BAM Key Details:

  • According to U-Haul’s own records, more people moved to the Southeast and Southwest than anywhere else in 2022—with Texas and Florida at the top of the list
  • North American Moving Services likewise found most Americans moving in 2022 migrated to warmer states with more affordable housing

Around 13% of Americans moved every year before the pandemic hit. Since then, 22% have moved in response to COVID—or they know someone who did. 

And where are they moving to? According to U-Haul’s mover migration studies, more people moved to the Southeast and Southwest than anywhere else—with Texas and Florida at the top of the list.

The year 2022 brought a slowdown in state-to-state moves, but the most popular states still see more people moving in than out.

States with the highest inbound traffic—according to U-Haul

According to U-Haul’s latest growth index report, Texas and Florida were the top two migration destinations for one-way customers in 2022—for the second consecutive year. 

Coming in at numbers three and four on the list are the Carolinas, with Virginia taking the number five spot.

Meanwhile, movers continue to leave areas on the West Coast and in the Northeast and Midwest, with California, Illinois, and New York at the bottom of the growth index for the third consecutive year.

Top inbound and outbound states per North American Moving Services

Aside from a few differences in the numbers for inbound and outbound movement, North American Moving Service showed the same general trend—with more Americans moving to relatively affordable areas in the Southeast and Southwest and leaving expensive markets on the West Coast and in the Northeast and Midwest. 

Top inbound states for 2022:

  • South Carolina: 66% (inbound)
  • North Carolina: 64%
  • Tennessee: 64%
  • Arizona: 57%
  • Florida: 55%

Top outbound states: 

  • Illinois: 65% (outbound)
  • California: 63%
  • New Jersey: 62%
  • Pennsylvania: 60%
  • Michigan: 59%

New York also had a 59% outbound rate, but unlike with U-Haul, it didn’t make the top five. 

Densely-populated, expensive urban areas are losing people

Highly-populated and pricey metro areas in California, New Jersey, and Illinois all saw more people leaving in 2022 than coming in. 

A key factor in the migration away from these areas is the increase in remote work. Remote workers have the flexibility to live where they want, and more are choosing smaller cities with more affordable housing markets and proximity to nature.

These cities are also drawing more Americans looking to retire. Whether in the balmy southern states or the mountain west, areas with more affordable housing and better access to wide-open spaces are swelling with newcomers.

Most popular states as of Q3 2022

Judging by moveBuddha’s lists for 2022, Hawaii and Alaska are doing the best job of holding onto existing residents. No doubt the geographic isolation helps with that. Another reason is the breathtaking landscape that both states offfer.

Whatever climate you (or your clients) are into, Americans across the country are looking for relatively affordable areas where they can spend more time outdoors. The growing appeal of pandemic-friendly recreational activities—like skiing, hiking, sailing, and whitewater rafting—have made more out-of-the-way locations attractive to migrating Americans.

Southern states with mild weather, relatively affordable housing, and outdoor recreation—like Florida, North and South Carolina, and Tennessee—top the charts for inbound migration versus outbound. All four have big-city life, but they’re better known for their stunning nature preserves and year-round outdoor concerts.

Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina have all maintained a strong inflow throughout the pandemic. And North Carolina has seen a 3% increase in inbound migration compared to 2021. 

It helps that many of its fastest-growing metros, like New Bern, are also popular destinations for retirement-minded movers.

Here are the top ten most popular states by net inflow in 2022, according to moveBuddha:

  1. Hawaii
  2. Alaska
  3. Maine
  4. Montana
  5. South Carolina
  6. North Carolina
  7. Vermont
  8. Tennessee
  9. Florida
  10. Wyoming

Most popular cities in 2022

On the city level, research shows that it’s not the heavily populated urban job centers that are drawing new people in. Instead, more people are flocking to small and mid-sized cities with more affordable housing and plenty of outdoor recreation 

The most popular cities on the list make it easier for movers to get out into nature. At the top of the list, Ocala, in central Florida, has 60,000 residents and is best known for the glass-bottomed boats that tour nearby Silver Springs State Park, giving passengers a glimpse of the local manatees, alligators, and fish beneath the swampy water.

