Lew Sichelman is a seasoned writer with 50 years of covering the housing and mortgage markets under his belt. His biweekly Inman column publishes on Tuesdays.

Most people who move out of state aren’t following Horace Greeley’s advice and going west; instead, they are heading south, where temperatures are warmer and housing is less expensive, according to new research from LendingTree.

The No. 1 destination is Florida. Of the more than 2 million mortgage applications made this year through mid-November and analyzed by LendingTree, 12.4 percent were from out-of-state folks looking to relocate.

Top 5 (err 7) most desirable states

Of course, Florida is the bellwether destination for new residents, primarily because of its weather. It’s also a particular hot spot for retirees. And it’s one of six states that don’t have an income tax.

Actually, the Sunshine State has a lot going for it, according to LendingTree Chief Economist Tendayi Kapfidze: “Florida has always been a top retirement state,” he told Inman in a telephone interview; and the lack of a state income tax is “important to people on fixed income who are trying to minimize their expenses.”

The rest of the top five destination states were Texas, California, Washington and, in a three-way tie for fifth, Arizona, Massachusetts and North Carolina. Texans and Washingtonians don’t have to pay a state tax on their incomes. The other states without an income tax are Alaska, Nevada and South Dakota.

Population vs. mortgage requests

Based on LendingTree’s Moving Popularity Score Index, which takes into account a state’s population as well as the number of mortgage requests from out-of-staters, South Carolina actually tops Florida. Loan requests in the Palmetto State garnered a popularity score of 152, meaning mortgage applications were greater than “suggested by its share of the national population,” the popular site found.

Florida was second on the index, with a score of 144, followed by Delaware (138), Georgia (138) and North Carolina (137).

Least desirable locales

South Dakota, on the other hand, was the least desirable location, with a score of just 64 on the popularity index.

Other states that are the least attractive to out-of-state homebuyers are Hawaii at 67, Minnesota (71), California (72) and New York (74).

Leaving Alaska

On the flip side, people are leaving Alaska more than from any other state. Only 75.2 percent were looking to remain in the Land of the Midnight Sun. For the rest, Washington was their top destination.

Staying put

The study also found that Texas has the highest percentage of residents wanting to move within the Lone Star State’s borders. More than 93.4 percent of purchase money mortgage applications were for would-be buyers already in the state.

Second on the list of buyers staying within their home state was Michigan, where 91.3 percent of the state’s residents who applied for financing were staying put. The rest of the top five are Florida, also at 91 percent, Ohio (90.9 percent) and Oklahoma (90.8 percent)

Texas also is numero uno among states, not just people. That is, people in six states — Arkansas, California, Colorado, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma — found Texas more desirable than any other place.

How far will they go?

But even as people hope to venture beyond their current borders, they don’t want to go far, LendingTree also found. More than half of the most popular new states border the applicant’s current state.

However, of the 20 states where the applicants’ current states don’t border where they expect to move, Florida again reigns supreme. People in 13 of the non-bordering states want to head to the Sunshine State.

Lew Sichelman is a seasoned writer with 50 years of covering the housing and mortgage markets under his belt. His biweekly Inman column publishes on Tuesdays.

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