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Barb Carter Florida: There is a clash over cultural values and their costs are going through the roof.
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Barb Carter Florida: There is a clash over cultural values and their costs are going through the roof.

Apr 1, 2024
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The armadillo invasion that caused $9,000 in damages to Barb Carter’s home was one of the first signs that her move to Florida did not live up to her picture-perfect lifestyle. A storm hit later, followed by ongoing political unrest and the inability to find a doctor qualified to remove the liver tumor. After a year in Florida, Carter packed as much stuff as she could fit into her vehicle and drove back to Kansas, her home state. She moved to be closer to her daughters and grandchildren, but she sold her Florida home at a $40,000 loss.

“A lot of people ask, ‘Why did you decide to go back to Kansas?”I always tell them to take off their vacation goggles,” Carter said. “After living there, I realized that this place did not live up to the expectations you all had set.” “In my opinion, the promotion was misleading.” Over 700,000 people moved to Florida in 2022, a considerable rise in population over the previous several years, according to Census Bureau statistics. It was the state with the second-fastest growth rate as of July 2023. In terms of the quantity of one-way U-Haul moves into the state last year, Florida was second only to Texas, despite indications that migration to the state has declined from its high during the outbreak. Nearly two buyers were moving to Florida for every buyer who left in 2023, according to data analytics company CoreLogic’s analysis of mortgage application data.

But even with the appeal of nice weather, no income tax, and lower costs, the most recent census data indicates that almost 500,000 people left the state in 2022. A number of concerns, including high insurance costs, a hostile political environment, growing traffic, and extreme weather occurrences, contributed to the decision to move. The interviews with more than a dozen people who just relocated to a different state or who had lived there for a long time but departed within the previous two years served as the basis for this conclusion.

A demonstrator holds up a placard that reads
The incursion of armadillos into Barb Carter’s home, which caused $9,000 in damages, was one of the first signs that her move to Florida did not fit her picture-perfect lifestyle. A storm hit later, followed by ongoing political unrest and the inability to find a doctor qualified to remove the liver tumor.

After a year in Florida, Carter packed as much stuff as she could fit into her vehicle and drove back to Kansas, her home state. She moved to be closer to her daughters and grandchildren, but she lost $40,000 when she sold her Florida home.

“A lot of people ask, ‘Why did you decide to go back to Kansas?'””I always tell them to take off their vacation goggles,” Carter said. “After living there, I realized that this place did not live up to the expectations you all had set.” “In my opinion, the promotion was misleading.”

Over 700,000 people moved to Florida in 2022, a considerable rise in population over the previous several years, according to Census Bureau statistics. It was the state with the second-fastest growth rate as of July 2023. Only Texas exceeded Florida in the number of one-way U-Haul moves into the state last year, despite indications that migration to the state has declined from its peak during the outbreak. The mortgage application data showed that, in 2023, over two homebuyers were moving to Florida for every one who was leaving, according to data analytics company CoreLogic.

Still, the most recent census data indicates that almost 500,000 people left the state in 2022, despite the temptation of nice weather, tax breaks, and lower costs. A number of concerns, including sharply rising insurance costs, a hostile political environment, worse traffic, and extreme weather, played a role in their choice to move. The interviews with more than a dozen people who just relocated to a different state or who had lived there for a long time but departed within the previous two years served as the basis for this conclusion.

Jodi Cummings, who moved from Connecticut to Florida in 2021, said, “The reality of Florida did not align with my expectations of a utopia.” “I thought Florida would provide a slower, more laid-back way of life, and warmer weather.” I was taken aback to discover that the midnight temperature was precisely 100 degrees. It turned out that making friends was an extremely difficult endeavor with a significant cost attached.

Because there was no state income tax in the Palm Beach area, Cummings expected her pay as a private chef to go up. But the extra money is lessened by the outrageous costs of rent, food, and auto insurance. After six months of tolerating the searing heat and clogged highways of South Florida, she began arranging to return to the Northeast.

Cummings said, “I got very disillusioned with Florida very quickly.” There was confusion and regret about wanting to leave, about moving there, and then finding out it was so very different from what one had anticipated. While costs have been rising around the country, certain areas of Florida have been particularly impacted. Consumer prices in the South Florida region—which includes Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach—rose by over 5% in February over the prior year, according to the most recent statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Compared to the 3.2% national average, this is greater.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that Florida homeowners insurance rates rose by 42% in the previous year to an average annual cost of $6,000. Climate change and the effects of storms are to blame for this increase. Furthermore, Florida has vehicle insurance that is more than 50% more expensive than the national average. Florida, which was always thought to have an inexpensive real estate market, is now among the most expensive states in which to buy a house. Zillow reports that since 2020, Florida property values have risen by 60%, to an average of $388,500.

