2024 Moving Trends Report: Where do Americans want to move right now?

(Update: April 19, 2024)

Call it Manifest Destiny. Americans have long made a habit of packing up in search of a better life. Using Conestoga wagons or following Route 66, they’ve sought education and opportunities and more far from home.

Roughly 13% of Americans moved each year before the onset of the pandemic. After the onset of the 2020 pandemic, 22% of Americans moved in response to the virus or know someone who has. More recently, Census data shows that despite a decline in shorter-distance moves, longer-distance moves picked up in 2022 with an estimated 8.2 million moving between states in a single year.

And in 2024, the country’s movers are still on the move.

Whether it’s retirement, remote work protocols, or in the face of inflation, we’re witnessing new post-pandemic moving trends and patterns for movers nationwide. One where movers continue to seek out nature and affordability.

So, we wanted to know what are the moving trends in early 2024?

Table of Contents:

I. Nationwide, what is different in 2024?
II. 2024’s most and least popular states, so far
III. Which cities are especially popular in 2024, across the country?
Methodology & Sources

Moving in 2024, what changed?

  • #1 South Carolina continues to attract a large number of new residents, with early 2024 data showing there are 260 moves into the state for every 100 headed out.
  • The states seeing the highest increase in moving search demand are Alabama (+30%) and Mississippi (+30%). West Virginia and Arkansas have both seen significant jumps in interest of about 13% since 2023, propelling them into the top 5 move-to cities of 2024 so far.
  • Texas had the highest net volume of searches in early 2024, followed by North Carolina, Florida, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Early 2024’s top 10 cities to move to by highest inflow-to-outflow ratio are Ocala (FL), Cary (NC), Myrtle Beach (SC), Katy (TX), Eugene (OR), Knoxville (TN), Wilmington (NC), Henderson (NV), Greenville (SC), and Pensacola (FL).
  • Which big(ger) cities are getting even bigger? #1 Orlando, FL, is the most popular big city to move to in Q1 2024, followed by #2 Charlotte (NC), #3 Tampa (FL), #4 San Antonio (TX), and #5 Houston (TX).
  • California Leavin’. California’s major cities are still losing big in 2024, with San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles among the biggest cities seeing way more moves out than in.

I. Nationwide, where are moves headed in early 2024?

The latest Census data shows that from 2022 into mid-2023, Texas and Florida continue to dominate net domestic migration gains. What caught our eye, though, is the #10 top county by net domestic migration: Horry County, South Carolina.

South Carolina is the state moveBuddha data has seen dominate searches, with a consistent rate of 2-times more interest for moves in than out for going on 5 years straight.

And it’s not just South Carolina. North Carolina and Tennessee consistently rake in way more moves in than there are headed out, especially as we move into 2024’s moving season.

Click the year “button” below to see the changing trends:

 

The Lone Star and Sunshine State are still popular among movers, coming #14 and #17, respectively, when looking at the ratio of moves in-to-out.

It’s not that these two states are losing their popularity, they clearly continue to see major growth. However the rising cost of living in top move-to cities like Austin and Miami has slowed down the inflow of new residents and sent some packing.

The trend of moving South has also spotlighted less-populated states like Alabama and Mississippi, which have seen a significant rise in their move-in rates from 2023 to early 2024.

Wyoming and Minnesota are also gaining popularity, while Texas continues to attract movers.

II. Getting away from the Crowd: 2024’s most and least popular states

Nationwide, which states are people moving to in 2024?

We analyzed moveBuddha search data to uncover 2024’s most and least popular states to move to (and away from).

Most popular states of 2024, so far

Rank State 2024
1 South Carolina 2.14
2 West Virginia 1.83
3 North Carolina 1.78
4 Tennessee 1.73
5 Arkansas 1.68
6 Alaska 1.65
7 Wyoming 1.61
8 Oklahoma 1.54
9 Idaho 1.50
10 Nevada 1.44

 

South Carolina continues its winning streak for attracting new residents, into early 2024. Its affordable cost of living, which is 11.5% cheaper than the national average likely plays a role. The healthcare and tech industries are also growing rapidly in many SC cities like Columbia, Greenville, and Lockhart, bringing workers to The Palmetto State.

You may get a sense of why these states are recent winners. As Americans find the freedom to work remotely, they increasingly value spending time outdoors, pursuing recreational opportunities like sailing, skiing, whitewater rafting, and hiking. After all, an afternoon escape to a regional park can make a tough remote work day bearable.

