Vermont Business Magazine Relocation tech company moveBuddha is shining a light on move trends in 2022. Their new report released in August reveals the most popular (and least popular) states to move to this 2022. Vermont is the #10 state for inflow in 2022. In fact, the state is one of the few that has maintained consistently high inflow since 2020, landing in the list of top 10 year after year.
2020: 175 moves in for every 100 out (#9)
2021: 182 moves in for every 100 out (#8)
2022: 168 moves in for every 100 out (#10)
Northern New England has faired better than anywhere else in the Northeast in this report, with Maine ranked 5th and New Hampshire just outside the plus side, where it resided the previous two years. Here’s the link to the full report: https://www.movebuddha.com/blo
Most popular states to move to in 2022:
Least popular states:
Call it Manifest Destiny. Even before the pandemic, Americans have made a habit of packing up in search of a better life. Using Conestoga wagons or following Route 66, they’ve sought education and job opportunities far from home.
Roughly 13% of Americans moved each year before the pandemic. So, it makes sense that Americans have attacked COVID-19 as they’ve resolved so many other challenges: by hitting the road. Since the pandemic, 22% of Americans have moved in response to the virus or know someone who has.
Fortunately, pandemics don’t last forever.
With restrictions waning and calls for employees to return to the office, will the country’s movers head back home?
moveBuddha wanted to keep tabs on moving trends as the country adjusts to its pandemic re-entry. As we round the halfway mark in 2022, which states are still popular? What’s changed? And what does the future look like as the Great Reshuffle settles into the Great New Normal?
What’s happening in America in 2022?
- Overall, there’s a slowdown in state-to-state moves. There are fewer swinging highs and lows, and a more moderate flow of migration between states.
- Sustained growth: The Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina clusters were not just popular at the beginning of the pandemic, but have stayed popular in 2022 — Montana and Florida too.
- Rising star: North Carolina is increasingly popular, with an 8% growth in inflow comparing last year to the 1st half of 2022.
- Top states for inflow are Hawaii and Alaska, which have lower overall search volumes but don’t lose many existing residents to state-to-state moves.
- Dense, urban areas losing out: Densely populated New Jersey, California, and Illinois all had more outbound moves than inbound.
- Popular cities have helped movers get out in nature. Nationwide, the cities with the highest inflow to outflow ratio are Ocala, FL; Chattanooga, TN; Sarasota, FL; Greenville, SC; and Asheville, NC.
- Big city spotlight: #1 Charlotte, NC is the most popular large city to move to in 2022. While 4 Texas cities land in the top 10: #2 Dallas, #3 Austin, #5 San Antonio, and #6 Houston.
- 5 of the top 10 common routes are exits from Illinois, 4 of which are leaving Chicago. The #1 route: Downers Grove, IL to Ocala, FL.
Nationwide, what is different in 2022?
Fueled by a desire to escape the perceived risks of public transportation and apartment elevators, densely-populated urban areas lost twice as many residents in 2020 as in previous years.
That trend continued throughout the pandemic, as newly-remote workers found they could work from smaller cities and take advantage of affordable homes and nearby nature, and early retirees called it quits. As a result, the balmy southeastern states and mountain west swelled with newcomers.
Click the year “button” below to see the changing trends:
Since 2020, overall moves have slowed. Whereas 2020’s movers were in a rush to relocate, there are fewer overall moves today. Even though they’re not the boom states of 2020, today’s most popular destinations remain the same.
Mountain Renaissance: Rural, Remote, and Retiring
In particular, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina have maintained strong inflow throughout the pandemic. The Appalachian Highlands at the intersection of these states has seen a renaissance, with plenty of outdoor activities, rolling hills, and Blue Ridge views. All three have been top ten retirement destinations, too. Before the pandemic, the oversized baby boomer generation saw 10,000 daily retirements, so accelerating boomers’ journey to retirement potentially means picking up a lot of inbound moves in a short period.
North Carolina is especially feeling the love. It’s seen an 8% increase in inflow compared to 2021, and many of its fastest-growing cities are retirement havens, like New Bern and St. James.
Other popular destinations in the mountain west are Montana and Wyoming, with waning popularity of neighboring states like Idaho, Noth Dakota, and South Dakota. All over wide open spaces for pandemic-wary city dwellers, a reality that is enticing to the high numbers of California residents making these outposts in the Rocky Mountains their new home.
Yet even Montana’s continued popularity took a huge hit after 2020’s peak relocation season: the state saw its ratio of inbound to outbound inquiries plummet from a 2020 high of 3.72 to a mid-2022 rate of 2.14. That’s still more than twice the inbound inquiries per outbound move, but it represents a dive in the state’s popularity as movers settle into new long-term patterns following their initial pandemic exodus.
While the most popular states of the pandemic begin to see fewer moves, which states are rising to fill their place?