Carter moved from Kansas to an Orlando suburb in 2022 in order to take advantage of the nice weather, beaches, and to be nearer to her grandkids. However, she quickly discovered that she was facing mounting debt. She bought a prefabricated house and at first thought the monthly rent for the property it sits on in her neighborhood would be $580. But when she arrived, she found her cost was just $750 a month, and by the time she left, it had increased to $875. Her motor insurance rate increased, she had to pay $9,000 for repairs brought on by the armadillos, and on her 62nd birthday, Hurricane Ian severely damaged the roof of her house.

And there were the endless debates and arguments about politics, which started to wear her out. Carter, a self-described moderate Republican, said she’s become adept at keeping her opinions to herself.

“Talking about it there always comes up with politics, which is really crazy.” “We are in our retirement phase right now, which is usually about fun and relaxation,” she said. “I quickly became informed, just by staying silent, because I saw people in my neighborhood break up with each other because of it.” I detest losing friends, especially when it’s because of divergent political opinions.

But she said that finding a surgeon who could remove a 6-inch tumor from her liver was the deciding factor. Medical experts warned that the tumor may burst at any time, which might lead to sepsis, a potentially fatal illness. She was sent to a number of physicians before finding one who would do the tumor excision procedure. But when she tried to schedule the treatment over the phone, no one answered her calls or took her messages. It took her months of trying and living in continuous fear before she made the decision to return to Kansas for the therapy. “I felt like I was running into things all the time, but I kept going until something really important came up that needed to be taken care of right away and I couldn’t get it done anywhere else,” she said. “I think it was the hardest year I’ve ever had to deal with.”

Ninety-000 New Yorkers moved to Florida in 2022, making their state the one where the greatest number of inhabitants have moved to relocate in recent years, according to census statistics. According to CoreLogic, 9% of out-of-state mortgage applications in 2023 were from New York. While this proportion was comparable to that of 2019, it was far lower than that of the preceding two years. Among those who relocated to New York was Louis Rotkowitz. He didn’t stay in Florida for more than two years.

As he moved his belongings out of the state to his new home in Charlotte, North Carolina, he said over the phone, “This is the ideal destination for any discerning New Yorker.” “That is a complete fabrication.” Rotkowitz, who worked for a number of years in emergency medicine and had a near-death experience as a result of contracting COVID-19 at work, stated that he and his spouse would like to pursue a more pleasurable and economical way of life in a more temperate climate. As a result, they made the decision to buy a home in the West Palm Beach region in 2022. At that place, he found work as a primary care physician, and his wife became a teacher.

But he also said that he quickly learned that the Florida he had moved to was not the same as the one he had experienced on his many trips there over the years. His daily commute to work sometimes took more than an hour each way, he had trouble getting necessary services like dishwasher maintenance, and his homeowner’s association dues was becoming more expensive.

“We were struggling to cover our basic expenses, even though I had a decent salary,” Rotkowitz said. “Our quality of life was nonexistent.” Rotkowitz voiced his worries about his general feeling of vulnerability in the state as well as the rising costs. He said that numerous of his patients had been injured by cars because of the erratic traffic. He also brought up a state law that was passed in 2023 that allows anybody to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.

“The population possesses firearms in large quantities,” he said. “I consider myself to be a conservative, but I think that anyone who wants to own a gun should have to apply for a license and go through a controlled process.”

One person who moved from Connecticut to Florida, Veronica Blaski, blamed rising costs for leaving the state in less than three years. Blaski’s husband was offered a better-paying position as a manager for a landscaping firm in Florida during the start of the epidemic. Blaski dreamed of nice weather and a more comfortable lifestyle.

The couple, who were both in their forties, had sold their house in Connecticut in 2023 and were settling into their new community. But they found themselves suddenly faced with a large bill, which Blaski referred to as a “bulldozer.”

The homeowner’s insurance company threatened to cancel her coverage unless she paid the estimated $16,000–30,000 to rebuild her roof, which was nine years old. Furthermore, she expected her home insurance costs to double even with the new roof. One of her neighbors, for instance, saw an increase in insurance costs from $600 to $1,200 a month.

She also had to deal with rising property taxes as a result of her home’s increased value. In addition, her homeowners association fees increased from $326 to $480 per month. Her insurance agent also warned her that when her policy came up for renewal, her vehicle insurance costs would likely quadruple. Her partner was forced to find a second part-time job on the weekends in order to make up for the extra expenditures.

Even though Florida’s unemployment rate is lower than the US average, Blaski and other people have said that their pay isn’t enough to meet their expenses. Florida has one of the lowest median earnings in the nation, according payroll processor ADP. A prospective homeowner would need an annual income of $109,000 in order to afford a property in one of Florida’s more affordable metropolitan regions, like Jacksonville, according to a Zillow estimate. This sum is almost twice as much as what purchasers needed to earn just four years ago.

Blaski, a retail employee, said that her meager part-time salary of between $600 and $700 a month was completely devoted to home or vehicle insurance, with little money left over for groceries. “There are a lot of hidden features that people don’t know about.” Make sure you have extra money saved up because you’ll need it. The couple jumped at the chance to return to the United States when the husband’s former company in Connecticut got in touch with him.