Likewise, southern states with mild weather and ample outdoor recreation opportunities, like South Carolina, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and even Arkansas, top the charts for inbound compared to outbound moves. While you’ll find big-city life in any of these states, they’re better known for outdoor concerts and stunning nature preserves.

Three of these states have proven themselves winners in the eyes of movers year after year, while West Virginia is seeing an unprecedented uptick of interest from Americans looking to move in early 2024. 

Overall, areas with a lower cost of living, a steady climate, and better access to outdoor activities are seeing the most growth. More expensive areas will continue to see people leave as the cost of living becomes an even greater challenge.

Least popular states of 2024

Rank State 2024
1 California 0.41
2 Rhode Island 0.55
3 New Jersey 0.64
4 Illinois 0.74
5 Maryland 0.74
6 Connecticut 0.75
7 Massachusetts 0.86
8 Nebraska 0.90
9 New York 0.90
10 Pennsylvania 0.91

 

For outbound moves, densely populated urban states were the least popular destinations, with many more people looking to leave than relocate there. Three of the top five least popular states ranked among the 10 most densely populated U.S. states.

California, Rhode Island, and New Jersey lost the most residents compared to those moving in.

In addition to being densely populated, they face affordability challenges. New Jersey residents pay the country’s highest property taxes, deal with exorbitant real estate and rent prices, and increasingly see corporate headquarters leave the state, taking jobs with them. It’s only natural that New Jersey residents would give up the shore in pursuit of more affordable housing and plentiful jobs. Nearby Connecticut is facing the same challenge and also losing residents.

The story should be familiar to residents of Illinois and California. Both were economic powerhouses whose residents were increasingly wrestling with unaffordable housing and high property taxes. As both California and Illinois lose employers, their residents consider following close behind.

The states with the highest net volume of searches for moves in: Texas #1

When it comes to the pure volume of searches, the most populous states always top the list: California, Florida, and, of course, Texas. But volume doesn’t tell the whole story.

What is more interesting is the net volume, the number of searches for moves in minus the number of searches for moves out.

Here are the 5 states with the highest net volume of searches for moves in:

Even though Texas and Florida aren’t top of the list by the in-to-out ratio (or fastest-growth rate according to mover interest), they are top of the list when we cut it down to simple math.

North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee are big competition though, considering their growth rate and pure volume growth are pulling rank by both measures.

III. Small Cities, Big Nature: Which cities were especially popular in 2024, across the country?

We know which states dominate U.S. migration this 2024 (so far), but which cities are leading the pack?

As you might expect, it wasn’t highly populated urban hubs that drew the largest proportions of new residents. Instead, small and mid-sized cities with plenty of affordable housing and outdoor recreation emerged as big winners.

Top cities to move to in 2024

Rank City, State In-to-out Ratio
1 Ocala, FL 3.03
2 Cary, NC 2.53
3 Myrtle Beach, SC 2.31
4 Katy, TX 2.26
5 Eugene, OR 2.23
6 Knoxville, TN 2.19
7 Wilmington, NC 2.17
8 Henderson, NV 2.10
9 Greenville, SC 2.06
10 Pensacola, FL 2.02

 

The appearance of Florida cities in the top 10 shouldn’t be surprising, especially not Ocala which is currently snagging the top spot. The Central Florida city offers lower new home prices, a quiet lifestyle, and growing cultural options. It’s known as the “Horse Capitol of the World,” after all. Pensacola, FL also lands in the top 10. >

Meanwhile, #2 Cary, North Carolina, is also booming with new residents and #4 Katy, Texas.

While The Villages took the Moving Trends top spot at the end of 2023 and is Florida's most desired city to move to in 2024, early in 2024 that particular retirement boomtown hasn't made the list —yet. However, another hot retirement city, Myrtle Beach, SC takes the #3 spot and, nearby, #7 Wilmington, NC does too. Wilmington’s large historic district, vibrant waterfront, and proximity to the “salt life” are a few reasons its one of America’s most popular cities. While the popularity of Myrtle Beach has surged for years. A recent moveBuddha report ranked it the best U.S. city for construction of new homes. For now, the cost of living in Myrtle Beach is also very affordable compared to other cities on the East Coast.

#9 Greenville, SC, is another city seeing a surge in popularity. The strong job market is a big reason why. Opportunities abound in the city in the healthcare, tech, and manufacturing industries, with companies like BMW and GE employing thousands of residents in the area.

