Kim, 68, recently packed her bags and moved from a small coastal city in Florida to a drastically different place — a snowy town in northern Vermont an hour south of the Canadian border.
Kim, who lived for 10 years in Flagler County, north of Daytona Beach, decided to leave behind the warm weather and proximity to the beach to move north a few months ago. Kim, who asked to just use her first name for privacy reasons, said she left what she once considered “the promised land” and “couldn’t get out of Florida fast enough.”
“Our small coastal town, with small beach houses, suddenly somehow turned into the perfect place for wealthy people to tear down the little houses and build monstrous starter castles,” Kim told Business Insider. “There’s no paradise there to be found.”
Instead of buying a large house in Berlin, a town near Vermont’s capital, she and her husband decided to push back homebuying plans and get a mobile home. It cost them $12,000 upfront and they’re enjoying the peace and calm of New England.
Nearly 490,000 people left Florida between 2021 and 2022, according to census data, with thousands moving to Georgia, Texas, and North Carolina. Meanwhile, 739,000 people moved in, predominantly from New York, California, New Jersey, and Georgia — what Holly Meyer Lucas, a real-estate agent in South Florida, previously told Business Insider is “the biggest migration that we’re going to see certainly in our generation.”
More specifically, just 873 people moved from Florida to Vermont during this time period. Many moved from Florida citing rising prices, more tourism, and unbearable heat. Still, many are moving to Florida for the state’s natural beauty, laid-back lifestyle, and culinary options.
Leaving a ‘very contentious, very expensive’ city
Kim grew up in New Hampshire and lived in Massachusetts and Maine. Kim’s husband had his heart set on living in Florida upon retirement, so they purchased a beach home in 2000. Her parents would go down to Florida every winter in a camper, though it would always break down, so they wanted to buy the home so her parents could stay there during the colder months.
After being laid off from her IT job, she sold her house in Maine and moved to Florida full-time in 2013. She decided to retire while her husband found another job, and at first, the experience was nearly everything they wanted.
“The first few years were nice because of the change in climate, the warm weather,” Kim said, adding that she took up kayaking and biking. “I found it not hard to make friends, but every person that I met was not from Florida.”
But in 2017, her home flooded and she had nowhere to go. She and her husband only received $2,000 from FEMA to cover two months of rent as they fixed up the home, but she found it hard to find a place to rent as she said most landlords won’t rent for less than six months.
They stayed with a friend for a month and then rented an Airbnb for two months, an experience that made her feel “very abandoned, very scared and upset.” They eventually found a good contractor and remodeled the home using some FEMA money.
Still, she noticed home insurance companies pulling out of Florida due to floods and prevalent fraud, she said. Car insurance rates also spiked — she said she now pays about half of what she paid in Florida.
The charm of her area slowly eroded as well, as a farmer’s market near her home closed down and was replaced by a Margaritaville Hotel. The small homes by the beach have been replaced by mansions.
“This little beach town that we used to love became very contentious, very expensive,” Kim said. “The atmosphere changed to a totally touristy, wealthy area.”
Still, she misses the warm Florida weather — with the exception of the occasional hurricane — and her area’s recreational opportunities. She was never in a rush to finish tasks before it got too cold or snowy in the winter.
Around 2016, she also started to see the political atmosphere of her area change. People became more aggressive, people would sell political shirts with hateful slogans on them on many street corners, and there was a “wave of animosity” that made her question whether she should go running or biking by herself. Her district also started banning books, which she said was one of the final straws for her.
She said she felt lonelier in her area, and by extension, the peace she found in nature was no more.
Vermont pros and cons
Kim and her husband knew they wanted to move back to New England to feel more at home, but she thought Maine was too pricey and New Hampshire wasn’t the right fit. She settled in Berlin, which has a population of 4,000 and she said was calmer and more diverse.
Instead of buying a big home, given their small retirement income, Kim and her husband decided to buy a mobile home. The average home price in the Montpelier area is around $350,000, and since they couldn’t afford the mortgage, they spent $12,000 on a mobile home and put between $50,000 and $60,000 into remodeling it.
When she sold her home in Florida for $495,000, she said there were 113 houses for sale. In her part of Vermont, there were just around three.
“It feels like we’re all in this together to make this place better,” Kim said. “It felt much safer, it felt much more warm. I haven’t had arguments with anybody, and no one’s said anything nasty to me.”
She said despite the less “antagonistic” and friendlier atmosphere, the prices in her part of Vermont are somewhat higher than in Florida. Some daily expenses are a lot less, though the cost of food is about a quarter higher. Gas is slightly higher in Vermont — $3.44 compared to $3.12 a gallon in Florida, according to AAA — and property taxes tend to be higher than in Florida.
Her taxes are kept low because of her mobile home, though they have to pay for heating, which she estimates may be more expensive than air conditioning in Florida.
She said it will take some time to get used to the cold and to get into outdoor activities like skiing and snowshoeing after living 10 years along the beach.
While they enjoy living in a mobile home given its relative privacy, their goal is to buy a house in cash in the New England area and sell their renovated mobile home.
“This feels more what I think America should be: more welcoming and inclusive,” she said.
Have you recently moved to a new state? Reach out to this reporter at [email protected].