US Markets Loading... H M S In the news
Home Real Estate
Jordan Pandy and Kelsey Neubauer
- Florida was the No. 1 state for in-migration in 2021, but many residents are fed up and leaving.
- Seven former residents explained their reasons for ditching the Sunshine State.
- They complained about housing prices, low wages, and the weather, among other grievances.
Top editors give you the stories you want — delivered right to your inbox each weekday.
Thanks for signing up!
Access your favorite topics in a personalized feed while you're on the go.
Everyone talks about all the people moving to Florida. But plenty of people leave the Sunshine State every year — for some valid reasons.
The heat and humidity, the high cost of living, the wild housing market, and a desire for variety top the list of reasons some choose to call a different state home.
Still, more people move to Florida — which has almost 22 million residents — than leave. According to census estimates, 220,890 more people moved into Florida than out of the state between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021. According to United Van Lines, a moving company, 62.3% of Florida movers were inbound and 37.7% were outbound in 2021.
Here are seven stories from people who decided Florida was not the right fit. They lay out their reasons why.
'I'm 31 and spent my whole life in South Florida, but I wanted to be somewhere I could actually afford to settle down and buy a home soon. So I moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee.'
Nicole Panesso, 31, lived in South Florida her whole life until a few months ago, when she decided to relocate from the beaches and the vibrant nightlife to the quieter, more affordable mountain city of Chattanooga, Tennessee.
The pandemic drew an influx of out-of-state movers and drove up housing costs in South Florida. Panesso, who was already renting a studio for $1,200 a month in Fort Lauderdale, knew she was ready to move on.
"There's just no way for people living here to afford it — the salaries that they pay here don't add up to the cost of rent," she said.
The widespread adoption of remote work provided her with an opportunity to move. She left her job as an operations manager at a nonprofit, where she had to go into the office, and got a job doing the same thing at a tech company in South Florida that allows her to work remotely.
Now, she pays $950 a month for her one-bedroom apartment and, while she misses the ocean, the people are friendly in Chattanooga and nature surrounds her.
'I was born and raised in North Florida, but I'm moving to Maryland as soon as I can.'
Jessica Dawson, a native of the Panhandle who has lived in Florida for 33 years, is planning to move out as soon as she can.
Dawson, 35, said the pay is very low in more northern, rural parts of the state.
"The max I've seen a couple of my friends make is probably around $40,000 a year," she said. "The cost of living in Florida is pretty high, so it doesn't make sense to me."
Two years ago, Dawson moved to Maryland for a short spell, but moved back to North Florida during the pandemic. Once home prices calm down, she intends to return to Maryland.
She currently lives in Florida's capital, Tallahassee, but grew up in nearby Bristol, a town with a population of 996, according to census data. Dawson believes that Maryland offers a more diverse environment than North Florida — something that is important to Dawson as a Black woman.
"Being in the part of Florida I'm from, it's probably 90% white and 10% Black," she said. "Tallahassee has a variety of different people, but I feel like when I moved to Maryland, I saw more Black people. It was a culture shock."
'The unforgiving heat and unaffordable housing led me to North Carolina.'
Greg May, 37, went to college in Florida in 2004, but left to move to Texas in 2010. He and his wife got married in Florida in 2014, and he's been living there ever since.
Two months ago, May took a job in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. He's now preparing a move to Greensboro. May, an engineer for a drone company, said he didn't choose North Carolina specifically, he was just applying to jobs that would get him out of Florida.
His main gripe with Florida: the heat.
"My mental health started declining from being stuck indoors almost 10 months out of the year," he said. "Because of that it was kind of like COVID lockdown forever for the past seven, eight years."
Housing costs, according to May, are more affordable in North Carolina than in Florida — plus you get more bang for your buck.
"All the developments in Florida are pushed together like sardines," he said. "You go up to Greensboro and even the houses you rent for $2,000 a month have a beautiful backyard. You have beautiful trees around your house."
'We went to vacation in Arizona and fell in love with the stunning views and easy access to nature and city life. We're moving there in September.'
Last summer, lifelong Floridian Lashay Walker, 32, went to the Grand Canyon with her mother and sister. She was awed by Arizona's striking naturescapes.
A few months later, she went back — this time with her fiancé.
"When you hear about Arizona, you just think about a desert," she said. "But we just fell in love with the beauty and the mountains. It was completely breathtaking."
