25. Visalia, California

Visalia, California, USA. August 8, 2018. City of Visalia Sign in central California.
Albert Campbell / Shutterstock

This small city may have the affordable housing and quiet neighborhoods many people are looking for right now, but high levels of pollution and reports of low-quality schools have put off current residents.

The agricultural hub also doesn’t have much to offer in terms of entertainment.

“It’s definitely the middle of nowhere,” says Redditor allehcat. “It’s about a three-hour drive to Six Flags, amn hour to Fresno, four to five hours to L.A., three to four hours to the beach. It’s just the middle of California where the crops grow. Lots of the jobs revolve around agriculture.”

24. Omaha, Nebraska

Omaha Nebraska Downtown City Skyline Highway Overpass
Real Window Creative / Shutterstock

It may be home to some of the biggest companies in the U.S., including Warren Buffett’s legendary Berkshire Hathaway, but actual humans are itching to ditch the Gateway to the West.

The major commercial hub has relatively low unemployment rates, but a steady income isn’t the only thing people look for in a home.

“I enjoy our one week of spring and fall, and the rest is too-cold or too-muggy misery,” writes Tracy Simon Glick on Quora, adding the abundance of potholes and “living eight hours away from an interesting city” to her list of complaints.

23. Des Moines, Iowa

Des Moines skyline at sunset. Des Moines, Iowa, USA.
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock

The capital city of Iowa consistently ranks high for quality of life, so long as you don’t mind the weather.

“Hot, humid summers, followed by bone chilling winters” is the city’s greatest drawback, says Mike Warden on Quora. “Driving during the winter months can be very challenging in Des Moines as well, especially driving on ice, which can be absolutely terrifying sometimes.”

And it’s not just the heat and cold. A deadly windstorm that ripped through Des Moines in August caused widespread damage, crashing trees on top of vehicles and homes.

22. South Bend, Indiana

Aerial View of Downtown South Bend in Indiana
Jacob Boomsma / Shutterstock

Rightly or wrongly, South Bend has developed a reputation for violent crime. It has a relatively high murder rate — 8.8 per 100,000 in 2018, compared to the national average of 5.0 — but stories declaring it “one of the most dangerous cities in the U.S.” have been accused of misusing data.

The college town holds plenty to do and see, but it wouldn’t be surprising if bad headlines and frightening anecdotes are scaring people away.

“I bought a house three years ago in Harter Heights,” Redditor aDutchofMuch recounts. “In that span of time, my house was burgled twice, my car was broken into, an armed robbery happened two houses up the street, I was robbed at gunpoint downtown, the cashier at the bodega next to my house was shot and a shootout happened behind my house, leaving a bullet hole in my garage. Oh, and my next door neighbor is currently under investigation for homicide.”

21. Lansing, Michigan

Lansing Michigan Downtown Night Aerial Photo
Black Kro / Shutterstock

In Michigan, unemployment is high, wages are low and the gap between the rich and poor is only widening. The top 1% take home 17.8% of all the income in the state, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Many younger folks are leaving Michigan in hopes of finding better-paying jobs. Residents say Lansing, the state’s capital, has all the same problems.

“Many areas have grown and become trendy but other areas are in disrepair and essentially forgotten,” writes Amanda Keller on Quora. “There is no middle class. There are rich people and very poor people. The homes and neighborhoods reflect this.”

To help your savings stretch a little bit further, make sure you’re storing it in a high-interest account.

20. McAllen, Texas

rio grande usa mexico border
digidreamgrafix / Shutterstock

Residents looking to leave McAllen may have the right idea, as this border city is expected to face enormous challenges recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The city’s unemployment rate was 10.6% in August, compared to the statewide average of 6.8%. McAllen sits less than an hour’s drive away from Mexico, and the city’s mayor says the lack of cross-border travel is strangling its retail sector.

But even before the pandemic arrived, McAllen wasn’t known as a land of opportunity.

“It’s a very have and have-not area,” Rus Lemus posted on Quora a year ago. “If you don’t have, the area is not meant for you to climb the economic ladder.”

19. Fayetteville, North Carolina

A highway sign leads drivers to Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, NC, USA.
Darwin Brandis / Shutterstock

Thanks to a complicated history with a nearby army base, one of the largest in the country, the city of Fayetteville has been fighting off the nickname “Fayette-Nam” for decades.

“The proximity to Fort Bragg means a lot of traffic and loud noises from military training,” Wyatt Lambert on Quora says.

But it hasn’t meant peace on the streets. The city’s rates for homicide and violent crime were more than double the national average in 2019, and the city also sees far more than its fair share of theft.

18. San Diego

Closed community park with playground for kids due to Covid 19. Coronavirus virus panic and quarantine in San Diego, California, USA.
bonandbon / Shutterstock

Anyone want to hit the San Diego Zoo? SeaWorld? No?

The sunny beaches and tourist attractions of America’s Finest City are losing their shine at a time when people are trying to avoid crowds and stay safe.

Add in the shift to remote work, and there’s a lot less to justify staying in the big city and enduring its high housing costs. Even during the pre-COVID era, residents were eager to leave.

