After sinking to record lows in 2011, the nation’s mover rate climbed to 12 percent this year, with about 36.5 million people moving into a new home, U.S. census data unveiled on Monday showed.
Although the majority of those moves were within 50 miles, more New Yorkers trekked to Florida than any other interstate migration — a strong sign that Florida’s growth model is beginning to rebound from the prolonged pause of the Great Recession.
“If you look at household balance sheets, the numbers are much higher than where they were in the crisis,” said Sean Snaith, an economist with the University of Central Florida. “That has helped fuel retirement flows in Florida from a class whose decision is highly driven by asset values.”
New York lost 59,228 residents to Florida this year, the most any one state saw move to another as wounds from the financial crisis began healing for Empire State baby boomers. New York has traditionally been one of the top feeder markets for Florida.
Georgia-to-Florida also was among the 10 largest interstate moves, with 38,658 residents trading in their peaches for oranges. But because 42,666 Floridians also crossed the border to Georgia, Florida lost a net population of 4,008 in 2012 to its neighbor just north, the census data showed.
The Sunshine State also had the largest flow of people moving both to and from Puerto Rico, where a net of 14,997 came to Florida in 2012.
Florida was the only state in the nation that welcomed more than one of the 10 most common single destination moves, including the New York-to-Florida and Georgia-to-Florida patterns.
The findings about movers bodes well for areas like Sarasota and Manatee counties, where the economy hinges largely on fresh spending from new retirees.
Many of the increases in home sales this year have similarly come from the demographics that previously saw their retirement stymied by the financial crisis and subsequent housing decline, said Peter Crowley, a broker and co-owner of the Re/Max Alliance Group, which has offices in Sarasota and Bradenton.
As home prices across the nation appreciate, empowering more borrowers to sell, Crowley expects those figures to spike further into 2013.
“That has certainly been part of the increased demand we’re seeing,” he said. “As long as the economy makes gradual improvements and people are confident about their financial situation, this area will continue to be attractive for people to retire and move to.”
Despite the Sunshine State boost, most Americans preferred to stay close to home.
In 2012, 64 percent of people who lived at a different residence one year ago moved within the same county. Among the 11.8 million who moved to another county, 40 percent did not go farther than 50 miles to find their new home.
Analysts attribute the uptick in short-distance moves to the volatility of the housing market, with many homeowners still getting evicted through foreclosures or short sales, but the number of new buyers also increasing.
The main reasons behind the moves among those surveyed this year were relocation of employment, wanting a nicer home or apartment or an effort to reduce overall housing costs.
Recession-battered consumers who had been forced to move back in with family also began forming new households again, records show.
More people left major cities for suburbs in 2012, while 20 percent of the movers surveyed earned a household income of $100,000 or more.
“During the recession it was tough because people had difficult times selling their homes or they were worried about jobs, so they couldn’t move,” said Gary Jackson, economist at Florida Gulf Coast University and director of the school’s Regional Economic Research Institute.
“One of the big economic drivers of our areas has always been population growth.”