Mississippi, which saw outflow top inflow in 2020, has seen its ratio steadily reverse in 2021 and grow even stronger in 2022.
Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama have also turned heads with gradually strengthening inbound to outbound ratios.
Perhaps these less popular choices remain affordable, enjoying some of the same mild weather as their increasingly unaffordable southern neighbors.
Getting Out of the Crowd: 2022’s most and least popular states
Sure, it’s harder to move out of Hawaii than other states, but why would you want to?
Most popular states as of mid-year 2022
Hawaii and Alaska do the best job of retaining existing residents, in part due to their geographic isolation and jaw-dropping scenery. Paddle an outrigger canoe to an erupting volcano or sail a skiff along the inlets of Juneau to get a sense of the big landscapes that both these Pacific states offer adventurers.
You may get a sense of why these states are recent winners. As Americans find the freedom to work remotely, they increasingly value spending time outdoors, pursuing pandemic-friendly recreational opportunities like sailing, skiing, whitewater rafting, and hiking. After all, the wilderness does not lockdown, and an afternoon escape to a regional park can make a tough remote work day bearable.
Likewise, southern states with mild weather and outdoor recreation, like Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, win the most queries for inbound compared to outbound moves. While you’ll find big-city life in any of these states, they’re better known for year-round outdoor concerts and stunning nature preserves.
Least popular states as of mid-year 2022
For outbound moves, densely populated urban states are the least popular destinations, with many more people looking to leave than relocate there. The top five least popular states are all in the 12 most densely populated U.S. states. Overall, city life has never seemed so unappealing.
New Jersey, California, and Illinois are losing the most residents compared to those moving in, and in addition to being densely populated, they face affordability challenges. New Jersey residents pay the country’s highest property taxes, deal with exorbitant real estate and rent prices, and increasingly see corporate headquarters leave the state, taking jobs with them. It’s only natural that New Jersey residents would give up the shore in pursuit of more affordable housing and plentiful jobs. Nearby New York and Connecticut are facing the same challenge and are also losing residents.
The story should be familiar to both residents of Illinois and California. Both were economic powerhouses whose residents are increasingly wrestling with unaffordable housing and high property taxes. As both California and Illinois lose employers, their residents consider following close behind.
Monthly ebbs and flow of moves in 2022
What does moving look like in your state?
The month-by-month breakdown of state in-to-out ratio helps highlight which out-of-state movers are increasingly or decreasingly interested in moving to.
When we eliminate moves within each state and examine purely moves from state to state, we can see that:
- Coolin’ off: Moves to Montana have dropped from a ratio of 475 in to 100 out in January down to an average hovering around 175 in to 100 out.
- Balancing out: Texas is leveling off, no big spikes or dives for moves to or from Texas across the year. Even still, the popular state maintains an average higher inflow of moves from out of state than it loses in 2022.
You can check out the interactive chart here with details for all 50 states (last updated 8/1/2022).
Small Cities, Big Nature: Which cities are especially popular in 2022, across the country?
We know that southeastern states are dominating U.S. migration, but which cities are leading the pack? As you might expect, it’s not the highly populated urban hubs that are drawing new residents. Instead, it’s small and mid-sized cities with plenty of affordable housing and outdoor recreation.
Top cities to move to in 2022
|Rank||City, State||In-to-out Ratio|
|4||Greenville, South Carolina||2.55|
|5||Asheville, North Carolina||2.53|
|7||Summerville, South Carolina||2.45|
|8||Myrtle Beach, South Carolina||2.37|
|9||Avon Park, Florida||2.29|
#1 Ocala is a 60,000-person city in central Florida best known not for its startup scene or museum exhibitions, but for the glass-bottomed boats that navigate nearby Silver Springs State Park showing off local manatees, alligators, and fish beneath the swampy water. Close to Orlando, Gainesville, and “the Villages,” a fast-growing planned retirement city, Ocala’s near cultural and employment hubs without being in the heat of the action itself. Yet. With 524 inbound moves for every 100 outbound, Ocala may become one of Florida’s metropolises soon.
#3 Sarasota is another of Florida’s biggest inbound winners, and like Ocala, it protects residents’ access to a pristine waterfront ecosystem. Access to nature is a trait that multiple cities in the top ten also share.
#2 Chattanooga, #4 Greenville, and #5 Asheville all boast miles of trails, so newcomers can lace up their boots or break in their mountain bikes right outside their new back doors.
Is Southern affordability driving moves to the region?
Maybe, but it won’t be for long.
Just three cities on the top ten list (Sarasota, Asheville, and Honolulu) have median home prices above the $428,000 national average. New residents will pay just $200,573 for a median-priced home in Avon Park, FL, the most affordable city in the top ten.
Unfortunately, with real estate prices increasing between 19% and 70% from 2020 to 2022, the cities on this list have homes that are all less affordable than they were just two years ago.
