- David, 58, had loved the slow pace and friendly community in West Palm Beach, Florida, since 1987.
- But home insurance costs and property taxes rose, making life less affordable as retirement loomed.
- Then newcomers moved in with flashy cars and bad attitudes. So David is moving to Georgia.
This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with David, 58, who is moving to Savannah, Georgia, next year after almost 40 years living in West Palm Beach, Florida. He asked to be identified by his first name for privacy reasons, but Insider has verified his identity. The conversation was edited for length and clarity.
I am from a small Midwestern town outside of Chicago, and as a child I dreamed of moving to Florida. My grandparents were snowbirds. We would drive down to see them, and West Palm Beach held some mystique to me.
When I graduated college, I was like, “Why not start my adult life there?” I loaded up the car, and I landed on Halloween of 1987. At the time, maybe 80,000 people lived in West Palm. Many people knew each other.
But since the pandemic, there has been a cultural and financial shift in Florida.
I am 58 now. I started thinking, “As I get older, do I really want to be here? I didn’t see the bright side of staying.” So my husband and I sold our house at a massive profit and bought one in Savannah, Georgia.
I spent nearly 40 years in West Palm Beach
When I first came to West Palm Beach, I moved into this great little area that I fell in love with. I lived in a condo for two years, and then I bought property for $150,000 back in 1989 or 1990.
It was great property on a huge lot. During the Great Financial Crisis I took a risk and planned to add onto it.
My brother-in-law, who is a contractor, told me, “You’re going to get great prices for everything because we’re in the middle of a housing crisis. Everything from concrete to your roof to appliances — we’re going to be able to get it at a reasonable price and quickly.” We got a $700,000 construction loan, and it worked out well.
In this neighborhood, everyone knew each other. We were really tight-knit and very neighborly. Many of us would walk dogs, stop on the sidewalk and chit-chat. We used to do a Secret Santa gifting, where at 3 a.m. Christmas morning, we’d leave wine on 30 of our neighbors’ front porches.
Newcomers with Rolls Royces and Maseratis flooded in
During the pandemic, the neighborhood changed dramatically.
The amount of people who were moving down and spending crazy amounts of money was insane. Their attitudes were so different from what everybody was used to. These were demanding people, not familiar with this kind of calm lifestyle. The population doubled with people different from others in our neighborhood.
Many of the people who moved in were in finance. Many had family money. They were just throwing money out there like it was no big deal. Like, “Oh, I sold my apartment in New York for $4 million and I bought this for $2 million.”
Rolls Royces, Range Rovers and Maseratis took over the area with disregard for rules of the road.
We used to walk with our neighbors, their kids, and our dogs. Then all of a sudden, these cars are speeding through. It would be a short block and the speed limit is clearly 25 miles an hour, and they were getting up to 60 miles an hour. They’re whipping around these curbs and we’re like, “What the hell is going on?”
Some people would try to put an orange cone in the middle of the road to stop this behavior. People became more hesitant to hang out on walks. There was just a lot of disrespect for the community in that way. I hear from our friends in the neighborhood that it still goes on and that it’s worse.
New residents added privacy hedges and fences to stay in their bubble. They started creating these cocoons. They started building walls and didn’t engage with anybody in the neighborhood. I’m not saying it’s good or bad, but it’s just so different.
Home insurance premiums and property taxes skyrocketed
Homeowners insurance really started climbing when the Surfside condo building collapsed.
In 2019, I paid about $7,000 per year in homeowners insurance. The woman who bought my house paid $22,000 this year. Insurance goes up 30% to 40% per year, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
The person who bought my house also pays $40,000 in property taxes per year. Because of Florida’s homestead exemption, which caps the amount an existing homeowner’s property taxes can increase per year by 5%, I only paid $15,000 — still a huge sum of money.
I started thinking about retirement. How was I going to pay these skyrocketing prices on a fixed income?
You’ll talk to many retirees who are like, “I gotta leave because I’m on a fixed income, and I can’t afford these property taxes.”
I sold my Florida house for much more than I paid — and bought a cheaper one in Georgia
Ultimately, we sold the house in 2022 for $2.6 million, and walked away with about $1.8 million in profit.
Since then, we’ve been living in Palm Beach Gardens, where we rent a condo for $6,000 per month.
My husband and I bought a house in Savannah, Georgia, for $683,000. We just closed on it last week, and we plan to move there in March.
Savannah felt right. The islands of Savannah reminded us of the old Florida. The home we purchased on Wilmington Island would be triple the cost in our former neighborhood, yet it feels like Florida without the crowds and retains the smell of the ocean.