SOUTHWEST FLORIDA — Hundreds of thousands of people move to Florida every year, and during the pandemic, that has not shown many signs of slowing down.

In fact, Southwest Florida is seeing a major real estate boom and the season seems to be stretching longer.

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Between January 2020 and April 2021, at least 555,710 people have moved to Florida from other states. That data is only accounting for the number of people who have switched over their driver’s licenses, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV).

ABC7 asked dozens of people which state they think the most people are moving to Florida from. Many guessed California, some said New Jersey, Michigan or Illinois, while others said New York — and according to the data, they were right.

The number two states for reciprocated driver’s licenses in Florida are New Jersey and Georgia.

“I think in all the states that are shut down, people just want to be down here,” said Fort Myers resident Rick Williamson.

Williamson has had several visitors lately.

“We’ve had five couples from California come out in the last few months and they’re all like ‘we don’t have to wear a mask? We don’t have to do this?’,” he said.

Williamson moved to Fort Myers from California seven years ago, which is a good reminder that people flocking to Florida isn’t a new trend. However, the boom is becoming noticeable.

“By now usually, we usually have less crowded streets, but it’s definitely been more crowded,” Williamson said.

Based on the numbers from the FLHSMV, at least 61,000 New Yorkers have swapped their old plates for Florida’s since 2020. Almost 3,000 moved to Lee County.

That migration has been happening for years, but around fall 2020 there was a spike. It happened right around the time Florida was reopening as other states were locking down even tighter.


At Florida Gulf Coast University, experts said the new world of working remotely has been a big factor in recent migration.

“Being able to move out and trying to find other things they like, I think it does play a role,” said Dr. Amir Neto, the interim director of FGCU’s Regional Economic Research Institute.

He said Florida having fewer pandemic restrictions and more outdoor amenities are other factors, but COVID-19 is not the only thing driving people to move here.

“Florida is one of those desired states. I think with the pandemic, it just really accelerated that process,” Neto said.

Many of the people making the move are also coming to Southwest Florida from other parts of the state, and overall, the population increase has pros and cons, Neto said.

“You’re seeing higher traffic in the region. If you look at housing prices in the area, that has been skyrocketing,” he said.

On the plus side, more people moving to the area means more opportunities for innovation and growth.

“People spending money, that has that multiplier effect we all want that trickles down to the economy,” Neto said.

While many people are moving to Florida, Neto claimed many are moving out of the state too, saying the lower-income population may not be able to keep up with rising prices.

Neto expects people to continue to move here, but he believes it might slow down as the pandemic comes to an end.

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“Right now, firms and businesses are figuring out the remote and physical component to the balance and what that’s gonna look like in the future and that’s going to be a big determinant,” he said.