Once the dream of many a retiree and young person seeking to live in paradise, the prospect of living in Florida seems to be less attractive in the current economic downturn.
Data from moving companies and the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles suggest that fewer people are moving to the state and, at the very least, an equal number of residents are moving out.
Atlas Van Lines moved a total of 5,277 households into the state in 2008, but moved out 6,367 households, according to the moving company’s migration study.
Those numbers compare with the 9,069 households moving into Florida and the 7,180 moving out in 2004, when the state’s real estate market was just heating up.
Locally, 43 households moved out of Bradenton and 19 moved in between Jan. 1 and June 22 of this year, according to Atlas officials.
In a similar study, United Van Lines designated Florida a “balanced” state, meaning roughly as many households moved in as out in 2008.
During the year, 13,487 households moved in and 13,470 moved out, according to the study.
The number of out-of-state driver’s license applications in Florida also dropped by 30 percent in a five-year period, from 585,000 in 2003 to 410,000 in 2008.
These figures don’t surprise Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce.
“I think it’s a reflection of the current economic times,” Bartz said. “It’s anticipated that once people are back in a position where they can sell their homes where they currently live, they will still have a desire to live in Florida. But it appears that people in the Midwest and Northeast are unable to sell their homes.”
Bartz noted that Manatee is still feeling the effects of the rampant real estate speculation that took place during the county’s housing boom.
“I think this area got caught up more than other areas in the country,” Bartz said. “All the speculation that took place, and then the quick turnaround, caught up with us. It’s something that’s going to take some time to work out.”
According to the United study, the mid-Atlantic states received the most out-of-state relocations. Sixty-two percent of moves in the District of Columbia were from out-of-state people moving in. That figure was 58.2 percent for North Carolina and 56.4 percent for South Carolina.
Michigan led the out-bound moves in the country, with 67.1 percent of moving van hauls to other states. Indiana followed with 57 percent out-bound moves, and New York was in third place in terms of emigration, with 55 percent of moves heading to other states.
Not everyone puts stock in the data, however.
Miranda Oswald, vice president of sales and marketing with Lakewood Ranch Communities, said moving van records and driver’s license applications probably don’t take into account a significant segment of her market: purchasers of second homes.
Oswald said 1,700 people came through her office looking for homes in the first quarter this year. Roughly 18 percent of those potential clients were looking for second homes, Oswald said.
Out of 55 total sales this year of new product in Lakewood Ranch, 28 of the buyers were from in-state and 27 were from out of state. Of the out-of-state buyers, nine of them — or one-third — were second homes, Oswald said.
“They might not be moving furniture from one place to another,” Oswald said. “So a second-home buyer would not show up in either of those statistics.”
Don Schroder is more in the neutral migration camp.
The former chairman of the Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce and Realtor with RE/MAX Alliance thinks the tide is about to turn.
“I think we’ve kind of gone into the neutral position now,” Schroder said. “But I think people are coming back. Our market is so deflated that we’re a tremendous buy.”
Schroder said he’s also starting to see renewed interest from foreign and Canadian buyers.
Although Manatee County’s unemployment has soared from around 3 percent three years ago to 11.1 percent in May, Schroder notes the county still provides beautiful beaches and the Florida way of life that people are willing to seek out.
“There’s a lot of heartache out there,” Schroder said. “But there are also a lot of people who are making a go of it.”