Sun Catcher

A Lot of People Moved to Florida in 2023—But Not as Many as 2022

Three new reports show that the Sarasota-Manatee region is still attracting newcomers, but some people are moving out, too.

By Kim Doleatto January 8, 2024

Despite cries that "Florida is full!" from longtime residents, the state is still growing—albeit at a slower pace than in recent years. That's based on recent numbers published by do-it-yourself moving companies U-Haul and PODS. 

The 2023 U-Haul numbers show Sarasota-Bradenton in fourth place as most-moved-to metro, trailing just behind the Charleston-North Charleston, South Carolina, metro area. (For comparison, in 2022, our metro area was ranked No. 6.)

With fewer residents leaving, arrivals accounted for a greater segment of the overall DIY moving population in Sarasota and Bradenton. Do-it-yourself movers arriving in the area accounted for 52.3 percent of all one-way U-Haul traffic in and out of the market (and 47.7 percent of departures) in 2023.

PODS, which also analyzed consumers over the past 15 months, showed similar data in its 2023 report, which ranked Sarasota as the second-most-moved-to city in the country. However, that's a drop from its No. 1 spot in PODS' previous annual report. The Myrtle Beach/Wilmington, North Carolina, metro area claimed the top spot this year.

Indeed, for years now, Florida has remained a favored destination. The 2023 U-Haul Growth Index found seven Florida metros among its list of the nation’s top 25 growth cities, marking the seventh year in a row the state has had the most cities represented. In 2022, the Sunshine State was home to four cities among the top 25 list and 10 in 2021. And we all know about the state's long-term reputation as a favorite spot for snowbirds to alight during the winter and retirees to move after long careers elsewhere.

The PODS report showed more than 25 percent of the top 20 move-in cities were in Florida, with five of the Florida cities on the list placed in the top 10: Sarasota, Orlando, Ocala, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay. All these cities are repeat performers who made the top 20 last year.

Shout-Out to Lakewood Ranch 

Another recent report from real estate consulting firm RLCO also highlights the popularity of communities like Lakewood Ranch, which once again earned No. 1 spot for best-selling, master-planned, multi-generational community in the nation for the sixth consecutive year. (Wellen Park, in South Sarasota, also made the top 10 list, ranking No. 9.) In fact, Florida represented about 40 percent of overall sales in master-planned communities, with five of the top 10 communities in the nation here.

Lakewood Ranch numbers showed that despite spiking interest rates and homeowners insurance rates, in 2023 there were 2,257 sales (22 percent higher than in 2022), marking the second-highest sales year in the community's 30-year history. The RLCO report noted a shift in originating interest, with 37 percent of new home sales coming from buyers within Sarasota and Manatee counties. That's attributed to renters seeking to purchase a home purchase thanks to more inventory following the post-pandemic buying rush. 

Markets such as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta and Boston also contributed significantly to sales, with Tampa and Miami making Lakewood Ranch's top five feeder markets for the first time.

Lack of Affordability Sees Some Floridians Moving Out

Remote work options and proximity to loved ones played a big role in 2022’s moving trends, but where people moved to in 2023 seems to be more linked to affordability. 

The state’s sunshine, beaches, absence of a state tax and relative affordability still attract newcomers, and new Census Bureau data shows that residents from New York, California and New Jersey top the list of out-of-staters moving into Florida. However, some Floridians are moving out—to states like Georgia, Texas and North Carolina, where they're seeking what they were first attracted to in the Sunshine State: affordability and nice weather.

And although the post-pandemic housing rush has slowed, prices remain high. The latest local real estate report showed that the median price for a single-family home is now $500,000 in Sarasota County and $485,861 in Manatee County, reflecting increases of more than 52 percent and almost 41 percent, respectively, since 2020, when median single-family home prices were $325,000 in Sarasota County and $345,000 in Manatee County. 

The number of newcomers seeking more relative affordability post-pandemic may have caused prices to spike—those buyers snapped up homes regardless of huge price increases because the homes were still affordable to them. However, this often priced out those who earn local salaries, which are out of line with the overall market. The median salary in Florida is just under $56,000 per year, and an affordable housing crisis is well-documented locally. 

Plus, a survey from the National Association of Realtors indicated some post-pandemic buyer’s remorse, which has also played a role in move-outs.

“In a market that’s not in a frenzy, buyers take more days and maybe look at 10 homes. In the last few years, if you wanted to buy, you didn’t have that time," Brian Tresidder, VP of operations at William Raveis Real Estate and 2023 president of the Realtor Association of Sarasota-Manatee, told us in a recent interview. "People say they picked the best option at the time but would have liked to have more options. It’s tying into that rising inventory now." 

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