- An influx of wealthy newcomers has restructured the Florida housing market.
- Middle-class residents are moving out in search of affordability, less congestion, and simplicity.
- They are moving to southern cities like Greenville and Knoxville, according to a Florida realtor.
It’s a well-known fact that Americans are moving to the Sunshine State.
Florida’s population has been steadily increasing for decades, and it was the fastest-growing state in 2022, per the US Census Bureau. The pandemic ushered in remote work, allowing Americans to live wherever they want, making Florida a magnet for the wealthy looking to take advantage of the low-tax environment.
But with the influx of people — including wealthy northerners and financiers — came more expensive housing and a higher cost of living. Now, locals are feeling the squeeze.
“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,” Nicole Panesso, who moved from South Florida, where she was born and raised, to Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 2021, previously told Insider.
As the influx of rich newcomers reshaped Florida, local residents — from young families to retirees — are moving out to escape crowds, the ritzy lifestyle, and the rising cost of living. They’re looking to nearby smaller cities in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Many of those leaving are teachers, nurses, firefighters, and police officers, South Florida realtor Holly Meyer Lucas told Insider, because they can pick up their jobs and do the same thing in a place where “they don’t have to wait on a daycare list.”
They’re picking places like Knoxville, Tennessee; Greenville, South Carolina; Huntsville, Alabama; and Asheville, North Carolina; which she collectively refers to as “the Villes.”
According to cross-market data from Realtor.com, Greenville and Asheville were among the top 10 biggest searches from home shoppers in Miami looking to move out of state between July and October of this year. Asheville and Knoxville were also among the most-popular searches for Orlando residents looking to move out of state.
On the opposite side of the state, for Cape Coral-Fort Myers shoppers on the Gulf Coast, Asheville, Greenville, and Knoxville were also among the top out-of-state searches during the same period.
These locales provide a down-to-earth, affordable place to live, Meyer Lucas said, without the “complications” that come along with life in a post-pandemic Florida, such as the stress of keeping up with ultra-wealthy neighbors while on a middle-class income.
“Keeping up with the Joneses becomes so much more significant when your kid is going to school with kids who fly private and have drivers; and when the gala event for the school fundraiser goes from $100 per ticket to $1,000 per ticket,” she said.
“It’s just exhausting having to keep up with that for certain people that have these income ceilings like nurses, firefighters, cops, and even doctors now.”
Why CEOs moved their lives — and their businesses — to Florida
Wall Street moved to South Florida in droves in 2020 and 2021. The pandemic accelerated a trend started in part by a 2018 change in tax policy. Afterwards, wealthy people flocked to no-income-tax states like Florida.
Billionaire hedge-fund CEOs — like Citadel’s Ken Griffin — paid record-shattering amounts for South Florida homes, added offices, and moved their businesses there entirely from New York, Chicago, and Silicon Valley.
“I don’t think there’ll be a mass exodus overnight, but it’s a trend that’ll continue,” Brian Guzman, the founder of investment management law firm Guzman Advisory Partners, told Insider in 2021.
Well, it has, and the wealth that has gone into Florida is likely there to stay, according to housing-market expert Jonathan Miller.
The median listed home price rose by 67% in Miami, 77% in West Palm Beach, and 38% in Fort Lauderdale from January 2020 to this past September, according to Redfin. After years of rising, rents have recently stabilized but are not likely to get more affordable for years, according to a Florida Atlantic University study.
It’s not just simple demand that is pushing housing prices up. It’s who is creating the demand, and what they’re willing to pay.
In 2022, Larry Ellison, the billionaire founder of Silicon Valley software giant Oracle, paid $173 million for a home in Palm Beach, the most anyone had ever spent on a house in Florida. The house sold for $94 million just a year prior. Just this week, Ken Griffin announced plans to turn his Palm Beach properties into a $1 billion compound, the most expensive single-family home to ever exist.
“The people that are relocating are not just quote unquote, rich people,” Meyer Lucas said. “It’s people that have substantial assets. They own companies, they own properties.”
Those leaving are going to “simpler places, because the places that they’re leaving are becoming very, very complicated” as a result of the influx of wealth that is reshaping the region.
While South Florida metros like Miami, Palm Beach, and Fort Lauderdale have gotten the most attention from billionaires and Fortune 500 companies over the past five years, the influx is stretching beyond the state’s eastern coast, Miller said.
“There’s a much broader locational aspect to the demand, which I don’t think goes away,” he told Insider.
‘Disenchanted’ locals are tired of the high cost of living, traffic, and crowds
The lifestyle Florida offered is less attractive to some, now that it’s changed.
More transplants grow disillusioned with the local lifestyle than you’d expect, Michael Bordenaro, a Miami Beach real-estate agent, previously told Insider. Housing prices, low wages, and the weather were among grievances listed by former residents.
Greg May, 37, went to college in Florida in 2004, but moved to Texas in 2010. He returned the Sunshine State in 2014 and had been living there until recently. He moved to North Carolina in 2022.
Housing costs are more affordable in North Carolina than in Florida — plus you get more bang for your buck, May previously told Insider.
“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.”
Real-estate agents in the South are noticing a vibe change.
In Greenville, South Carolina, Keller Williams realtor Jill Cody said she’s been selling homes to Floridians moving out of state for years, but many of the buyers from Florida that she finds homes for today are different.
“I think what’s most surprising to me is that they just appear to be disenchanted with Florida” because of the crowds, hurricanes, heat, and rising cost of home insurance, she said.
The high cost of living coupled with increasing weather catastrophes has caused them to leave the Sunshine State behind, permanently.
“They’re just getting hit from a lot of different ways,” she said.
Even across the state, locals are feeling forced out. Ryan Wilson, 40, who is retired from the Army, and his wife Jami, 37, a nurse, were among those in Fort Myers who relocated to one of “the Villes.”
When the couple moved to the Gulf Coast city, about two and a half hours west of Miami, in 2009, they loved it. They bought an 1,800-square-foot, three-bedroom house on a quarter-acre of land in 2016, and began to raise two kids there.
But as newcomers flocked in, life began to change. The median listed home price rose almost 60% from January 2020 to this past September, according to Redfin.
Their daughter was on a two-year waitlist to get into daycare, they stopped going to the beach because it was too crowded, the traffic made getting anywhere difficult, restaurant waitlists were hours longer, and everything was more expensive, the couple told Insider. Meanwhile, hurricane season got worse.
“We just wanted to be more family oriented,” Jami Wilson said. “Southwest Florida is just too hot and the roads are congested.”
In 2021, they sold their home to an all-cash buyer who paid $425,000 for it, nearly double what they had bought it for six years earlier. They bought a 2,400-square-foot, four-bedroom home on an acre of land for the same price in Greenville, South Carolina.
The hardest part about the move is making new friends, but they have found what they were looking for overall.
“We love it,” Ryan Wilson said.
Have you moved out of Florida amid the migration into the state? Do you want to share your story? Email reporter Kelsey Neubauer, [email protected].
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