Each year, U-Haul and United Van Lines release information about moving trends. The latest annual migration reports from both companies offer a glimpse of the movements people made during the unprecedented pandemic year of 2020.
According to U-Haul, the popular do-it-yourself transportation and storage company, the top three U.S. growth cities in 2020 were located in Florida. These three Sunshine State cities were:
- North Port, Florida (Sarasota County)
- Kissimmee, Florida (near Orlando, in Osceola County)
- Port St. Lucie, Florida (in St. Lucie County)
Moving Out Of California
Moving data for the full calendar year 2020 ranks California last “by a wide margin, as the state with the greatest net loss of U-Haul trucks,” according to the company.
Florida, Here I Come!
While “California, Here I Come,” was a hit song from Broadway in a past era, the song’s title is a dusty relic these days. Instead, many are singing a different tune,“Florida, Here I Come” (including many NYC residents leaving the Big Apple).
“California, Here I Come,” was featured in an episode of “I Love Lucy.” The Ricardos and the Murtzes sang the tune as they drove out of New York City. Today we imagine Ricky, Lucy, Fred and Ethel would be moving to Miami.
Notably, U.S. Census 2020 data reveals that California, reportedly for the first time on record since the year 1900, had a resident population decline. 2020 U.S. Census data indicates New York, Illinois, and California experienced the biggest declines in population.
COVID-19 Pandemic & The Housing Market
The pandemic has prompted some to buy new single-family homes for more indoor square footage plus a backyard for outdoor living space. Others left their primary residences elsewhere and moved to second vacation homes and condos.
Some are also motivated to leave urban centers and states (like California and New York) because of notoriously high taxes. During the pandemic, these states also implemented higher restrictive levels of lock down on business owners, residents, and schools compared to Florida and some other Sunbelt States. It appears some may also be voting with their feet.
Florida Schools During Pandemic
Florida’s governor and the Florida Dept. of Education mandated that the state’s public schools open back up for the 2020/2021 school year. For example, local schools here in the Nassau County, FL School District reopened for the 2020/2021 school year on August 24, 2020. (That was just a 2-week delay from the “normal” first day of school that had been August 10, 2020). Local parents had the choice to send their kids back to brick and mortar schools to be physically in classroom full time, 5-days a week, or pick other options, such as Florida Virtual School.
U.S. Census 2020 Top 5 Growth States
Florida’s not the only state experiencing population growth while other states like California and New York are on the losing side. According to 2020 U.S. Census data, below are the Top 5 population growth states:
- North Carolina
United Van Lines Movers Study Year 2020
United Van Lines also released their annual 2020 Movers Study. For those who indicated they were moving for retirement, Florida was #2 on the Top 10 states list (see data chart below). Florida also appeared in the Top 10 states for those who said the move was for a“lifestyle” change.
Heightened Hurdles For Home Buyers
Some keen on making a move, however, have been bumping into heightened hurdles to buy a home in Florida and other Sunbelt states. Issues include housing affordability and fewer homes for sale (stiff competition with other buyers). This year in 2021, high demand for single-family homes in Florida continues, along with low home inventory for sale.
Many lessons have been learned this past year. More also wonder about other, future pandemics and plan to be better prepared. Those who can afford to make a change of residency may end up joining a new flock, the “summerbirds.”
Reverse Snowbirds — The “Summerbirds”
When it comes to residential real estate, some former snowbirds are reportedly deviating from past norms. They’re doing the vice versa, becoming “summerbirds.” These folks are buying homes in Florida to live there most of the year. They instead depart the Sunshine State for a few months in summertime to avoid the hottest months in the South.
Last fall, an economist with national real estate brokerage, Redfin, penned an article titled, “New York’s Loss Is Florida’s Gain, and summed up the situation as follows:
“When the pandemic hit the U.S. in March, remote workers started leaving New York City and its ultra-expensive housing in search of wide-open spaces, sunshine and affordable homes—all of which you can find in Florida, with the bonus of no state income tax. The trend has only intensified as the pandemic continues and people feel more certain of their remote work and school plans.”
In February 2021, Redfin released their moving data for the full year 2020. A Redfin news release estimated that 275,000 New York City residents moved to other metros during 2020, the biggest “net outflow” of any U.S. metro area. Their analysis is based on Redfin’s own data and the U.S. Census Bureau. According to Redfin, Los Angeles, CA saw the next biggest net outflow of around 125,000 residents, followed by Chicago, losing 110,000.
Moving For Tax Benefits
Besides the attraction of Florida’s beaches and a climate that allows for more time outdoors, Florida offers the additional perk of no state income tax. Real estate property taxes are also typically much higher in the northeast Tri-state area (New York, New Jersey, Connecticut), in addition to California on the west coast.
Florida Homestead Exemption
Buying a home in Florida with the intention of establishing the new dwelling as a primary residence allows property tax advantages. Namely, the cap on annual assessments (see more below), enjoyed by homeowners after a Homestead Exemption in Florida is officially filed with the local property appraiser’s office. The deadline each year to file a Florida Homestead Exemption is March 1st. (The home buyer must have purchased and moved into the Florida residence by December 31st of the prior year).
Florida’s “Save Our Homes” Cap
What is the “Save Our Homes” Cap in Florida? The Sunshine State offers the benefit of a 3% cap assessment limit on all residential properties that receive a Homestead Exemption (primary residences only). The “Save Our Homes” Cap limits any increase to the assessed value of a homesteaded property (for tax purposes) to a maximum of 3% each year — or the amount of change in the Consumer Price Index — whichever is lower.
Top 5 Florida Counties, Highest Population Per Square Mile
2020 data from the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic & Business Research (BEBR) shows the Top Five Florida counties with highest population per square mile, ranked as follows:
- Pinellas — 3,591 pop. per square mile
- Broward — 1,597 pop. per square mile
- Orange — 1,567 per square mile
- Seminole — 1,543 pop. per square mile
- Miami-Dade — 1,493 pop. per square mile
Nassau County, FL Population Per Square Mile
By comparison, locally in this northeast nook of the state, Nassau County, FL is ranked #36 of Florida’s 67 counties for population per square mile in 2020. Nassau County’s population was 138 per square mile, according to BEBR. (Nassau County has a land area of 649 square miles). During the 20-year period (2000 to 2020), the population per square mile in Nassau County has grown from 89 to 138, a 55% increase.
Nassau County Population To Rise 31,304 In 10-Years
Many more people are anticipated to move to this northeast Florida coastal county in the current decade. A study was completed for Nassau County, FL by TischlerBise (dated June 2020). This research was completed for the County’s fiscal planning and evaluation of impact fees. The analysis estimated Nassau County’s population will increase by 31,304 people during the 10-year time period between 2019 to 2029.
Nassau County — “At Precipice Of Change”
The 2020 Nassau County, Florida Growth Trends Report summed it up in its opening statement:
“While 2020 has been anything but typical, the fact remains that Nassau stands at the precipice of change. A change that will descend upon the community with or without blessing. According to the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, Nassau grew by 3.25% last year (2018-2019). For perspective, out of 3,141 counties in the United States, Nassau ranked as the 40th fastest-growing county by percent growth for counties in the U.S. with a population over 10,000. This growth rate places Nassau in the top 1.5% of all counties in the Country.”
- Nassau County, Florida 2020 Growth Trends Report
- See also Redfin article, “Austin, Atlanta & Tampa Are Attracting Homebuyers From More Expensive Cities, Contributing to a Housing Supply Crunch”.