People always need to move. That simple fact is more important than ever as the housing market shifts to a down-cycle, and mortgage rates, inflation and geopolitical uncertainty squeeze both buyers and sellers. Even so, surveys continue to show that people move for personal reasons, not based on market conditions.
Last week, United Van Lines released its most recent survey of movers, tracking which states people were leaving, which states they were flocking to, and why. With major shifts in why people buy and sell homes—driven by remote work, affordability issues and deeper demographic trends—understanding what is shaping your region’s housing market is vital to your success.
According to the United Van Lines data, 17% of movers overall were looking for a lifestyle change in 2022. The National Association of REALTOR® (NAR) found that close to 30% of buyers and 34% of sellers cite lifestyle as their reason for entering the market.
Here are the top 10 states for people looking to switch up their lifestyle:
1. Delaware (33.3%)
Exactly one-third (33.3%) of people moving to The First State cited lifestyle as their reason—a major increase from five years ago, when only 14.3% of people heading there were looking for lifestyle changes. With its low tax rate and relaxed beach communities, Delaware also drew a significant share of higher-income folks, with 32% of inbound families reporting incomes of $150,000 or more. Older folks have also flocked to the state, with 74% of inbound residents age 55 or older.
2. Montana (31.4%)
Big Sky Country, with its open space, isolation and breathtaking landscapes, unsurprising is a lifestyle draw. Known for offering both a rugged mountain environment as well as some booming resort communities, Montana was a common destination for coastal emigration during the pandemic. Just under one-third (31.7%) of movers to Montana were 54 or younger, and a similar number (33.3%) reported incomes of less than $75,000, meaning the state is somewhat of a destination for younger folks seeking affordability or a place to start a family.
3. South Dakota (29.2%)
Another wide-open plains state, South Dakota drew a large percentage of families seeking a new kind of lifestyle. With a significant overall increase in population in recent years, the Mount Rushmore State is clearly building an environment people want. And those changes have come in the last five years or so—only 8.8% of movers cited lifestyle as their reason for putting down roots in South Dakota in 2017. Older folks are one of the primary drivers, with the 55 and older demographic making up a staggering 76.2% of movers in 2022, compared to 24.3% in 2017.
4. Florida (28.3%)
In a surprise to no one, lifestyle remains a significant factor for those choosing to head to the Sunshine State. In fact, an influx of out-of-towners drove up prices and gobbled housing inventory over the last few years, with some metros seeing 30% or higher price increases. Also unsurprisingly, Florida remains a destination for older folks, with 69% age 55 or older, a proportion that has only increased in recent years (only 53.1% of movers were in that age range in 2014).
5. New Hampshire (27.3%)
The Granite State rounds out the top five as another destination for open space and low income taxes. Also skewing older (71.7% in the 55-plus range), New Hampshire offers outdoor adventures with soaring mountain ranges and family-friendly lake resorts. Conversely, the state ranks as one of the highest for effective property tax rates (even though median home price is relatively low), meaning affordability is likely a factor for those considering moving there. Almost two-thirds (63.6%) of families moving to New Hampshire reported an income of $100,000 or more, compared to 52.9% in neighboring Vermont, and 52.3% in Maine.
6. Arizona (26.2%)
Boasting a booming pandemic market, Arizona attracted plenty of folks who seemingly sought out warmer temperatures and a dazzling desert climate. Home to some of the country’s premier planned communities—including the developer currently contracted by Disney to build its first “Storyliving” community—lifestyle movers to The Copper State are also wealthier and older. Forty-four percent of inbound Arizona residents were 65 or older, and an identical percentage had an income of $150,000 or more.
7. South Carolina (25.9%)
With two cities in NAR’s “10 Real Estate Markets to Watch in 2023,” people clearly love the Palmetto State for the kinds of lifestyle opportunities it affords. Offering open country, beach vacations and an overall warm climate, South Carolina also contains several large metros with vibrant nightlife. With about a third of movers (33%) having incomes of less than $100,000, it is also a destination for affordability, with the median home price just above $300,000, according to Zillow.
8. Virginia (23.5%)
People who head to the Commonwealth of Virginia are very often expecting a positive lifestyle change. Another state with a good mix of suburban, rural and city living options, the iconic slogan of “Virginia Is for Lovers” could accurately describe folks who moved there in 2022. More than a third (35.3%) were under the age of 44, and almost two-fifths (38.2%) cited family as their reason, suggesting a lot of Virginia arrivals are younger couples or families. State officials are also moving toward a less restrictive zoning environment, which could open up housing in the state further.
9. Colorado (23.17%)
Out in the Mountain West, Colorado drew plenty of transplants to its laid-back cities, extensive access to the Rocky Mountains and 23 million acres of public land available for hunting and camping. These, and other activities favored by young people, drew a large cohort of younger movers (33.4% under 44). The state has also attracted a more affluent crowd, with 53.8% making $150,000 or more, compared to 38% five years ago. Housing affordability issues have made it harder for some to move there, with a recent influx of institutional buyers likely playing a part.
10. Wyoming (23.1%)
As the country’s least populous state, Wyoming certainly caters to the lifestyle of someone looking for peace, space and freedom. The Cowboy State drew lots of interest from remote workers during the pandemic, though in 2022, it actually had more families moving out than in. The fact that 64.7% of people heading to Wyoming reported incomes of $150,000 or higher (the state median income is closer to $64,000) strongly suggests that wealthy remote workers are driving the growth.