Angle down icon An icon in the shape of an angle pointing down. Kimberly Lovelace spent only five months living in Vero Beach, Florida, before she moved back to Virginia. Jeff Greenberg/Getty Images Florida was the top 2021 destination for movers, with 221,000 more US residents moving in than out. Some residents, however, are defying the prevailing narrative and leaving the Sunshine State behind. The leavers say the high cost of living, including skyrocketing insurance prices, is a big factor.
After living in Florida for just five months, Kimberly Lovelace decided she was over it.
Lovelace, 51, moved to Vero Beach, a coastal city between Orlando and Miami, with her two children from Williamsburg, Virginia, in May 2021. A self-described beach person, Lovelace told Insider she had frequently vacationed in Florida and imagined she would feel at home there. She was looking for a fresh start in a place she thought she was familiar with.
“At first, it still felt like that ‘vacation’ feel,” she said. “But as reality sinks in that you’re actually living there, that wears off. Living there is just such a completely different planet.”
Kimberly Lovelace and her two children, Kasey and Chase. Kimberly Lovelace
The costly reality of daily life in Florida shocked Lovelace the most. Take car insurance: Lovelace, a private investigator who uses her car regularly for work, paid $430 a month. The average car-insurance payment for US drivers is $148 per month.
The expenses — on top of what Lovelace described as stifling heat, reckless drivers, and dangerous critters like snakes and cane toads — compelled her to move back to Virginia in October 2021.
“It was so different living there,” she said. “It never felt like home to us.”
Indeed, some of the gloomier aspects of living in the Sunshine State are driving out residents. Reasons cited by members of a 11,000-person Facebook group for people moving out of Florida include oppressive weather, low wages, crowded beaches, changing politics, and unaffordable rents and home prices.
Florida movers by the numbers
Year after year, Florida is one of the top-ranking states in the country in net migration — which means that more people move there than move out.
Census estimates show that 220,890 more people moved in than out of Florida between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021, making the state the nation’s top destination for domestic migration. Data from the moving company United Van Lines found that 62.3% of Florida movers were inbound and 37.7% were outbound in 2021.
US post office change-of-address-requests data also shows Florida tends to see more people arriving than leaving in a given year: 130,000 more people moved in than out in 2021, and over 100,000 more individuals moved in than out in 2020. (The postal service does not release data for areas where it receives less than 11 change-of-address requests.)
That narrative has been championed by many Florida officials. The state’s chief financial officer, Jimmy Patronis, said in May 2021 that 900 people a day were moving to Florida. He attributed the state’s popularity to rising tax rates in other parts of the US.
Still, people do move out — and many are vocal about their reasons.
The high cost of living in the Sunshine State
CBS News recently called Florida the “least affordable” state in the country, and the rising cost of housing and other essentials pose major challenges for newcomers and residents alike.
A study by Joblist that compared wages to cost of living ranked Florida last out of all 50 states in affordability.
In Vero Beach, Lovelace rented a two-bedroom apartment with a loft for $1,650 a month. Fair-market rent in Indian River County, where Vero Beach is located, was $1,059 in 2021 and $1,018 in 2020, according to the Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Policy Development and Research.
She worried she would not be able to afford to buy a home when her lease was up. The median sale price for a home in Vero Beach in May 2022 was $394,500, a 27.3% increase from 2021, according to Redfin.
And if she wanted to renew her lease, she feared an exorbitant rent increase.
“When my lease is up, am I even going to be able to find anywhere to live?” she said. “I’m hearing all these stories of people that are jacking up the rent $700 a month.”
Another financial burden for Floridians is home insurance. The average homeowners’ insurance premium in the United States is $1,272 a year, but in Florida that number is $1,988.
‘A lot of my teacher friends don’t have kids because they can’t afford them’
Jeremy Craig, who is moving to California, said Florida wages are not keeping up with other states. Jeremy Craig
Jeremy Craig, a 39-year-old teacher in the Orlando area, told Insider that he and his colleagues believe their salaries can’t keep up with their expenses.
“A lot of my teacher friends just don’t have kids because they can’t afford them,” he said. “It’s really tough to get the things that you want on two teaching salaries.”
Craig and his wife, Colleen, are moving to Orange County, California, this month with their two children. They know the cost of living may be higher there — but so are wages.
The two purchased their four-bedroom Florida home for $496,000 in 2015. Craig said they will downsize to move to California.
Wealthy newcomers don’t encounter the same challenges
Michael Bordenaro, a Miami real-estate agent who told Insider in October 2021 that 50% of his clients who are new to the state quickly move back out, said that some new Floridians don’t face those challenges.
Ultrawealthy individuals like hedge funders or remote workers who are able to keep their out-of-state salaries can handle the high cost of living more easily, he said.
“People aren’t worried as much about the lower wages and the higher cost of insurance and things like that,” Bordenaro said. “They don’t have to get a job here in Florida.”
For relocators like Lovelace, though, the negatives outweighed the positives, making Florida a great place to visit — but not to live.
“I realized that all the things that we loved about Florida are pretty much what you would love on a vacation,” said Lovelace.