If You Didn't Move Last Year, You're in the Minority. Here's Why

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  • Americans are migrating to less expensive southern states.
  • Work-from-home opportunities have made migration possible.

If you're looking to move south, you'll have plenty of company.

Have you recently found yourself thinking about moving, heading to parts unknown? If so, you're not alone. According to a North American Moving Company study, Americans are fleeing the expensive coastal (and Midwest) cities that once drew them and are headed to cheaper areas of the country.

Why the change?

Before the pandemic, it was practically unthinkable that millions of Americans would find themselves working from home. Of course, we learned that life goes on and businesses continue to thrive -- even if the "break room" is right down the hall in our own kitchens. Due to remote work opportunities, an estimated 14-23 million people were able to relocate in 2021.

And then there are those who experienced a gut check during the global pandemic, unsure that they wanted to stay on the same path they'd been on. Among the life-changing issues many faced is where they saw themselves living.

It may come as no surprise that changes ushered in by COVID-19 led to a 20% jump year over year of Americans migrating to states with lower costs of living.

Where did they come from?

Americans appear to be leaving five of the most populous and expensive states in the country: California, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, and New York. While there's plenty to love about each of these states, there's no denying that other regions have a lower cost of living.

Where are they going?

According to the study, Americans are heading to North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Arizona, and Texas in droves.

Why they say they're heading out

When surveyed, people gave many reasons for searching for a new place to call home. The top three reasons offered are:

  • Cost of living: You can live in a really cool city but never get to enjoy it because everything is simply too expensive.
  • Proximity to family: If nothing else, COVID-19 taught us that nothing is more important than the people we love. And being isolated for months on end without being able to see those people was enough to make us rethink our geographical choices.
  • Work flexibility: As mentioned, millions of people could move because they can work from just about anywhere. For those with transferable skills, 2021 was a good time to get a new job in a new city.

But there were other reasons as well, including:

  • Looking for new job opportunities.
  • Hoping to find better schools for their children.
  • Wanting to live in an area with better safety regarding the pandemic.

Some places are tougher than others

The cost of living in states like Michigan and parts of Illinois is certainly cheaper than in coastal cities. Still, people living in those states see opportunity in states where the cost of living is even less expensive.

States like Tennessee, Arizona, and North and South Carolina have seen the biggest influx in new residents. Not only are they geographically beautiful, but it's still possible to make a dollar stretch in each of those states.

Given that Los Angeles, California ranks as the least affordable city for first-time home buyers, it's easy to understand why someone would want to be somewhere they can afford to settle down and buy a house.

The potential outcome

It's possible that people who moved early in the migration will find themselves with more money in the bank. What will be interesting to watch is how this new influx of people impacts the regions they're moving to.

For example, between 2010 and 2019, before the pandemic, Austin, Texas became a hot place to live, continuously ranked high on "Best of U.S." lists. During those nine years, more people poured into the city, and the median price of a home rose from $193,520 to $318,000 in 2019. Naturally, home prices rose even more in 2020 and 2021.

What happens to a hidden gem of a city when everyone discovers it? Do prices become out of reach for those who hoped to build a better life there? There's no way to know for certain, but it certainly bears keeping an eye on.

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