I live North of Tampa by 22-28 miles in town called Zephyrhills on edge of Wesley Chapel, some call the area New Tampa. I do not know your budget, but U can still find reasonably decent 3/2/2 for < 200K.
Good Luck, oh this area is 1hr from Orlando, I hr from beach areas & 30 mins to downtown.
North Lakeland is very accessible to I-4 (1 to 2 mile drive to the nearest ramp) and the property prices just went up 50K during the last year. There is a very good Mall, Cinemas, Walmart, Sams Club, Target, Publix, Best Buy, Staples, Macy's, Dillards, JC Penny, HH Greg, and plenty of restaurants.
The advantage of Lakeland is that you are in the Tampa area and still near the Disney and other attractions.
Low crime, small town (100 K population) diverse and friendly. Check it out. Come to downtown Lakeland on Saturday mornings between 8 am and 1 pm and enjoy the Farmer's market.
In Tampa you can find good schools.
In Tampa you can find low crime.
In Tampa you will pay market value for a home.
The boat called 'good home prices' (translated 'cheap housing) left the dock two years ago.
Areas to consider would be South Tampa and Davis Island, West Chase or the revitalized New Tampa region on the far north of Tampa. (Note: if you can find a 'shack' BUY IT!)
However, if you embrace the vision of white sand beaches, Gulf of Mexico sunsets and sand in your toes, you may consider St Petersburg, Clearwater, Dunedin and Palm Harbor as alternatives.
When will you be in the area?
Best of success,
Annette Lawrence, Broker/Assciate
Remax Realtec Group
Palm Harbor FL