Long-term Floridians who leave the state due to dissatisfaction with the state’s increasingly conservative policies and financial restraints are not the only ones affected by this issue. These regulations include actions like tighter enforcement against illegal immigrants, a ban on transgender care for kids, governmental intervention in the teaching of racial, sexual, and slavery-related subjects in schools, and a six-week abortion ban.

After over thirty years of residence in the Tampa Bay area, Donna Smith moved to Pennsylvania in December. Politics and rising insurance premiums were the main factors in her decision to leave. “It saddens me a great deal, because Florida was an amazing place when I first moved there,” Smith said.

Raised in Oklahoma, Smith first registered as a Republican. But when Florida’s political environment shifted to the right, she progressively began to identify as a Democrat. But it was only recently that politics started to become a part of her daily life, showing up as confrontations between friends and neighbors or even as neo-Nazis showing up at a Black Lives Matter protest in her small town.

When I moved to Florida for the first time, I was surrounded by a live-and-let-live beach culture. You met people from all across the country, and they all seemed relaxed. It is quite shocking that it has now entirely vanished. According to Smith, a 61-year-old skilled artist and graphic designer, “it has completely disappeared.” Quite the reverse—it’s just a constantly stressful atmosphere. I want to make it clear that I do not intentionally sow fear. I see the possibility for igniting at any time. What makes that location unique is its atmosphere and general vibe.

She had been thinking about moving to a different state before learning the news from her homeowner’s insurance provider. However, she was told that her home’s roof, which was more than four years old, would need to be replaced in order to prevent a large rise in her insurance rate from $3,600 to $12,000 annually. Her prior premium was already double what she had been paying, therefore that should be noted. Even after a new roof was installed, she was told her yearly premium would be $6,900. Her insurance coverage was cancelled before she could decide on her next course of action.

Smith then moved to the Lancaster, Pennsylvania area in order to be nearer to her older children. She said politics no longer had a big impact on her day-to-day life, even though the majority of people in her new area supported Donald Trump in the last election.

“I don’t think it’s as oppressive,” she said. “People don’t express their feelings as much as they used to in Florida,” she said. It is very rare to go into a room and hear people talking about how much they love Trump or how they went to his rally recently. Usually, these discussions happen between random people when you are just waiting for your vehicle or doing anything else. Its existence was pervasive.

Noelle Schmitz left the state after more than thirty years, despite her son having one year left in high school, due to both financial burdens and political considerations. She decided to go to Virginia’s Winchester. She said that politics permeated every aspect of her existence. One of her prior neighbors conspicuously exhibited a giant banner supporting Trump in front of their home for a lengthy time, while another neighbor had the word “Trump” scrawled in enormous letters over their yard. Upon displaying a Hillary Clinton sign in 2016, it was soon pilfered and her property was attacked with eggs. This encounter observed a metamorphosis in her neighbors and coworkers, as they demonstrated a rising radicalism, heightened hostility, and greater animosity towards political topics. I’m wondering where this came from. “These people don’t look like the people I remember,” Schmitz said. “I ultimately decided that we needed to leave this place promptly, as the situation was deteriorating.”

According to John Desautels, a long-time real estate agent in Florida, politics is a huge draw for some people who are new to the region. In the past, purchasers of homes were unconcerned with politics. Desautels pointed out that his customers now talk about it often, nevertheless. now of checking about schools or services in a community, prospective buyers are now questioning about the political connections of a certain area.

“One of the initial statements they make is, ‘I have no desire to reside in a neighborhood that is predominantly affiliated with either the X or Y political party,’” Desautels said. “I dedicate hours to actively listening to individuals who express their frustrations to me regarding their escape from the communist regime in XYZ. They express their wish to seek sanctuary in a nation that values freedom and other comparable ideals.” The politics have consistently been the primary concern when we receive the call. Home showings have suddenly become a topic of political sensitivity. He recalled seeing an elderly lady around a house with swastikas on the fish tank and Confederate flags flown at the door.

Politics, however, is often blamed for people’s departure from the state, even if it may initially draw them in. Moreover, a few of my LGBT or non-white customers have been dissuaded from contemplating relocating to the state due to its political atmosphere. “It is important to remember that these people are the ones who make financial contributions to our community, even though it may not sound appealing as a catchy phrase when we isolate protected groups,” he said. “As a supporter of a state that encourages economic freedom and enterprise, I am facing adverse financial consequences.”

Carter says he’s happy to be back in Kansas. She moved to a 55-and-over neighborhood in a little hamlet about ten miles from Wichita. She was paying around $900 a month in lot rent for her mobile house when she was living in Florida. But she only pays $520 a month for a cottage-style flat now. She estimates that she would have had to pay around $1,800 a month for a comparable home in Florida. She can afford to go to Florida since she was able to save money in Kansas.

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