They came for Florida’s sun and sand. They got soaring costs and a culture war.

One of the first signs Barb Carter’s move to Florida wasn’t the postcard life she’d envisioned was the armadillo infestation in her home that caused $9,000 in damages. Then came a hurricane, ever present feuding over politics, and an inability to find a doctor to remove a tumor from her liver.

After a year in the Sunshine State, Carter packed her car with whatever belongings she could fit and headed back to her home state of Kansas — selling her Florida home at a $40,000 loss and leaving behind the children and grandchildren she’d moved to be closer to.

“So many people ask, ‘Why would you move back to Kansas?’ I tell them all the same thing — you’ve got to take your vacation goggles off,” Carter said. “For me, it was very falsely promoted. Once living there, I thought, you know, this isn’t all you guys have cracked this up to be, at all.”

Florida has had a population boom over the past several years, with more than 700,000 people moving there in 2022, and it was the second-fastest-growing state as of July 2023, according to Census Bureau data. While there are some indications that migration to the state has slowed from its pandemic highs, only Texas saw more one-way U-Haul moves into the state than Florida last year. Mortgage application data indicated there were nearly two homebuyers moving to Florida in 2023 for every one leaving, according to data analytics firm CoreLogic.

But while hundreds of thousands of new residents have flocked to the state on the promise of beautiful weather, no income tax and lower costs, nearly 500,000 left in 2022, according to the most recent census data. Contributing to their move was a perfect storm of soaring insurance costs, a hostile political environment, worsening traffic and extreme weather, according to interviews with more than a dozen recent transplants and longtime residents who left the state in the past two years.


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