listen that this place was a combination of my favorite cities. I could find Manhattan, Montreal, Myrtle Beach and a few others in the streets of Miami. I have not been able to stop saying “I really want to live there.” Finding your article was my “serendipitous Celestine Prophecy moment.” I truly loved what you wrote…I am going to print this, stick it on a wall, and find a way to make my dreams come true!

Posted on 08/16/2010 at 2:16 PM

Bernie says:

Very informative article.  I am planning on moving to Miami Beach/South Beach area by the end of this month.  I am planning on finding a studio/efficiency apartment near the beach.  I will take the advice outlined in your write-up.

Posted on 10/22/2010 at 8:56 PM

Richard says:

Great information from you, Doug.  I own and live in a condo over in Coconut Grove.  I visit SoBe once or twice a week and realize that it’s city-like streets and atmosphere are much more to my liking.  I’ve threatened to make the move for years…...maybe I just need to do it.  In fact, I have a family friend living up on the 900 block of Michigan, upstairs unit that he partially owns.  Some day!

Posted on 11/28/2010 at 3:40 PM

Doug says:

Hi Michele, Bernie, and Richard, thanks! I’m glad it was helpful for you.  No sense in postponing your joy!

Posted on 11/28/2010 at 4:14 PM

CourtneyConstance says:

Doug! This is awesome. I find this to be extremely helpful! I am a recent college graduate from Baltimore, Md with dreams of relocating to Miami. Right now, it seems to be extremely stressful, and quite impossible to make this relocation happen. I have applied to several jobs in the area and have yet to hear anything :-( I will try my best to keep my hopes and dreams alive!

Posted on 01/14/2011 at 9:46 AM

Miguel says:

Thank You so much for this article. I ‘ve been to South Beach once for ten days and fell in love with the place and have been plotting my getaway from NYC ever since.There’s alot of useful info in the piece.Thanks again!

Posted on 01/15/2011 at 4:36 PM

C. says:

Hi! Funny I came up with your article. I´v been constantly harassed by my older sister who LOVES Miami, ironically I was born there and she wasn´t , know after I´d say enough time, i have decided to go back. This article was like reading my own words!!, in a way it brought a bug smile to my face and a little extra push towards my goals!

Im happy everthing turned out for you… Miami, see you in August smile !!!!

Posted on 03/30/2011 at 12:02 PM

Doug says:

Hi C, I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I hope it will be useful to you when you come back in August!

Posted on 03/30/2011 at 1:01 PM

Jorge J Gomez says:

Great blog. I am a realtor in Miami and I love Miami.  Yes, its crazy, hot, full of really bad drivers, bad traffic, but you can’t beat the weather and of course, the beaches.  South Beach is best enjoyed walking and enjoy and talk to the locals and tourists.  We live in Sunny Isles Beach and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  We did (central FLorida) and it was not

Posted on 10/27/2011 at 12:04 PM

Christian says:

Hi Doug, Nice blog and thanks for the many advices. Im planning on moving to Miami beach soon, please let me know what have changed since you first wrote this article 5 years ago? (I know about the high unemployment and the property meltdown) but how has it affected the people and prices of rent? I was there my self as a tourist (Im from Europe) but it was 15 years ago.

thanks again

Posted on 06/24/2012 at 4:57 PM



Posted on 09/13/2012 at 10:47 AM

Gus says:

Hi, Mike. Sorry, but we don’t have a catalog to send. From my experience, the best way to find a cheap apartment is to walk down the residential streets in South Beach and look for signs that say “For Rent.” October if s good month to move, because many of the restaurants start staffing up for the busy tourist season.

Posted on 09/13/2012 at 11:07 AM

griffin says:

Great article, Doug. I am making the transition from DC to SoBe in February and this has been extremely helpful - especially because I don’t have $1M to my name.. as of yet!

Posted on 06/22/2013 at 1:02 PM

Jane says:

Amazing read Doug! Thanks for this. I’m also in the frame of mind to move on and Miami it will be. This article is a fantastic thing to have read. OK, it may be a few years old now, but I guess thinks are pretty much the same.

How are you finding it there now? It would be great to hear from you!

Take care

Posted on 07/22/2013 at 3:27 AM

Simona Maiotti says:

Hello Douglas. I had the same feeling when I came the first time to Flamingo area. That subtle douceur de vivre next to international city people. I lived in Paris, London , NY, Zurich and Milan. I decided to invest in a junior one bedroom ( with the idea in the back of my mind to move one day from cold Italian Riviera) and I became…first time in my life…landlord.. smile) After being and still being…a tenant anywhere!! So..I can understand both sides…I experienced myself the torture of having much more than half rent cut off by all that little helpful property managers, company managers, building managers, lawyers..
Well… my junior one bedroom comes available ...juin 15..! Art Deco building..!
Ciao! Simona

Posted on 05/04/2015 at 6:59 AM

Danewood says:

Great article.  Thanks Doug.

Posted on 03/11/2016 at 9:12 PM

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