Exit cities of 2024

Rank City, State In-to-out Ratio
1 San Bernardino, CA 0.32
2 Tallahassee, FL 0.48
3 Oakland, CA 0.49
4 Memphis, TN 0.51
5 San Jose, CA 0.56
6 Irvine, CA 0.61
7 San Diego, CA 0.62
8 Littleton, CO 0.64
9 Long Beach, CA 0.65
10 Providence, RI 0.65

 

California’s struggles to retain residents continue in 2024, with six Golden State cities seeing large numbers of residents looking to leave. San Bernardino, Oakland, San Jose, Irvine, San Diego, and Long Beach all see about half as many searches for moves in as out.
Surveys show that many Californians love living in California and applaud the state for its diversity. The problem is the cost of living has become exorbitantly high. The Golden State has had three consecutive years of population declines, according to U.S. Census data. The reasons for leaving different cities may differ slightly, but it likely boils down to one main thing: cost of living.

While Tennessee and Florida are winning big, their big cities Memphis and Tallahassee are not. Both are seeing large numbers of searches for moves exiting their cities.

Urban trends: Which urban areas are the most popular to move to in 2024, so far?

Looking purely at cities with the highest search volumes, we can see which of the nation's largest cities are most or least popular to move to.

Move aside, Miami, #1 Orlando, and #3 Tampa are drawing the attention of Americans looking to move in early 2024. #2 Charlotte, #4 San Antonio, and #5 Houston are also seeing much higher interest for moves in than out.

Big cities with the highest in-to-out ratio:

Rank City, State In/Out Ratio
1 Orlando, FL 1.60
2 Charlotte, NC 1.52
3 Tampa, FL 1.41
4 San Antonio, TX 1.30
5 Houston, TX 1.25
6 Jacksonville, FL 1.25
7 Las Vegas, NV 1.19
8 New York, NY 1.17
9 Dallas, TX 1.17
10 Portland, OR 1.16

 

The most popular urban area to move to so far in 2024? Orlando, Florida, with 160 moves in for every 100 out. 

Surprisingly, the data shows that New York continues its comeback trajectory. Other data backs up this trend. NYC lost few people in 2022-2023 than in 2021-2022, reversing a trend that started in the pandemic.

Number one in 2022 and ranked #6 in 2023, Tampa, is still at the top of the list of big cities to move to in 2024. However, the end of the year data shows that #1 Orlando is the Florida big city attracting more attention from movers with about 1.6x more searches for moves in than out and move in-to-out ratio 19% points higher than Tampa. Jacksonville comes in at #6.

Cities like Portland, Oregon, which struggled during the early days of the pandemic, are among the top large cities seeing interest in 2024. Meanwhile, Sunbelt and Mountain West cities like Las Vegas, Houston, and San Antonio continue the positive momentum.

Big cities with the lowest in-to-out ratio:

Rank City, State In/Out Ratio
1 San Diego, CA 0.62
2 San Francisco, CA 0.66
3 Los Angeles, CA 0.74
4 Chicago, IL 0.82

 

It's no surprise that California cities dominate this list with San Diego and San Francisco seeing the most residents looking to head out: only 62 and 66 moves, respectively, are headed into the city for every 100 headed out.

Lifestyle moves in 2024, from remote-ability to affordability  

Movers want more space to stretch out, a house they can afford, and milder climates, either for retirement or to enjoy outdoor activities.

Trends that accelerated in the pandemic and haven't let up since.

The shift toward the Sunbelt and Mountain West has been evident for years, and it’s continuing as remote work stubbornly remains, people flee high-cost states like Illinois and New Jersey, and Baby Boomers retire to the beaches.

California’s notable struggles to retain residents remain a theme in early 2024. Despite loving the California dream, residents there can no longer afford it. Texas and Florida have stolen the spotlight in recent years as top destination states, and still are home to some of the hottest move-to cities in the nation. But South Carolina, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Tennessee are steadily rising as competition. 

People usually move to be close to family or for work opportunities, but another reason is for money and lifestyle. Looking at the most popular states and cities in 2024, it’s evident movers are choosing vibrant small towns and cities that offer cultural amenities and a spectrum of lifestyles. It doesn’t hurt that the cost of living is better, too.

Methodology & Sources

We use moveBuddha proprietary data collected from 2020 through March 31, 2024, to analyze move trends. The data comes directly from the moveBuddha Moving Cost Calculator.

In-to-out ratio: We rely primarily on the in-to-out ratio equation in our analysis to see which cities are earning more residents by moves in than losing them via moves out: [Number of queries for moves in] ÷ [Number of queries for moves out] = [in-to-out ratio].

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