Deep price declines have made metropolitan areas in the Sunshine State popular destinations for online house hunters looking to move to a different metro area, according to a quarterly report by real estate search and marketing company Trulia.

Trulia’s Metro Movers Report is based on the ratio of inbound property searches on in a given metro area by out-of-area residents, compared to outbound searches by locals. The report examined searches on between Oct. 1, 2011, and Dec. 31, 2011, in U.S. metropolitan areas.

Trulia reported that more than 1 in 3 home searches on the site cross state lines. Seven of the top 10 metro areas where the ratio of inbound searches from out-of-area site visitors to outbound searches from locals was highest were in Florida. All but Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., were in the South.

Where demand among online house hunters is strongest

Rank U.S. metropolitan area # inbound searches per outbound search
1 Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, Fla. 8.8
2 Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla. 7.6
3 North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, Fla. 6.62
4 Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla. 2.59
5 Tulsa, Okla. 2.48
6 West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, Fla. 2.46
7 Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, Fla. 2.44
8 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif. 2.43
9 Charleston-North Charleston-Summerville, S.C. 2.4
10 Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, Fla. 2.3

NOTE: The inbound-to-outbound ratio for a metro area divides the number of incoming property searches by out-of-towners, by the number of outgoing property searches by locals looking to leave. So a ratio of 2-to-1 means that there are twice as many searches by out-of-towners in a market than by locals in that market searching outside their market area.

Source: Trulia.

"Today’s house hunters are deal seekers who focus their search in places where prices are low. Although locals in Florida, inland California and the Southwest are suffering from high foreclosure rates and lost equity, huge price declines since the height of the housing bubble have drawn house hunters from across the country," said Jed Kolko, Trulia’s chief economist, in a statement.

"As America’s retirement capital, Florida has received the most attention from prospective homebuyers and renters from the Northeast and Midwest. Baby boomers who had planned to retire to cheaper places elsewhere in the South during the boom years can once again buy in Florida."

New York is the top source of searches 100 miles away or more for properties along the Atlantic Coast and Central Florida, including the Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach metros, the report said.

Chicago is the top source of searches for homes in Gulf Coast metros, including North Port-Bradenton-Sarasota, and Cape Coral. 

One-third of all Miami home searches originate more than 500 miles away, the report said. 

Screenshot of inbound searches for Miami real estate.

According to the report, more people are looking to leave big metros than move into them, and searches indicate they’re looking to move to the South and Southwest.

Atlanta was the top search destination from the Newark metro, while Phoenix was the top destination from Chicago, the report said. An exception to the trend: the New York metro was a top search destination from three Maryland metros — Washington, D.C., Bethesda and Baltimore. Trulia compiled a slide show including top destinations from major metro areas (view here).

Four of the 10 metros with the highest ratios of people looking to leave, rather than move to, were in the Northeast, three were in the South, two were in the West, and one was in the Midwest.

Where demand among online house hunters is weakest

Rank U.S. metro area
# of outbound searches per inbound search
1 Newark-Union, N.J.-Pa. 3.65
2 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, Calif. 2.6
3 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Va.-Md.-W.Va. 2.54
4 Philadelphia, Pa. 2.4
5 Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md. 2.25
6 New Haven-Milford, Conn. 2.21
7 Baltimore-Towson, Md. 2.17
8 Seattle-Bellevue-Everett, Wash. 2.11
9 Camden, N.J. 2.11
10 Omaha-Council Bluffs, Neb.-Iowa 2.04

NOTE: The outbound-to-inbound ratio for a metro area divides the number of outgoing property searches by locals looking to leave by the number of incoming property searches by out-of-towners. A ratio of 2 means that there are twice as many people looking to leave than move in. 

Source: Trulia.

Trulia also identified a list of "best kept secret" neighborhoods that out-of-area house hunters typically overlook. The site first identified popular neighborhoods among out-of-towners, such as Tribeca in New York, Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, Miami Beach in Miami, Pacific Heights in San Francisco, and Georgetown in Washington, D.C.

Then it identified ZIP codes in similarly priced neighborhoods that got more home searches from locals than by nonlocals to create the list.

"Best kept secret" neighborhoods

U.S. city "Best kept secret" neighborhood ZIP code
New York Hunters Point (Long Island City, Queens) 11101
Los Angeles La Brea / Hancock Park 90036
Chicago West Town / Wicker Park 60622
San Francisco Diamond Heights / Glen Park 94131
Miami Key Biscayne 33149
Washington D.C. Logan Circle 20005
Boston Fort Point / Seaport District 02210
Houston Spring Branch East 77055
Dallas Greenway Parks 75209
Seattle Sunset Hill / North Beach 98117
Philadelphia Bella Vista / Southwark 19147
Atlanta Virginia-Highland 30306

Source: Trulia.

"Finding the best place to live in a new and unfamiliar place can be tough. House hunters naturally start their search in a city’s famous neighborhoods — such as Beverly Hills, Tribeca or Miami Beach — but don’t know to look in the neighborhoods that are favored by locals," Kolko said.

"To help these prospective homebuyers and renters, we’re giving them the inside scoop on where locals want to live — places that are often overlooked by out-of-towners. Some of these best-kept-secret neighborhoods have seen recent gentrification or redevelopment; others have been quietly upscale neighborhoods for decades."

(A data visualization related to Trulia’s report can be viewed here.)

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