Lighting out for the Arizona territory

Mass migration brings influx of new residents to Grand Canyon state

Posted 1/17/21

Chef and nutritionist Courtney Fuller and her husband moved from Washington state to the West Valley last September to be closer to his family.

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Lighting out for the Arizona territory

Mass migration brings influx of new residents to Grand Canyon state


Chef and nutritionist Courtney Fuller and her husband moved from Washington state to the West Valley last September to be closer to his family.

With the move from Seattle to Surprise came her personal chef and meal prep business, Nutrition Thyme RD, as well as the opportunity to be closer to family and be surrounded by a multitude of other cities, including being able to experience all the Phoenix-area has to offer, she said.

“The cost of living in Seattle is rising and we wanted to live somewhere more affordable, along with loving the sun,” she said.

Thousands of others like her are leaving their homes elsewhere, especially California, and laying down roots in the Valley.

Moving companies such as Atlas, United Van Lines and North American have released their annual migration reports and two out of the three list Arizona in their top five states for inbound moves. United Van Lines specifically cites “retirement” as the primary reason for 37% of inbound moves — 70% were over 55 years old and 63% made incomes over $100,000 per year.

More than 55% of California residents have considered moving out of the state in the last 12 months and more than 60% of respondents would consider moving to Arizona, according to a recent survey released by Greater Phoenix Economic Council.

Nearly 60,000 new residents moved from California to Arizona in 2019, according to the latest U.S. Census data.

Chris Camacho, president and CEO of GPEC, said the survey reveals many positive perceptions about Arizona.
“Greater Phoenix is a young, vibrant and dynamic region offering individuals with increased professional mobility the chance to live out their dreams and passions, accomplish life goals like homeownership, and enjoy a quality of life that simply isn’t affordable in high-cost coastal markets,” Mr. Camacho said.

The survey of California residents, Oct. 30-31, 2020, gauged their general sentiment about California and their perceptions of Arizona. More than 530 completed responses were received.

The top five challenges for California residents are: cost of living at 57%, cost of housing at 48%, high taxes at 41%, natural disasters at 29%, as well as traffic congestion and state and local leadership at 20%, according to the survey.

As a result of the infux, BJ Katz, owner/designated broker for Lake Pleasant Real Estate, said the Phoenix-metro real estate market is one of the top markets in the entire country.

This has been Mr. Katz’s best year by far and many brokers across the Valley say the same thing, he said.

“We are experiencing extremely low inventory and high demand. This high demand can be attributed to low interest rates, the pandemic, and buyers coming in droves from California and other western states,” he said. “Everything is so high in California — taxes, real estate, gas, food, everything. People are fed up with the crowds, the regulations, the high prices.”

The California-centric survey revealed positive perceptions of Arizona with all categories scoring a three or higher on a scale of 1-5. The highest scoring categories are: A vibrant arts and culture community scoring a 3.53, low cost of living scoring 3.52, good education options scoring 3.48, and quality of life scoring 3.44.

Mr. Camacho said that currently, 28% of active business prospects in GPEC’s pipeline are from California, which includes multiple headquarter and advanced manufacturing operations, with some nearing announcement.

Westmarc President and CEO, Sintra Hoffman said Californians have always been moving to Arizona, but increasingly, people and companies are making the value-based decision to relocate to Arizona.

The West Valley is home to the White Tank Mountains Regional Park, Lake Pleasant Regional Park and Estrella Mountain Regional Park, she said, which are attractive to Californians, who are active and value sunshine and outdoor activities.
She added that homes are more affordable here and technology has allowed people to work remotely no matter where their business may be headquartered.

The West Valley is competitive and attracting smart people, Ms. Hoffman said.

“The pandemic and social unrest many are experiencing has also increased the migration to Arizona. Many tech workers can and are working remotely. So as they move to the West Valley, saving money on housing and other costs, they are spending their salaries locally. This is great for our economy,” she said. “Companies are also evaluating sites around the nation for relocation. Recent weather-related disasters around the country have turned eyes to Arizona’s great climate. It’s predicable. If a company is making a multi-million dollar investment in capital, they don’t want the threats of unpredictable weather.”

It is difficult to know right now exactly why and how many people are migrating to Arizona because complete census numbers are not available yet.

However, Arizona ranked 3rd in the nation for population growth behind Texas and Florida in the latest 2020 Census release. Real estate analysis firm Cromford Report states that when the full census report comes out later this year, they expect to see California as the no. 1 source of inbound migration for greater Phoenix.

Realtor Rebecca Durfey said the census report will paint a more detailed picture.

“That being said, we are seeing a good number of migration-clients this year,” she said. “My main purchasing pool has been LA County and Northern California areas, but we historically have the largest migration from LA County, so it’s not out of the ordinary. I have had several from New York. The overarching reasons I am told for the reason they left their states was the cost of living and taxes and politics.”

Philip Haldiman can be reached at 623-876-3697,, or on Twitter @philiphaldiman.