- People are moving to Orlando for cheaper homes and activities beyond Disney World.
- Orlando draws residents from pricier Florida spots like Miami, said real-estate agent Freddie Smith.
- The city also attracts movers from New York and California.
It’s not just snowbirds and retirees: All generations are flocking to Florida for a number of reasons, including no income tax and nice weather.
About 730,000 people moved to Florida between July 2021 and July 2022, according to the latest census data available. The typical mover to Florida is not a baby boomer, but a millennial or a Gen Xer from New York and California, according to Business Insider’s Noah Sheidlower.
Cities in South Florida — like Miami or Fort Lauderdale — are often movers’ top destinations, but Orlando is sneakily gaining popularity, according to real-estate agent Freddie Smith, who moved from Los Angeles to Orlando himself in 2022.
Data from moving company Pods shows that Orlando ranked third in long-distance moves in 2023, up from ninth in 2022. According to Census data, between 2017 and 2021 more than 100,000 people moved to Orange County, where Orlando is located, from a different country, state, or county — and 50,000 of those 100,000 people moved from other parts of Florida.
Orlando offers less expensive homes than other Florida cities and is still a short drive away from the beach for tranquility and relaxation, Smith said. It also has entertainment and recreation options, including concerts and sporting events, that you’d expect from a large city, one local told Business Insider.
“Orlando is a very hot place,” said Smith, who posts about the Orlando market as well as national real-estate trends on TikTok, where he has more than 500,000 followers. “You might only think of Walt Disney World, but Orlando has expanded so widely in the past three years that you can enjoy the tourism if you’d like, but there are so many pockets.”
Census data shows that the population is steadily growing, from 238,300 in 2010 to 307,573 in 2020. According to the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, Orlando ranked fifth among Florida cities in population change, with an addition of 19,415 residents from 2020 to 2023.
And while Orlando (where Redfin found the typical home sells for $394,950) might still be more affordable than Miami (where one goes for $500,000) or New York City (where it costs $800,000), its popularity has boosted the housing market.
According to a Zillow report from September, Orlando was one of the top six housing markets that gained the most value since the start of the pandemic. It was valued at $382 billion as of June 2023, up 72.3% since 2019.
South Floridians are heading north to Orlando for affordable starter homes
Orlando’s homes remain cheaper than in other large cities in Florida — which makes it a great place to buy your first house, Smith said.
“When it comes to people who can’t get a starter home in South Florida, they’re coming to Orlando,” Smith said. “You can still grab one for $375,000-ish, maybe $350,000 if you’re lucky. That’s a huge difference compared to $700,000 in South Florida.”
It’s getting more expensive to live in Florida overall, though, thanks to rising insurance rates across the state due to the increasing risk and cost of damage from climate disasters like hurricanes and flooding. Skyrocketing homeowners insurance premiums make already-pricey cities like Miami even more costly. Insurance is getting more expensive in Central Florida as well, but the lower home prices in Orlando soften the blow.
It’s still tough for retirees and people with more modest incomes, Smith said.
“The thing that’s hurting them is the increasing HOAs, property taxes, and insurance,” he said.
Out-of-state movers are attracted to savings on bigger homes
Smith added that people from states like New York and California are making their way to Orlando to snatch up luxury homes at what they view as discounted prices.
“If you come from a place like Los Angeles, like I did, $1 million is a shoebox,” he said. “But if you move to Orlando, Florida, with $750,000 or $800,000, you’re like, ‘I get a yard? I have a pool, palm trees, and no state tax?’ So affluent neighborhoods are selling so fast here.”
More than 140,000 of the nearly 739,000 people who moved to Florida between 2021 and 2022 came from California and New York, according to Census data.
A few examples: Native New Yorker Jenna Clark moved to Orlando in 2023 to be closer to Disney World. Mark Kaley, meanwhile, moved from New York to Orlando in 2004 for a bigger house — and found that there’s much more to Orlando than Disney.
If it continues on an upward trajectory, Orlando could look very different in the coming years, Smith predicted.
According to Census Bureau and Department of Housing and Urban Development data compiled by moving company MoveBuddha, Orlando ranked fourth in new home construction in 2023.
“Orlando is massive. You’ll see an entire city and community, and then you’ll see just acres and acres. There’s so much room to expand here,” Smith said. “Orlando is expanding now because of the affordability and the space to do so.”