Ocala is smaller than nearby Orlando, Gainesville, and “the Villages,” and is close to a number of cultural and employment hubs while still affording residents a calmer place to live. 

That said, with 524 inbound movers for every 100 outbound, Ocala could soon become another Florida metropolis.

North Carolina cities that made the list are Eagle Rock (#4) and Asheville (#6), both offering proximity to local parks and an abundance of hiking trails. 

Further down on the list, Honolulu (#7) and Anchorage (#8) prove that more movers are going beyond the core mainland options, possibly buying second homes in these popular out-of-the-way areas.

Here are the top ten most popular cities by net inflow:

  1. Ocala, Florida—with an in-to-out ratio of 3:28
  2. Portland, Maine—2.92
  3. Chattanooga, Tennessee—2.78
  4. Eagle Rock, North Carolina—2.69
  5. Missoula, Montana—2.67
  6. Asheville, North Carolina—2.62
  7. Honolulu, Hawaii—2.45
  8. Anchorage, Alaska—2.43
  9. Myrtle Beach, South Carolina—2.38
  10. Sarasota, Florida—2.32

Most popular big cities to move to in 2022

Not all big cities are being shunned by migrating Americans. Tampa, Florida is the most popular large metropolitan destination in 2022. And it’s not the only popular one in the state. Orlando, Jacksonville, and Miami also made the list.

Here are the ten most popular large cities by net inflow:

  1. Tampa, Florida—with an in-to-out ratio of 1.84
  2. Orlando, Florida—1.75
  3. Charlotte, North Carolina—1.73
  4. Raleigh, North Carolina—1.71
  5. Nashville, Tennessee—1.69
  6. Jacksonville, Florida—5.51
  7. Colorado Springs, Colorado—1.5
  8. Denver, Colorado—1.45
  9. Boston, Massachusetts—1.43
  10. Dallas, Texas—1.4

Four Texas cities also made it into the top 20: Dallas (#10), Austin (#11), Houston (#14), and San Antonio (#15).

Least popular states as of Q3 2022

As mentioned above, the densely populated urban states are currently the least popular, with many more Americans looking to get out than to relocate in any of them.

The top five least popular states in 2022 are all in the 12 most heavily populated states. 

California, New Jersey, and Illinois are losing the most residents, which is likely related to each state’s affordability challenges. New Jersey, for example, has the country’s highest property taxes as well as exorbitant real estate and rental prices. It’s also seeing an exodus of corporate headquarters.

So, it’s not surprising so many are packing up and looking for smaller communities with a lower cost of living.

New York and Connecticut are dealing with the same affordability challenges and are likewise losing residents.

Here are the top ten least popular states by net inflow:

  1. California
  2. New Jersey
  3. Illinois
  4. New York
  5. Maryland
  6. Louisiana
  7. Connecticut
  8. Utah
  9. Rhode Island
  10. Nebraska

Least popular cities in 2022

Cost of living is a primary factor driving residents out of the cities on the list below.

It certainly doesn’t help that three of these cities’ real estate prices are over $1 million. And you won’t pay less than the national average in any of the cities on this list.

The median home price in Alameda, CA (#4) is about $1,400,000. 

Here are the top ten least popular cities by net inflow:

  1. Bronx, New York—with an in/out ratio of 0.37
  2. Staten Island, New York—0.4
  3. Murrieta, California—0.42
  4. Alameda, California—0.46
  5. Falls Church, Virginia—0.46
  6. Trenton, New Jersey—0.47
  7. Astoria, New York—0.49
  8. Woodbridge, Virginia—0.49
  9. Huntington Beach, California—0.49
  10. Costa Mesa, California—0.5

Source: moveBuddha

Top takeaways for real estate agents

If you’re working in an area that’s seeing more outbound traffic than inbound, consider how you might help sellers moving out of state with money-saving tips and recommendations/referrals. 

You might even have an opportunity to collaborate with a local supplier of moving trucks and equipment or a trustworthy moving company.

In areas where more people are moving in than out, identify the advantages to both buyers and sellers in the area, so you can help them get the best possible deal on the purchase or sale of their home.