Could it be that people are leaving other parts of California, but not as much from San Diego? This data suggests that, but for those who want to leave the state, Las Vegas is close enough that it’s a suburb for SoCal now.

Key takeaways

• Using Bank of America internal data we construct near real-time estimates of domestic migration flows, giving us almost one year of extra insight over Census Bureau data. Notably, we find pandemic migration trends are not reversing and we continue to see faster population inflow into sunbelt cities like Austin and Tampa.
• But house prices are weakening even in cities with growing populations. Why? In addition to high mortgage rates that are dampening demand in the near term, demographic composition also matters. For example, our data shows that population inflows into Austin skew younger, which might be putting more upward pressure on rents instead of on home prices.
• Looking through the current housing downturn, local housing markets with more Millennial and Baby Boomer residents could see strength as the former enter prime home-buying age and the latter downsize their houses or move after retirement. Bank of America data suggests Baby Boomers are relocating to Las Vegas and Tampa while Millennials prefer Austin. Both groups are leaving the larger cities of San Francisco and New York.

America on the move

A key theme that shaped the housing market during the pandemic was domestic migration (i.e., people moving within the US). While data from the Census Bureau is broken down by metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), it is only updated annually and can be outdated for real time analysis.

Utilizing aggregated and anonymized Bank of America customer data, we constructed near real-time estimates of domestic migration flows and found that pandemic migration trends are not reversing. Data as of 1Q 2023 suggests that cities that saw a large influx of people during the pandemic have still been growing fasterthan other cities in recent quarters.

“Bank of America data suggests baby boomers are relocating to Las Vegas and Tampa, Florida, while millennials prefer Austin, Texas,” the report noted, adding that both “groups are leaving the larger cities of San Francisco and New York.”

What makes Las Vegas so attractive to boomers? According to a 2023 study by Empower, a financial services company, Las Vegas ranked as the top spot for retirement thanks to its affordability, tax friendliness to retirees, ease of access to health care, and of course, its year-round sunshine.

“Based on our analysis, Las Vegas was the most affordable U.S. city for retirees,” the report’s findings stated. “For those looking for their daily dose of Vitamin D, Sin City ranked second for average yearly sunshine, and proved very tax-friendly, with no state income tax, and no estate or inheritance taxes. Additionally, Las Vegas has a thriving senior community and plenty of entertainment options.”

The only downfall, however, is Las Vegas, like many places around the U.S., is experiencing a significant affordable housing shortage, making it potentially difficult for some retirees to find a necessary cost-of-living balance.

“We need more product,” Lee Barrett, the president of the Las Vegas Realtors, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2023. “What’s kept the values up in the Las Vegas market is that lack of product, so it’s a supply and demand issue.”

If you can’t find housing as a retiree in Vegas, Bank of America’s report noted that two cities in Florida — Tampa and Orlando — are also top choices for baby boomers. And Florida will also be in style for retirees.

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