Sally Starkey thought moving from Chicago to Florida would be easy. The 33-year-old publicist moved to Naples, Florida when her husband got a job nearby. Familiar with the area from friends and family who vacationed there, the couple was excited to move, she said.
“We thought we’d have no problem finding a place to live,” Starkey said.
She was wrong. The couple investigated two dozen apartments before agreeing to rent a house north of Naples – without seeing. “It took us up to two weeks before we left our apartment in Chicago,” Starkey said.
At $3,500, meanwhile, the rent on her two-bedroom, two-bathroom home is about 20% more than they paid in Chicago, though she counts herself lucky given the alternatives. “I’m telling you, we were lucky,” she said.
The couple’s experience encompasses several major housing trends that are combining to make it harder — and more expensive — for Americans to put a roof over their heads. Most importantly, rents and house prices are rising at the fastest pace in years, adding to the financial burden for millions of working and middle-class families already struggling to buy a place to live. A shocking inflation shock, following the economic spasm caused by the pandemic, is adding to these pressures.
The rents, which areacross the country are positively increasing across Florida, fueled by an increase in people who have moved to the state during the pandemic. Florida’s population is growing faster than any other state except Texas: between 2020 and 2021, 300,000 people moved to the Sun State.
In February, Realtor.com named Miami the least affordable place to live in America. Average monthly rents in the metro area, at $2,930, are on par with San Francisco and Los Angeles — and twice the level considered affordable for people in the area, given the local median income. Miami, Orlando and Tampa have the fastest-growing rentals in the country over the past year.
“These Sun Belt markets, and Florida in particular, have topped our lists for the past two months,” said Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com.
Florida’s housing problems have been worsening for years, with the state enjoying robust population growth while courting new residents and businesses attracted by low taxes and an anti-regulatory agenda.
Policymakers in Florida have tried to diversify the tourism economy with new jobs in banking, technology, life sciences and logistics, said John Boyd, director of Boyd Co., a location selection company in Boca Raton, Florida. For individuals, the lack of personal income tax and relatively low property taxes combine with sunny weather to make the state an attractive destination for well-paid professionals.
“For tech workers who are migrating from San Francisco, New York, Chicago, being able to save thousands of dollars each year remains a compelling factor… to relocate,” Boyd said.
A number of recent high-profile corporate moves to Florida, including Goldman Sachs, Elliott Management and Virtu Financial, have boosted Florida’s profile, while the pandemic’s shift to remote work has accelerated relocations, Boyd said. The level of inquiries your company receives from companies interested in relocating to the state has grown tenfold compared to before the pandemic.
“Based on what our customers are telling us, this hybrid model is here to stay.”
good job if you can
Data from Realtor.com shows that much of Florida’s housing demand comes from out of state. A fifth of Miami property searches originate from the New York City area; another 8% from Washington, DC Washington and New York account for 15% of the housing demand in Tampa.
In fact, historically high prices by Florida standards might not stop someone fleeing New York or the Bay Area even more expensively, Boyd said.
“For well-heeled executives, they’re kind of playing with their house money because there are still bargains in Palm Beach County, Broward County, and Miami-Dade compared to Bay Area prices,” Boyd noted. “People are outselling homes in Broward and Palm Beach counties by millions of dollars. It’s a routine occurrence.”
Jacqueline Fisch, a 41-year-old public relations executive, was able to use the pandemic’s flight to the suburbs to her advantage when she moved from downtown New Jersey to Tampa last year.
Fisch had moved to New Jersey in 2020 to be close to her husband’s Manhattan job, but that summer they both worked remotely and their two children attended school at home. On Christmas vacation in Florida, the family had a revelation.
“By the third day, it was 75 degrees and we said, wait, we can live here,” Fisch said. They started planning their move on the return flight.
In January, the family’s New Jersey home was under contract for $200,000 more than they paid for it. They put the proceeds into a still-under-construction property in North Tampa that cost about $450,000, moving to buy the house with just the foundation and defeating three other potential bidders. They moved in September.
“Our mortgage payment went from $4,000 to $1,500,” Fisch told CBS MoneyWatch. “The only thing more expensive here is car insurance.”
She said she doesn’t love the traffic but appreciates everything else: “The beaches, the Gulf, the kayaking – being able to be outdoors, comfortably being outdoors, almost all the time.”
“I’m leaving as soon as I can”
While Florida is increasingly attractive as a place to live for many Americans, the influx is squeezing many longtime residents, especially low-paid service industry workers and older, fixed-income residents. The state explicitly prohibits rent control, which could limit skyrocketing rents.
Michele DeMoske-Weiss, a retired nurse living on a fixed income, is ready to post bail after 30 years living in the state.
“The first 15 years it’s great, it feels like you’re on vacation, and the second 15 years it’s miserable,” she said of living in Florida.
DeMoske-Weiss, 70, recently downsized when his landlord wanted to increase the rent on his two-bedroom apartment in Lake Park to $2,400 a month. She moved to a one-bedroom on a lower floor to keep her rent at $2,200 more manageable. She is now considering moving to Washington state or Pennsylvania to be close to her children.
“I’ll leave as soon as I can,” she said.
For others, including workers in the state’s low-wage tourism sector, leaving is more difficult. Many working-class families in South Florida have protested rent increases that they say could put them on the streets.
“It feels like a greedy, greedy time,” said Mike Wootan, whose rent on his Miami apartment is jumping from nearly $500 a month to $3,000 in June. Wootan, 29, runs a cannabis business. In the year he lived there with his girlfriend, Wootan was unable to use his porch or the complex’s pool because of renovations, and the increase appears to “add insult to injury,” he told CBS MoneyWatch. “I thought about it almost daily.”
Still, Wootan and his girlfriend decided to live with the raise instead of spending money on a move, which would also cost them days of work. He’s been thinking more about buying a house, but said it’s financially out of reach.
“I’m getting to the point where I’m really sick and tired of renting, and it doesn’t feel like a good time. [to buy]”, he said. “Looks like we’re on the brink of another bubble that’s going to burst.”
Even as the real estate sector recovers, the country faces a deficit of 1.3 million homes due to the drop in construction activity during the pandemic. That shortfall, combined with investment firms competing with families for start-up homes, means it could be years before market forces allow rents and rents to realign.
Meanwhile, with rents and home values rising at dizzying rates, it’s become much more difficult for renters to consider buying a home.
“It’s a challenge in today’s market because we have such a limited supply of housing, whether to sell or rent, and higher prices are making it difficult to transition to property,” said Hale of Realtor.com. .