Brevard County, Florida, homes

The latest housing trend: Permanent vacations 

More people are moving closer to beaches and further from urban centers to places with city amenities and lower housing costs, according to a new report.

July 23, 2023
3 minutes

Key points:

  • Vacation hotspots such as Brevard County, Florida, are becoming popular year-round homes.
  • The State of U.S. Population Movement Report used mobile device data from Q1 2020-Q1 2023.
  • Commute times seem to be less of a factor in people’s choice of where to move.

They're nice places to visit, and increasingly, people want to live there.

People seeking more than a week or two at the beach are moving full time to traditional vacation spots, according to The State of U.S. Population Movement Report, which covers Jan. 1, 2020-March 31, 2023. 

Vacation destinations such as Rehoboth Beach in Delaware; the many beaches of Brevard County, Florida; and Muskegon, Michigan are seeing an influx of new permanent residents.

People are also ditching high-cost metros for places where their dollars go further.

"Consumers are empowered now more than ever to adjust their living situation to match their desired lifestyle," said Jeff White, founder and CEO of Gravy Analytics, which produced the report using mobile device data.

The Covid pandemic may have faded, but the remote work era is hanging on, which makes this "a crucial time for organizations to capitalize on the new opportunities these markets present," White said.

Big-city paychecks help people live large in smaller towns

Consumers are making the most of their income by keeping their big-city salaries but moving to counties that boast a median house value of $279,000, about 38% lower than the median house value of those counties that are losing population.

"Consumers overwhelmingly moved to smaller markets with a lower average cost of housing," according to the report.  

That doesn't mean "Green Acres"-style moves to the country. People who still like city living are simply making smaller, more affordable metros their home.

Places such as Greensboro, North Carolina; Augusta, Georgia; Scranton, Pennsylvania; and El Paso, Texas, are seeing population growth, because they offer the kinds of shopping, dining and entertainment experiences that city dwellers like but with lower costs of living.

Commutes are not driving consumers to stay close-in

Not everyone can escape the office full time. In several states, consumers moved away from more urban centers to exurbs the next county over.

"With more people now working remotely or returning to the office on a hybrid schedule, it could be that people don't mind driving an hour or two for an in-person meeting." the report concludes. "Whatever the cause, more people are now willing to live further from work, trading the convenience of city living and a short commute for more space and a lower-cost lifestyle."

A closer look at NY, California and Florida 

Key regional findings in the report include:

  • Residents of New York City largely moved away from the metropolitan area in favor of places in western and central New York. Erie County, which has a median house value of just under $180,000 — less than one-fifth of what it is in Manhattan — saw its population grow more than any other county in the state. 

  • California also saw residents leave pricey Los Angeles County for Riverside County, where the median house value is almost 48% lower. 

  • Orlando County saw its population drop, but Polk County, Florida, on the edge of the Orlando metro area, saw a gain. Positioned halfway between Tampa and Orlando, Polk County boasts a median house value that is less than half of Miami Dade's $357,000.

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