They also loved how city life, big beautiful buildings, palm trees, and nature meshed together in Arizona — it was the best of both worlds, Walker said.
Now, the couple is moving from Orlando to Goodyear, Arizona. Goodyear is a 20-minute drive from downtown Phoenix and a three-and-half-hour drive to the Grand Canyon.
She said the cost of living is much more affordable there, and wages are higher.
In Orlando, the couple pays about $1,165 a month for a one-bedroom apartment — not including parking. When they make the move, they will be paying $2,000 a month for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse, with a two-car garage and multiple balconies. Something like this in Orlando, she added, would be about $3,000 a month more.
Walker said she is ready for the move, but she will always be a Floridian at heart. She owns her own Florida-themed souvenir shop called Floridian Drip, which she plans to operate remotely from Arizona.
'I'm moving to California, which is more expensive than Florida, but at least the wages are better.'
After seven years of living in the Orlando area, Jeremy Craig, 39, packed up his family and left Florida for the West Coast.
While parts of the West Coast are pricier than Florida, Craig, a teacher, said that wages in Florida just can't compete with other states.
"We're moving to California, which is more expensive, but generally wages are a lot higher out there," he said. "A lot of my teacher friends don't have kids because they can't afford them."
Craig, who is originally from Virginia, said that Florida is lacking in recreation — besides, of course, Disney World.
"Beaches or Disney are really your only recreation options since you don't have the mountains to go hiking in, no skiing, nothing like that within driving distance," he said.
The weather, too, plays a factor in enjoyment. Craig, who has two children, said Florida can be miserable in the summer with kids.
"I don't like the heat," he said. "In the summer it feels like you can't get outside unless you're going to a pool."
'When I nearly died from COVID, we realized how short life is, so we moved to Georgia. We travel around in our RV building our presence on YouTube and seeing the natural beauty this country has to offer.'
In January, after spending seven years in Lake Worth, Florida, just outside West Palm Beach, Ruth Rivera, 54, and her husband Adrian, 47, decided to sell their home and move out of the state.
While the couple's family lives in Florida, they knew that they would settle somewhere like Georgia or South Carolina. Last August, Ruth came down with a serious case of COVID.
"I pretty much almost died," she said, and added that it made her rethink what she wanted in her daily life.
A post shared by Ruth (@ruth4beauty)
Shortly after, another company offered Adrian — a technical salesman who sold the cement used to build the guitar-shaped Hard Rock hotel near Miami— a job in Georgia.
"The crazy thing is that almost the exact job became available in Georgia," Ruth said.
"We thought, maybe this is the universe telling us to stop being afraid and just go in with both feet," she said. "I'm so glad we did because we have met so many amazing people. We see so many amazing places that we've never had the opportunity to if we had stayed in Florida."
But the housing market was still raging, so the Riveras wondered where they would live if they made the move, Ruth said. Then, it came to her: They'd always talked about living in an RV.
"The RV just makes sense all the way around," she said. "It gives us the opportunity to travel to different parts of Georgia that we hadn't seen before, decide where we want to set roots."
Their current RV parking spot costs $750 a month. Insurance for the RV, which includes a replacement policy, is $1,200 a year — half of what they paid for homeowner's insurance in Florida.
They plan to buy a house when the market cools.
'The daily cost of living in Florida was too high. I paid $430 a month for my car insurance and didn't think I could afford to buy a house.'
Kimberly Lovelace, 51, moved down to Vero Beach, Florida from Williamsburg, Virginia in May 2021. But by the time October came around, she had already moved back.
Her main complaint about Florida was that the daily cost of living was not quite as cheap as advertised. Compared to Virginia, car insurance was especially high.
"Car insurance was the icing on the cake for me," she said. "The cheapest quote I could find, which was a stripped-down policy, was $430 a month."
When she and her two children moved to Florida, she rented a two-bedroom apartment with a loft for $1,650 a month. She worried whether she could buy a home for the three of them in Florida's current housing market.
"When my lease is up, am I even going to be able to find anywhere to live?" she said. "I'm hearing all these stories of people that are jacking up the rent $700 a month."
A frequent vacationer in Florida, Kimberly ultimately decided to stay just that. The life of a full-time resident was disappointing.
"It never felt like home to us," she said.