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- Palm Bay was the fourth-most-popular city for movers in America in 2022, per U-Haul data.
- DeShunte Jones, a Marine veteran, was among those who made the move with his family.
- Cities with small-town charm are seen as the places to be in Florida this year.
When DeShunte Jones, a 31-year-old veteran who spent 12 years as a Marine aviation technician, left the military in 2022, he prepared for another big move.
With his wife, two sons ages 6 and 8, and three pit bulls, he packed up and relocated from the Marine base in Beaufort, South Carolina, to Florida, along with thousands of other people who made the state the second-most-popular destination for movers last year.
Like many who were moving to the Sunshine State, it wasn’t the big, expensive cities like Miami or Tampa that drew the Jones family. Instead, they found a place that exuded a small-town feel without straying too far from the job centers that they’d need to support themselves.
“Florida is awesome, you can settle down and go to a small town and just live that little coastal life,” Jones told Insider. “It’s a picture of everything that you could pretty much want.”
DeShunte Jones’ two sons and one of his family’s dogs.
Courtesy of DeShunte Jones
Jones scored a job working for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center about 40 minutes away from Palm Bay, the beach town of about 120,000 people where in August he signed a lease for a four-bedroom house with a backyard.
“We live on a small cul-de-sac, we love that community feel,” Jones said.
Jones and his wife, who both grew up in small-town Virginia, are planning to buy a house in the near future, he said. Despite the runaway home values of the past few years, local prices were still relatively affordable for the average family there, he said. Florida offers income-tax benefits and property-tax exemptions to some veterans, too.
Jones is not alone — the Palm Bay-Melbourne metro area, along Florida’s eastern seaboard, was the fourth-fastest-growing area in the US last year, according to U-Haul, which tracks the number of people making one-way trips with one of the company’s do-it-yourself moving trucks.
DeShunte Jones and his wife in Palm Bay.
Courtesy of DeShunte Jones
Jones’ move aligns with homebuying trends, too. Small Southern cities within driving distance of major ones — and suburbs right outside big cities — were some of the most popular ZIP codes to move to in the past year, Opendoor data found. In short, areas like this have usurped big cities like Tampa and Miami as the places to be.
While movers still seem to like the sunshine and low-tax policies, they’re prioritizing affordability and access to jobs over the hustle and bustle of major metros, Opendoor’s data shows.
Alexandra Shupe, a real-estate agent covering the Palm Bay-Melbourne area, is finding the same.
“A lot of people are wanting to get away from big-city life and all the challenges that come along with it,” Shupe said of her clients from New York, Illinois, and the West Coast. They are coming from places where traffic is worse and prices are a lot higher, she said.
For some people, even a smaller city is too overwhelming. Shupe said she’s working with one client who discovered that Tampa was too much of a metropolis and “just isn’t hitting the mark” for them a year after moving there from Atlanta.
But if people are moving to the area for peace and quiet, they might lose that in the future. It’s becoming harder to escape crowds across the state, and traffic can be gnarly, several residents told Insider this week. One Sarasota resident was tempted to put out a tongue-in-cheek sign to newcomers alerting them about the congestion: “Welcome to Sunny Florida. Population – FULL!”