Real Estate

You’ll Never Guess the Most Popular—and Unpopular—States in America

High taxes? Check. Higher home prices? Check. Lots of snow? Check.

For the fourth year running, New Jersey had the highest percentage of residents moving out of it, according to the 45th Annual United Van Lines National Movers Study. That may be because more folks who can work remotely are evaluating where they want to live—and the pricey Garden State isn’t making the cut.

“Part of the issue for the Northeast, particularly for New Jersey, it has an older population,” says economics professor Michael A. Stoll at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Many retirees are deciding to move out because it’s cold and there are high housing costs and they could move to cheaper, less populated areas. That’s been a trend for a long time now, but it’s accelerated due to the global pandemic.”

To come up with its findings, the moving company looked at the percentage of inbound and outbound state moves compared with the overall number of moves in each state. Only the 48 continental states and Washington, DC, were included.

The ability of many Americans to work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic and commute less to their offices led to more folks relocating to smaller, less populated communities. Nearly a third, 31.8%, of movers wanted to be closer to their families, while about 32.5% relocated for a new job or work transfer.

“People are looking for less crowded, lower-cost areas. Those could be smaller cities, towns, and states,” says Stoll. “Many of them are people at or near retirement age. With remote work, they can make that decision to move to transition for retirement but keeping their jobs for as long as they can.”

More folks left the colder Northeast (except for Vermont) and the Midwest and headed to the warmer South and West, according to the study. Pricier parts of the country fared worse than more affordable states with lower home prices, taxes, and costs of living.

After New Jersey, Illinois had the second-most people moving out and fewest new folks coming in. It was followed by New York, Connecticut, California, Michigan, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Ohio, and Nebraska.

While Austin, TX; Boise, ID; and pretty much everywhere in Florida have snagged headlines recently as the hottest destinations during the pandemic, Vermont actually saw the most new residents move in.

“It doesn’t have a large share of people moving in and out,” says Stoll, referring to the state’s smaller population. Many of the folks moving in are coming from Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey. “It has lots of outdoor amenities, fewer people, and lower housing costs, especially compared to the bordering states.”

More affordable places to live with lower taxes were popular for those picking up and heading someplace new.

Vermont was followed by South Dakota, South Carolina, West Virginia, and Florida. Rounding out the top 10 were Alabama, Tennessee, Oregon, Idaho, and Rhode Island.

The most balanced states—with roughly the same number of folks moving in and out—were Kentucky and Wyoming.

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