by Heather Osborne

The city has tied for seventh in a Top 10 list of most affordable beach towns in America, according to SmartAsset’s study released Jan. 19.

Fort Walton Beach’s real estate prices paired with its ideal beach location have little competition when it comes to affordability, according to the study. Local economist David Goetsch said he believes the affordable housing costs can be attributed to the military bases and the area’s late start in tourism.

“For years, Northwest Florida was an undiscovered paradise,” Goetsch said. “Tourism numbers didn’t become high until 1995. Our growth started later than Miami or Palm Beach and our property values won’t rise just because the nature of our property. It’ll take 100 years before our prices reach the same as places like Miami or Palm Beach.

“Builders also keep the military in mind when building,” he added.

The study said it collected Census Bureau data on 221 coastal cities. It calculated the most affordable cities by comparing the median home value, the median amount of annual property taxes paid, the median annual amount of housing costs paid and the median number of rooms per house, according to the study.

“I think it’s great that we’re making this list,” Fort Walton Beach City Manager Michael Beedie said. “It’s attributable to what good decisions the City Council is making. I think with the stability we have with the military and tourism, it helps the real estate market and property taxes stay low.”