Tennessee among top states for inbound moves again in 2021

Texas displaced Tennessee last year as the No. 1 destination state for residents relocating during the pandemic, according to moves tracked by U-Haul during 2021.

Tennessee, which was U-Haul's top state for people to move into in 2020, still ranked No. 3 among all states for incoming moves, behind only Texas and Florida during 2021, according to transactional data compiled for the annual U-Haul Growth Index.

A similar survey by United Van Lines of its residential moves last year ranked Tennessee No. 7 for the share of inbound movers compared with those leaving the state, just behind No. 6 Alabama.

"Tennessee is an attractive market people want to move to and we're definitely seeing more people discover East Tennessee and want to live here," said Derek English, an affiliate broker with Scout Realtor Group who is the president of the Greater Chattanooga Realtors association and works with many relocating residents.

Migration to Southern states continues to be magnified by the lingering pandemic, and no state netted more U-Haul customers during the last year than Texas.

"We see a lot of growth coming from the East and West Coast," said Matt Merrill, a district vice president for U-Haul in Dallas.

U-Haul top growth states

1. Texas2. Florida3. Tennessee4. South Carolina5. Arizona6. Indiana7. Colorado8. Maine9.Idaho10. New MexicoSource: U-Haul Growth Index

Kristina Ramos, the president of the U-Haul Co. in South Austin, credits the influx of residents to the economy and cost of living.

"With a strong job market and low cost of living, it's a no brainer," she said. "Texas doesn't have an income tax, so families get more for their money."

Tennessee is also one of only nine states without a state personal income tax and has been one of the top states for net population gains in the past couple of years, according to U-Haul and United Van Lines data.

Surveys of those on the move by United Van Lines found that 13% of those relocating were moving to Tennessee because of its favorable cost of living - the second-highest share of any state behind only South Carolina.

United Van Lines top growth states

1. Vermont2. South Dakota3. South Carolina4. West Virginia5. Florida6. Alabama7. Tennessee8. Oregon9. Idaho10. Rhode IslandSource: United Van Lines National Movers Study

The U.S. Bureau of Census has yet to estimate population changes last year among the states. But in the 12 months that ended June 30, 2020, Tennessee's population grew by 0.8%, adding 55,099 more residents. That was eight times faster than the U.S. growth rate of 0.1% and was ahead of both neighboring Georgia, which grew 0.7% and Alabama, which increased at a 0.3% pace in 2020.

The U-Haul analysis of more than 2 million one-way truck customer transactions last year showed the top five states for net migration gains were all in the Sunbelt. California and Illinois ranked as the biggest net losers for population shifts again last year, although the net loss of U-Haul trucks wasn't as severe as in 2020.

While U-Haul moves among those driving trucks or pulling trailers favored Sunbelt states, United Van Lines showed the biggest net migration changes were from more populated to less populated states, including many Northern states, as more remote workers moved out of more congested states.

"We're seeing this not only occur because of Americans' desire to leave high density areas due to risk of infection, but also due to the transformation of how we're able to work, with more flexibility to work remote," said Michael A. Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Of the top 10 inbound states for movements on United Van Lines, most were from sparsely populated states, including Vermont, South Dakota, West Virginia, Alabama, Oregon and Idaho, which are all among the 20 least densely populated states in America with less than 100 people per square mile.

"We're seeing a lot of retirees in the Northeast move South, but when you look at other states like California, people are moving due to the cost of living, which is definitely related to the pandemic," said Eily Cummings, director of corporate communications for United Van Lines. "Now that so many people can work from anywhere, they are choosing to live closer to family or living in an environment where the cost of living is lower."

United Van Lines, the nation's biggest full-service moving company, tends to handle more affluent households on the move than does U-Haul, and its data is based upon more than 150,000 moves in 2021.

Contact Dave Flessner at dflessner@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6340.