2022 Moving Trends Report: Where are Americans moving right now?

san francisco, austin, miami

(Update: 4th Quarter 2022)

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

Roughly 13% of Americans moved each year before the pandemic. So, it makes sense that Americans have attacked COVID-19 as they’ve resolved so many other challenges: by hitting the road. Since the pandemic, 22% of Americans have moved in response to the virus or know someone who has.

Fortunately, pandemics don’t last forever.

With restrictions waning and calls for employees to return to the office, will the country’s movers head back home?

We wanted to keep tabs on moving trends as the country adjusts to its pandemic re-entry. As we close out 2022, which states are still popular? What’s changed? And what does the future look like as the Great Reshuffle settles into the Great New Normal?

Table of Contents:

I. Nationwide, what was different in 2022?
II. 2022’s most and least popular states
III. Which cities were especially popular in 2022, across the country?
IV. No More Sweet Home Chicago: Top routes of 2022
Methodology & Sources


What happened in 2022?

  • Mountain Renaissance: Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina maintain strong inflow since 2020. Montana, and Wyoming too.
  • Rising star: Mississippi is increasingly popular, with a 23% increase in mover interest from 2021 to 2022.
  • Top states by in-to-out ratio are Hawaii and Alaska, which have lower overall search volume, but when we look at the state’s with the highest mover volume, the Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina cluster makes up the top 3 states to move to. Next in line are Florida, Colorado, and Texas.
  • Dense, urban areas losing out: Densely populated California, New Jersey and Illinois all had more outbound moves than inbound.
  • Popular cities have helped movers get out in nature. Nationwide, the cities with the highest inflow-to-outflow ratio are The Villages, FL; Panama City, FL; Portland, ME; Ocala, FL; Asheville, NC; Chattanooga, TN; Eagle Rock, NC; Prescott, AZ; Beverly Hills, CA; and Missoula, MT.
  • Big city spotlight: #1 Tampa, FL is the most popular large city to move to in 2022, and it’s not the only popular city in the state: #3 Orlando, #6 Jacksonville, and #15 Miami also are attracting moves in. Three Texas cities also land in the top 20: #10 Dallas, #11 Austin, and #12 Houston.
  • The #1 search route overall by pure volume: San Francisco, CA to New York, NY.


I. Nationwide, what was different in 2022?

Fueled by a desire to escape the perceived risks of public transportation and apartment elevators, densely-populated urban areas lost twice as many residents in 2020 as in previous years.

That trend continued throughout the pandemic, as newly-remote workers found they could work from smaller cities and take advantage of affordable homes and nearby nature, and early retirees called it quits. As a result, the balmy southeastern states and mountain west swelled with newcomers.

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

Even though they’re not the boom states of 2020, today’s most popular destinations remain the same.

Mountain Renaissance: Rural, Remote, and Retiring

In particular, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina have maintained strong inflow throughout the pandemic. The Appalachian Highlands at the intersection of these states has seen a renaissance, with plenty of outdoor activities, rolling hills, and Blue Ridge views. All three have been top ten retirement destinations, too. Before the pandemic, the oversized baby boomer generation saw 10,000 daily retirements, so accelerating boomers’ journey to retirement potentially means picking up a lot of inbound moves in a short period.

North Carolina is especially feeling the love. It’s seen a steading increase of interest from movers since 2020, and many of its fastest-growing cities are retirement havens, like New Bern.

Other popular destinations in the mountain west are Montana and Wyoming, with slightly waning popularity of neighboring states like Idaho, Colorado, and South Dakota. All over wide open spaces for pandemic-wary city dwellers, a reality that is enticing to the high numbers of California residents making these outposts in the Rocky Mountains their new home.

Yet even Montana’s continued popularity took a huge hit after 2020’s peak relocation season: the state saw its ratio of inbound to outbound inquiries plummet from a 2020 high of 3.72 to a 2022 rate of 2.04. That’s still more than twice the inbound inquiries per outbound move, but it represents a dive in the state’s popularity as movers settle into new long-term patterns following their initial pandemic exodus.

While the most popular states of the pandemic begin to see fewer moves, which states are rising to fill their place?

Mississippi, which saw outflow top inflow in 2020, has seen its ratio steadily reverse in 2021 and grow even stronger in 2022.

West Virginia, Alabama, and Oklahoma have also turned heads with gradually strengthening inbound-to outbound-ratios.

Perhaps these less popular choices remain affordable, enjoying some of the same mild weather as their increasingly unaffordable southern neighbors.


II. Getting Out of the Crowd: 2022’s most and least popular states

Sure, it’s harder to move out of Alaska and Hawaii than other states, but why would you want to?