It could be that rising real estate prices have cooled interest in cities that were some of the pandemic’s initial winners. For example, once red-hot Florida’s inbound to outbound ratio is down from a 2021 high of 2.10 to 1.84, now 7th in the nation.
Seeing popular cities’ real estate prices soar (once tiny Ocala’s median home price has seen a jump of 57.83% from 2020 to 2022 alone, while Sarasota’s median home cost has risen 70% in the same period) could be one factor that is dampening Florida’s popularity.
Other small and mid-size cities known for affordable real estate have also seen their cost advantage disappear over the last two years and their popularity falter. In fact, the top five cities with the highest inbound to outbound move ratios (Ocala, Chattanooga, Sarasota, Greenville, and Asheville) have all seen home prices increase at least 37%. That’s on top of an average 49.28% increase for these southern cities from 2010 to 2020.
Which cities are seeing the most exits in 2022?
|Rank||City, State||In-to-out Ratio|
|1||Bronx, New York||0.35|
|4||San Mateo, California||0.51|
With four of the ten least popular cities’ real estate prices over $1 million, it’s easy to see cost of living as a primary factor driving outbound moves.
Among least-popular cities with high outbound traffic, you’ll only pay less than the national average for a home in Bakersfield, CA and Bloomington, IN. Want to live in #4 San Mateo? The median home there will set you back $2,028,506.
Big city trends: Which urban areas are the most popular to move to in 2022?
Looking purely at cities with the highest search volumes, we can see which of the nation’s largest cities are most or least popular to move to:
|Rank||City, State||In-to-out Ratio|
|1||Charlotte, North Carolina||1.82|
|5||San Antonio, Texas||1.24|
|9||Las Vegas, Nevada||1.18|
|13||New York, New York||1.09|
|15||Washington, District of Columbia||0.98|
|17||San Francisco, California||0.89|
|18||Los Angeles, California||0.87|
|19||San Diego, California||0.81|
Among the top 20 cities with over 1,000 searches for moves both in and out, the pattern is the same: three of the five least popular large cities are in California, with sky-high housing costs.
The most popular large city to move to in 2022? Charlotte, North Carolina, where although housing prices have hit an all-time record, they’re still less than the national average.
While 4 Texas cities are among the most popular large cities in the nation in 2022: Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, and Houston, in that order.
No More Sweet Home Chicago: Top routes in first half of 2022
These are the city pairs that stand out when we look at the most popular state-to-state move routes.
- 5 of the top 10 common routes are exits from Illinois, 4 of which are leaving Chicago
- The #1 route is from Downers Grove to Ocala, Florida
- New York is the destination of choice for 4 of these popular routes
Chicagoans are getting out, and they’re not picky about where they’re going. From suburban Downers Grove, they’re choosing retirement-friendly Ocala, FL. Chicago’s urban residents are heading to Seattle, Los Angeles, New York, and Austin. Overall, Illinoisans are choosing multiple routes out of the city. However, most wind up in other large American cities.
While Chicagoans embrace cities in multiple time zones, with several different climates and political leanings, other big city movers are more predictable.
- Californians from San Francisco and Los Angeles are swapping the west coast for the Big Apple.
- Seattleites are choosing Austin, TX and New York.
In general, city-to-city swaps don’t follow the national trend that movers seek out a lower cost of living in a natural wonderland. For cities with the highest populations, and therefore number of searches, movers prioritize staying close to jobs, culture, and city life. No matter where they start, they’re choosing destinations that mirror those they just left.
Let’s hope they can find a decent Chicago-style hot dog.
Recovery from the Big City Blues
While rates of inbound and outbound traffic favor states with more room to stretch out, raw numbers show city-dwellers trading cities. They’re less concerned about costs, natural amenities, and lower taxes. However, when we consider rates of inbound versus outbound traffic, smaller city winners clearly emerge, heralding a move toward the southwest, mountain, and less densely populated states and cities.
As we embrace the next normal, more remote workers and retirees are choosing their next destination based on lifestyle, taxes, and cost of living, not proximity to a subway.
While the pandemic may be emerging in our rear-view mirrors, the lifestyle of remote working and spending time outdoors has not disappeared. It’s only gotten stronger. The first half of 2022 has shown that while fewer people are moving, the patterns that emerged early in the pandemic reshuffle remain. Movers are embracing their own well-being in small cities in the southeast, with lower costs, great weather, and a heaping dose of recreation.
Methodology & Sources
We use moveBuddha proprietary data collected from 2020, 2021, and 2022 (Jan 1 through July 5th) to analyze moves trends. The data comes directly from the moveBuddha Moving Cost Calculator.
In-to-out ratio: We rely primarily on the in-to-out ratio equation in our analysis to see which cities are earning more residents by moves in than losing them via moves out: [Number of queries for moves in] ÷ [Number of queries for moves out] = [in-to-out ratio].
Zillow Home Value data is used for understanding the home value and home value percentage increase over time.