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 month, United Van Lines (UVL) 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 UVL data, nearly one-in-five movers say they are moving for retirement—a proportion that has remained steady for the last five years. A survey conducted by the National Association of REALTORS® last year found that 11% of both buyers and sellers choose to transact because of retirement. And an increasing proportion of buyers are purchasing homes to retire in, as only 3% did so in 2010.
Here are the Top 10 states people moved to for retirement in 2022, according to UVL:
1. Wyoming (42.3%)
With no state income taxes, plenty of land and relatively cheap homes (ranked 12 by Rocket Mortgage in 2022), the Cowboy State might not seem like the easiest or most relaxing retirement destination. But one of the lowest property tax rates at 0.56% (according to the nonprofit Tax Foundation) and some truly unique natural beauty (including spectacular hot springs) are clearly drawing people to the area. Also a destination for remote workers, Wyoming offers a range of climates, from drier desert basins to chilly low mountain communities.
2. Delaware (39.6%)
Another tax haven with low property taxes and no state income tax, Delaware also topped the list of places people move to for lifestyle changes. A little more homogenous, but still offering beachy, rural and city lifestyles, the state has seen a large influx in retirees, with the proportion rising 12.8% in the last six years. And according to Rent.com, the First State saw some of the highest average rent increases over the last year, making homeownership a much more financially attractive option.
3. South Carolina (38.7%)
Surprisingly, the first state with a year-round warm climate comes in at third place. The Palmetto State also differs from the first two states on this list in that it levies significant state income taxes (though legislators just passed a major reduction), albeit with low effective property tax rates. Financial aspects aside, Myrtle Beach has long been a retirement destination with its relaxed atmosphere and plentiful golf courses. In fact, the number of people who say they are moving to South Carolina for lifestyle reasons more than doubled (up 248%) in the last nine years.
4. Florida (37.6%)
Traditionally the first place many people think of when retirement is brought up, people moving to the Sunshine State are still looking for a warm, coastal and community-oriented destination to live out their golden years. With the second-oldest average population of all 50 states, according to nonprofit Population Reference Bureau, 69.1% of movers in 2022 were 55 or older, up significantly from 53.1% in 2014, meaning that trend is likely to change. Florida has also seen some of the highest and most resilient home price increases in recent years, which is good news for current owners, but has also pushed many prospective buyers out.
5. Maine (35.4%)
Another state that may not seem like the kind of climate that would tempt lots of retirees, the Pine Tree State has been attracting more and more seniors in recent years. In 2014, 60% of movers to Maine were 55 or older. In 2022, that rose to 76.9%—a higher proportion than the other four states ranked above it on this list. Surprisingly, Maine has a state income tax, higher than average effective property tax and relatively unaffordable homes, meaning movers might be enamored with the state’s bountiful woodlands and culture-rich village lifestyle, rather than trying to protect their nest egg. Location may be important as well, with Maine much nearer to major Northeast population centers (37.8% of Maine movers also cited family as a reason for choosing the state).
6. Arizona (34.5%)
Somewhat an up-and-comer as a retirement destination, Arizona recently passed a controversial pseudo flat tax rate, likely to benefit higher earners. With variable but predominantly warm year-round weather, retiring to the Grand Canyon State means plenty of opportunities to soak up the desert vibes in Sedona or cruise through one of many stunning national parks. Arizona isn’t cheap though, ranked 37 for cost of living, with 44% of movers reporting an income of $150,000 or more. The state is also facing a water crisis, as new homebuilding and new arrivals have flowed in faster than local resources can keep up.
7. New Mexico (33.3%)
Another representative from the Southwest, retirees heading to the Land of Enchantment will still pay an income and property tax—albeit at lower rates than the national average. Like Arizona, the state remains mostly warm year round, with basins, plains and mountainous areas. The state is also known for diverse cultural and culinary offerings, along with more unique activities like horseback riding and ballooning. On the other hand, the state is ranked near the bottom for healthcare (No. 40 out of 50 states, according to United Health Foundation) and has struggled with crime as well.
8. South Dakota (33.3%)
A somewhat surprising destination for retirees due to its isolation and rugged climate, the number of people retiring to South Dakota has doubled in the last five years. Movers to the Coyote State have also increasingly reported that lifestyle was important in their decision, meaning the space and independence afforded there might be appealing rather than frightening. Finances might also factor in—with no income tax and cost of living on the lower end (with higher than average property taxes). In fact, South Dakota was ranked 2nd for “fiscal stability” by USNews, meaning stable services and high quality of life for residents.
9. West Virginia (33.3%)
Those who want to take country roads to their retirement have a bevy of reasons to choose the Mountaineer State, but the first and most obvious one is likely cost. According to Forbes, West Virginia had the cheapest home prices in 2022, and also boasted the 9th-lowest cost of living out of all 50 states. Although income taxes are high (with both state and sometimes town-level taxes), effective property taxes are minimal—the 8th-lowest in the country. Apart from fiduciary concerns, West Virginia boasts lots of quiet rural and mountain regions, but also relatively high poverty and substance abuse.
10. Alabama (29.1%)
If you want a sweet retirement home, Alabama has a lot to offer. A state income tax that peaks at 5% is offset by some of the lowest cost of living in the country (ranked No. 4 in 2022). The Heart of Dixie is attractive to both renters and buyers, and is another state that has seen an influx of older movers—from 18% 65 and older in 2014 to 36.8% in 2022. Although ranked on the lower end for healthcare, crime and economy, Alabama offers plenty of Southern comfort of both the city and rural variety, along with a warm—though often stormy—climate.