Most popular states of 2022 

Rank State 2022 In-to-out Ratio
1 Alaska 2.46
2 Hawaii 2.35
3 Maine 2.15
4 Montana 2.04
5 South Carolina 1.95
6 North Carolina 1.83
7 Vermont 1.80
8 Tennessee 1.69
9 Florida 1.60
10 Wyoming 1.58

Geographic isolation and jaw-dropping scenery may be the draw to Alaska and Hawaii. Paddle an outrigger canoe to an erupting volcano or sail a skiff along the inlets of Juneau to get a sense of the big landscapes that both these Pacific states offer adventurers.

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 pandemic-friendly recreational opportunities like sailing, skiing, whitewater rafting, and hiking. After all, the wilderness does not lockdown, and an afternoon escape to a regional park can make a tough remote work day bearable.

Likewise, southern states with mild weather and outdoor recreation, like Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee, 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 year-round outdoor concerts and stunning nature preserves.

Least popular states of 2022

Rank State 2022 In-to-out Ratio
1 California
2 New Jersey 0.54
3 Louisiana 0.69
4 Illinois 0.70
5 Maryland 0.71
6 New York 0.72
7 Nebraska 0.76
8 Connecticut 0.76
9 Rhode Island 0.77
10 Utah 0.78

For outbound moves, densely populated urban states are the least popular destinations, with many more people looking to leave than relocate there. The 4 of the top five least popular states are all in the 13 most densely populated U.S. states. Overall, city life has never seemed so unappealing.

California and New Jersey are losing the most residents compared to those moving in, and 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 New York and Connecticut are facing the same challenge and are also losing residents.

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

Top Inflow States with the Highest Mover Volume

Each state in our overall analysis has a minimum search volume of 1000, with the single exception of North Dakota (search data from 2022 for each state ranges from 950 searches for moves in North Dakota to 67K in California).

Even still, we wanted to know which states are really seeing the most mover action whether those moves are flowing in or headed out.

Looking at the states with at least 10,000 searches for moves in 2022 we found which ones are the top and bottom for moves in by inflow-to-outflow ratio:

Rank State 2022 In-to-out Ratio
1 South Carolina 1.95
2 North Carolina 1.83
3 Tennessee 1.69
4 Florida 1.60
5 Colorado 1.34
6 Texas 1.32
7 Georgia 1.22
8 Arizona 1.05
9 Oregon 1.04
10 Washington 0.97
11 Massachusetts 0.89
12 Michigan 0.88
13 Ohio 0.83
14 Pennsylvania 0.83
15 Virginia 0.82
16 New York 0.72
17 Maryland 0.71
18 Illinois 0.70
19 New Jersey 0.54
20 California 0.51


III. Small Cities, Big Nature: Which cities were especially popular in 2022, across the country?

We know that southeastern states are dominating U.S. migration, but which cities are leading the pack? As you might expect, it’s not the highly populated urban hubs that are drawing new residents. Instead, it’s small and mid-sized cities with plenty of affordable housing and outdoor recreation.

Top cities to move to in 2022

Rank City, State In-to-out Ratio
1 The Villages, Florida 4.47
2 Panama City, Florida 3.07
3 Portland, Maine 3.03
4 Ocala, Florida 2.82
5 Asheville, North Carolina 2.8
6 Chattanooga, Tennessee 2.78
7 Eagle Rock, North Carolina 2.59
8 Prescott, Arizona 2.46
9 Beverly Hills, California 2.35
10 Missoula, Montana 2.35

#1 The Villages is a quaint 80,000-person city in central Florida best known not for its startup scene or museum exhibitions, but for its status as a retirement mecca, or "Boomer's Utopia" according to Vanity Fiar. Close to Orlando, Gainesville, and Tampa, the city is perfectly positioned for a day or weekend outing or to catch a flight for a vacation getaway. Yet. With 447 inbound moves for every 100 outbound, The Villages is growing into something more than a retirement ville, and looking to cater to younger generations as it grows. In close competition is another city known to attract retirees: #4 Ocala, with a year-final ratio of 282 moves in for every 100 out. 

#5 Asheville and #7 Eagle Rock are North Carolina’s biggest inbound winners. They offer plenty of hiking trails and close proximity to national parks - access to nature is a trait that multiple cities in the top ten also share.

Is Southern affordability driving moves to the region?

Maybe, but it won’t be for long.

At end of this year, our migration report showed that just three cities on the top ten list had median home prices below the $428,000 national average.

Unfortunately, with real estate prices in these top cities increasing between 16% and 70% from 2020 to 2022, the cities on this list have homes that are all less affordable than they were just two years ago.

Seeing popular cities’ real estate prices soar (once tiny Ocala's median home price has seen a jump of 70% from 2020 to Dec 2022, from $168K up to $286K, still some of the most affordable homes in the country) could be a factor that dampens the moving to these popular Florida cities in the coming years.

In fact, the top 10 cities with the highest inbound-to-outbound move ratios have all seen home prices increase at an average of 47% since 2020. That’s on top of already significant increases (average 50%) in these cities from 2010 to 2020.

