Return to the Florida Homeowners Insurance Site

Florida exodus? Statistics show residents starting to leave for less costly locales

By Paul Owers
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Posted January 11, 2007

For the first time in 30 years, United Van Lines Inc. says it moved more people out of Florida than in, and analysts see that as a sign that consumers are looking elsewhere for a cheaper slice of life.

The nation's largest moving company reported 16,212 inbound shipments to Florida last year and 17,019 outbound shipments. United moved more people to Florida in each year from 1999 to 2004, but the number of inbound moves fell in 2005, spokeswoman Jennifer Bonham said.

The study isn't scientific, but it does underscore a recent trend in which fed-up Floridians are moving to other parts of the country, in part to escape rising property taxes and insurance rates.

United's report shows that North Carolina, Oregon and South Carolina were the top destination states in 2006. Michigan, hit hard by automobile industry layoffs, North Dakota and New Jersey were the states that saw the most people leave.

The housing boom brought more people to the Sunshine State at the start of the decade, but the run-up in home values during the past five years sent property-tax rates soaring. Many residents now say they can't afford to move elsewhere in Florida because of the huge hit they'd take on taxes.

What's more, busy hurricane seasons in 2004 and 2005 led to massive rate hikes from the state's largest home insurance companies.

"It all just pushed us past the breaking point," David Levin, a Delray Beach-based housing consultant, said Wednesday.

A couple of years ago, Paul Mount saw an early-morning infomercial about cheap land in Tennessee. He and his wife ultimately moved there from Wellington in July 2005.

They live in a log-cabin home on two acres near Chattanooga. In Wellington, their property taxes were $9,300 a year; their tax bill in Tennessee is $1,100.

The threat of hurricanes, rising utility rates and the cost of homeowner insurance also convinced the couple that they should leave Florida.

"We just got tired of it," said Mount, 52, a former Broward County sheriff's deputy. "Everything is financial. The state of Florida is just going crazy."

Recent U.S. census figures show that Florida gains 1,000 people a day while losing 400, said Grant Thrall, a professor of business geography at the University of Florida. But some residents clearly are reconsidering because of the cost of living and other factors, Thrall said.

"People move to where their well-being is going to be the greatest," he said. "Many people find the urban-built environment of Florida totally disgusting."

As Floridians struggle with housing affordability and wages that have not kept pace with the cost of living, other states are aggressively trying to capture the Northeast migration that Florida once relied on for its growth, said Levin, the Delray Beach housing consultant.

"They're eating our lunch," he said.

Although Florida remains attractive compared with cold-weather states, "it is losing some of its luster," said Charles Longino, a Wake Forest University professor who studies the exodus of Florida senior citizens to North Carolina.

United Van Lines, based in suburban St. Louis, has tracked shipment patterns on a state-by-state basis since 1977. Its 2006 study is based on 227,254 interstate household moves among the 48 contiguous states and Washington, D.C.

Paul Owers can be reached at or 561-243-6529.