The pandemic is driving an upswing in relocations — and so far, Nevada is emerging as one of the big winners. In the first quarter of 2021, the Silver State was the nation's most moved-to, according to new migration data from tracking website Updater, which analyzed roughly 300,000 U.S. moves.
Nevada is one of a handful of states gaining residents in the current spate of interstate migrations. Updater found that only 16 states had a greater percentage of "inbound" moves, with more people moving in than out, than "outbound" moves. More than half, 54%, of Nevada's moves were inbound, while 46% were outbound.
"With the rise of remote work and people fleeing California, Nevada was a logical and attractive choice for many individuals and families," says Eric Thorsen, director of acquisitions for the Nevada branch of Atlas Real Estate. "The economy is diversifying beyond gaming and tourism, and the pandemic accelerated that process."
Nevada's proximity to California is a major contributor to its success. The Golden State's housing crisis is infamous: Updater's analysis ranked it among the 20 states with the highest percentage of outbound moves. A lot of those people are heading across the border to Nevada.
A recent analysis by the Las Vegas Review-Journal found that 43% of people who turned in their old license for a Nevada one in 2020 were from California, while just 4.5% of the surrendered licenses came from the second-most popular state for transplants, Florida.
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Though Las Vegas is Nevada's most populous city, you can hit the jackpot on rent there — the average one-bedroom apartment goes for $1,100, according to apartment listings site Zumper. Reno is only slightly more expensive, with a one-bedroom average of $1,250. Compare that to California's biggest metros, where the average one-bedroom goes for $2,695 (San Francisco), $1,995 (Los Angeles), or $1,940 (San Diego).
There's no state income tax, a characteristic Nevada shares with four of the top 10 inbound states in Updater's study.
"If the pandemic did anything, it made people rethink their life decisions," says realtor Jake A. Leahy. "It has been a growing trend for people to move from high-tax states to low-tax states, especially low-tax states with better weather."
Property taxes in Nevada are relatively low, too. Silver State residents pay an effective property tax rate of 0.60%, the ninth-lowest in the country, per WalletHub. Over 20 states have property tax rates of 1% or more, with New Jersey charging the highest rate, 2.49%.
However, Nevada's 6.85% sales tax rate is on the higher end of the scale, and everyday life can be expensive in the desert. The cost of living in Vegas, for instance, is 3% higher than the national average, notes PayScale. Groceries cost 4% more than average and transportation 14%.
Home prices have soared nationwide in the past year, and Nevada isn't immune to the trend, especially with so many new residents coming in. In Vegas, home values rose 12% over the past year, says Zillow. Across Nevada as a whole, they're up almost 14%.
If you're Nevada-bound, be mindful of your spending. Even though the housing market is red-hot right now, that doesn't mean you should drain your savings to purchase a home before prices rise further.
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"If you are not very familiar with the area, I recommend renting before buying," says Leahy. "While it may be tempting in this current market to buy first, getting a better idea of the market before making such a major investment can be a great idea. Even if you just find out which neighborhood you prefer, having 12 months or so of insight can be very helpful."
If you're saving up for a move, experts recommend stashing away a bit of money at a time until you reach your goal. Those who can work remotely should make sure that their salary won't be cut if they move, and that other local job opportunities exist in the event they need to pivot. And always "consider the full picture of your living expenses, earning potential, and taxes before moving," Thorsen says.
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