Exit cities of 2022?

Rank City, State In-to-out Ratio
1 Escondido, California 0.36
2 Bronx, New York 0.39
3 Lancaster, California 0.4
4 Stockton, California 0.4
5 Simi Valley, California 0.43
6 Staten Island, New York 0.43
7 Falls Church, Virginia 0.46
8 Santa Ana, California 0.46
9 Trenton, New Jersey 0.47
10 Murrieta, California 0.47

You won't pay less than the national average for a home in any of the high outbound cities, except Trenton, NJ.

Want to live in #1 Escondido? The median home there will set you back nearly $820,178. Which, by Californian standards may be reasonable.

Big city trends: Which urban areas are the most popular to move to in 2022?

Looking purely at cities with the highest search volumes (at least 1,000 searches in and out), we can see which of the nation's largest cities are most or least popular to move to.

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

Rank City, State In/Out Ratio
1 Tampa, Florida 1.8
2 Charlotte, North Carolina 1.74
3 Orlando, Florida 1.7
4 Raleigh, North Carolina 1.68
5 Nashville, Tennessee 1.65
6 Jacksonville, Florida 1.51
7 Colorado Springs, Colorado 1.49
8 Denver, Colorado 1.47
9 Boston, Massachusetts 1.46
10 Dallas, Texas 1.38
11 Austin, Texas 1.3
12 Houston, Texas 1.19
13 Richmond, Virginia 1.18
14 Atlanta, Georgia 1.18
15 Miami, Florida 1.17

The most popular large city to move to in 2022? Tampa, Florida, with 180 moves in for every 100 out.

In fact, four Florida cities are among the most popular large cities in the nation in 2022: Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, and Miami. Next in line after the Sunshine State for most spots on the large city list is Texas. Dallas, Austin, and Houston are Texas' claim to the top - in that order.

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

Rank City, State In/Out Ratio
1 San Jose, California 0.67
2 Brooklyn, New York 0.69
3 Columbus, Ohio 0.72
4 San Diego, California 0.77
5 Sacramento, California 0.77
6 Indianapolis, Indiana 0.82
7 San Francisco, California 0.82
8 Baltimore, Maryland 0.82
9 Los Angeles, California 0.83
10 Saint Louis, Missouri 0.85
11 Chicago, Illinois 0.87
12 Saint Paul, Minnesota 0.9
13 Salt Lake City, Utah 0.9
14 Cincinnati, Ohio 0.94
15 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 0.94

It's no surprise that California cities dominate this list with San Jose at the top, 67 moves are headed into the city for every 100 headed out.


IV. No More Sweet Home Chicago: Top routes of 2022

These are the city pairs that stand out when we look at the most popular state-to-state move routes.

  • 5 of the top 10 common routes are exits from Illinois, all of which are leaving Chicago
  • The #1 route is from San Francisco, CA to New York, NY
  • Surprisingly, New York is the destination of choice for 4 of these popular routes

Chicagoans are getting out, and they’re not picky about where they’re going.  Chicago’s urban residents are heading to Seattle, Los Angeles, and New York, and even Southern favorites like Charlotte, NC and Austin, TX. Overall, Illinoisans are choosing multiple routes out of the city and mostly winding up in other large American cities.

While Chicagoans embrace cities in multiple time zones, with several different climates and political leanings, other big city movers are more predictable.

  • Californians from San Francisco and Los Angeles are swapping the west coast for the Big Apple.
  • Seattleites are choosing New York.

In general, city-to-city swaps don’t follow the national trend that movers seek out a lower cost of living in a natural wonderland. For cities with the highest populations, and therefore number of searches, movers prioritize staying close to jobs, culture, and city life. No matter where they start, they’re choosing destinations that mirror those they just left.

Let’s hope they can find a decent Chicago-style hot dog.

Recovery from the Big City Blues

While rates of inbound and outbound traffic favor states with more room to stretch out, raw numbers show city-dwellers trading cities. They’re less concerned about costs, natural amenities, and lower taxes. However, when we consider rates of inbound versus outbound traffic, smaller city winners clearly emerge, heralding a move toward the southwest, mountain, and less densely populated states and cities.

As we embrace the next normal, more remote workers and retirees are choosing their next destination based on lifestyle, taxes, and cost of living, not proximity to a subway.

While the pandemic may be emerging in our rear-view mirrors, the lifestyle of remote working and spending time outdoors has not disappeared. It’s only gotten stronger. Moves in 2022 have shown that many patterns that emerged early in the pandemic reshuffle remain. Movers are embracing their own well-being in small cities in the southeast, with lower costs, great weather, and a heaping dose of recreation.


Methodology & Sources

We use moveBuddha proprietary data collected from 2020, 2021, and 2022 to analyze moves 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].

Zillow Home Value data is used for understanding the home value and home value percentage increase over time.

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