Richmond and DC Among Cities People Are Most Eager to Ditch

by Don Rippert

Anywhere but here. Moneywise Publishing is citing a “study” detailing the most and least desirable American cities based on real estate inquiries. Real estate brokerage firm Redfin tracks Americans using their web site to find new places to live.  According to the company, 25% of people browsing home listings online are “looking to get outta town.” Tracking the places people want to leave isn’t very encouraging for Virginia. Both the Richmond metropolitan area and the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area are on the list of 19 top places to leave. Redfin also tracks the 10 places people most want to go. No Virginia city makes that list.

The leave list.  These are the 19 cities Redfin claims people most want to leave.  A summary of the reasons cited for wanting to leave is included.

19. Indianapolis, IN – weather, bad roads

18. Spokane, WA – unemployment, weather, homelessness / crime, lack of rental housing, rapidly escalating home costs (+18.5% in a year)

17. Richmond, VA – bad schools, rising housing costs (+9% in a year), having to mingle with General Assembly members two months a year (Ok, my opinion)

16. Des Moines, IA – weather

15. Eugene, OR – cost of living, somewhat high unemployment

14. Champaign, IL – weather, isolation

13. Rockford, IL – unemployment, bad schools, high crime

12. Houston, TX – unemployment, housing costs (+6% in a year), infrastructure (especially flooding)

11. South Bend, IN – weather, crime, bad roads

10. Detroit, MI – unemployment / economic opportunities

9. Milwaukee, WI – income inequality, inadequate public transportation, bad schools

8. Hartford, CT – property taxes (highest in US), home prices (+12.3% in last year), violent crime

7. Seattle, WA – housing costs (average home $712,000), weather

6. Denver, CO – housing costs (average home $450,000), taxes

5. Chicago, IL – weather, traffic, property taxes, cost of living

4. Washington, DC – housing costs, property taxes, cost of living

3. Los Angeles, CA – cost of living, high rents, property taxes, housing prices (average home – $725,000)

2. SanFrancisco, CA – “horrendous” housing costs (average home – $1.43m)

1. New York, NY – cost of living, housing costs, rats

The go to list. These are the 10 cities Redfin says people most want to move to with a summary of reasons included.

10. Raleigh, NC – jobs, weather, cost of living, proximity to beaches and mountains

9. San Diego, CA – “perfect” weather, better cost of living than LA, jobs

8. Tampa, FL – weather, amenities (NFL, NHL, MLB), beaches, cost of living, proximity to theme parks

7. Dallas, TX – friendliness, cost of living, rental prices, housing prices (homes selling for an average of $60,000)

6. Las Vegas, NV – entertainment options, weather, proximity to skiing, real estate more reasonable than LA

5. Miami, FL – weather (sunny but sticky), housing prices relative to NYC

4. Austin, TX – hip place, cost of living (relative to Bay Area), taxes

3. Atlanta, GA – jobs (drawn by low corporate taxes), airport, housing costs (much lower than other metro areas), average home: $325,000

2. Sacramento, CA – cost of living (relative to other west coast cities), housing costs (average home – $335,000)

1. Phoenix, AZ – weather (dry heat), cost of living, housing prices (average house – $262,000), property taxes

The wrap. Redfin is a serious and successful company. Some weight must be given to their analysis. The Moneywise commentary seems a bit whimsical. For example, “no state income tax” is cited as a positive for Austin but not for Dallas.

Approximately 1/2 of the “leave list” is composed of small cities. Eight of the ten “go to list” are relatively large cities. As Virginia considers the possibility of building up small cities like Roanoke it might be wise to understand what’s happening in South Bend or Hartford.

Seeing places like Seattle, Denver and SanFrancisco on the “leave list” is surprising. Those cities have historically been seen as desirable locales. Each has high costs as a negative. As Amazon moves to the Arlington / Alexandria border and Viginia Tech opens its new campus next door are we lighting the fuse of runaway costs of living?

Nobody living in NoVa will be surprised that D.C .area residents spend time researching what it would be like to live elsewhere. The challenges of managing a metro area shared by three distinct governments creates unique problems (such as Metro funding). Virginia’s dysfunctional approach to governance at the state level only makes matters worse. The D.C. area is a mess and it’s getting worse by the day. However, Richmond is something of an enigma. The only negative comment is somewhat fast rising housing costs. That seems like a small reason to see Richmond on the “leave list.”  Maybe there are just too many Richmonders there – lol, kidding.