“My income is too low to keep up with the rising cost of living prices,” Chipupuu on Reddit says. “The traffic is getting difficult for me as well. It takes me on average 40 minutes to an hour just to drive five miles from my home to work.”

If you’re rethinking your city or your job, make sure you’re using a decent job board. Today you can find sites that will curate posts for you that fit your specific skill set.

17. Richmond, Virginia

Richmond, Virginia, USA downtown cityscape over Main Street.
ESB Professional / Shutterstock

Like many other cities, Richmond was consumed by riots during the summer. People set dozens of buildings, vehicles and dumpsters on fire amid protests against police brutality, causing almost $4 million in estimated damage.

Speaking to CNBC in late August, billionaire investor Barry Sternlicht said he believes conflicts like these are responsible for the current exodus from big cities.

“I would say it’s not as driven by the COVID situation as it is safety and law and order,” he said, “and that is now pervasive across the big cities of the United States, sadly.”

16. Houston

Covid-19 Testing in Houston, Usa
AARON M SPRECHER/Shutterstock

People are ditching Houston for “green pastures,” declares the Houston Chronicle, describing a shift to the suburbs and rural areas nearby.

The Bayou City gained national attention in June when it experienced an alarming surge in COVID-19 cases. Some hospitals ran out of space and drugs to treat the sick.

But for many, the pandemic is only the final straw. There’s the constant floods — thanks to its geography, Houston gets drenched by even middling storms — and the commutes are infamous.

“Houston’s traffic is TERRIBLE, GHASTLY, HORRIBLE and NOISY!! It’s also dangerous and out-of-control,” writes Gretchen S. Ellis on Quora.

15. Hartford, Connecticut

Hartford, Connecticut, USA downtown skyline at dusk in early autumn.
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

The capital city of Connecticut was on the brink of bankruptcy before a state bailout in 2018, and it’s still struggling to get its financial affairs in order.

Property taxes are the highest in the state, and officials have made deep cuts to community organizations and senior centers to keep costs down. Residents say many of the jobs available get sucked up by people who commute from nearby towns but don’t spend their money in the city.

“Hartford is overcrowded, there are slummy neighborhoods and a liquor store on just about every corner,” Ava Porter on Quora says. “There are a lot of vacant properties and the neighborhoods have a bad economy with lots of unemployed people.”

14. Eugene, Oregon

Typical Craftsman style home in Eugene Oregon
J A Uppendahl / Shutterstock

Eugene may have beautiful natural views — mountains, waterfalls, forests, lakes and reservoirs — but you’ll pay dearly for the privilege.

This coastal college town is one of the least affordable midsize cities, commonly blamed on the city’s efforts to restrict urban sprawl. In 2017, Realtor.com said Eugene was facing the second-worst housing crunch in the country, with just 0.6% of its homes on the market.

That’s driving prices up, and residents say renting isn’t any better.

“Rents frequently comprise more than 1/3 of a family’s income. It’s not right, yet there is no talk of rent control,” writes Sherrie Brandy on Quora.

If you're looking for a home in a pricey area, be sure to put in the legwork to get the best possible mortgage rate.

13. Chico, California

California State University, Chico
David A Litman / Shutterstock

Chico, home to one of California State University’s campuses, is just about overrun with young people. The student population tops 17,000 — compare that to the city’s overall population of just 95,000.

Residents say the local economy is unbalanced, with a lack of well-paying jobs and high cost of living, make it difficult for other residents to make a home here.

“It’s a beautiful town with a lot to do, but there are almost no jobs that pay more than minimum wage, and rents start around $800 for a single bedroom apartment,” Tara O’Gorman says on Quora.

However, with COVID-19 forcing Chico State to return to online classes, even the students may be looking to move outside the city.

12. Champaign, Illinois

University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign (UIUC), Illini Union, view from main quad
tzm23 / Shutterstock

Another college town, sharing a University of Illinois campus with its sister city Urbana, Champaign also stands to lose much of its lifeblood if online classes persist.

The city is usually bustling but is surrounded by miles of farmland, leaving some people feeling isolated.

“Most of it is relatively rural, spread out and very, very flat. If you are used to taking mass transit everywhere and not being overly concerned with schedules, it takes some getting used to,” writes Shane Ryoo on Quora.

Residents say Champaign also needs to work on safety; its rate of aggravated assault was almost three times the national average in 2019.

11. Detroit

Abandoned Home in Detroit, Michigan. This is a deserted building in a bad part of town.
alisafarov / Shutterstock

It’s no surprise to see people are still fleeing Detroit. The city’s population is a third of what it was in the ’50s, when the auto manufacturing industry was booming.

Detroit filed for bankruptcy in 2013 and was still in a vulnerable position when COVID-19 hit. US News called it “the nation's poorest big city and among its unhealthiest” as it explained why Detroit was becoming an epicenter for the virus.

At the best of times, residents say the city’s high cost of living doesn’t justify the low quality of services.

“If you make more than $50,000 a year, [income tax] is a serious and prohibitive factor for residing in the city,” e130478 said on Reddit. “How, given the lack of resources and general responsiveness of city services, does it justify me forking over 2.4% of my salary to the city?”

10. Rockford, Illinois

Sunset in Rockford, Illinois, USA.
Henryk Sadura / Shutterstock

People have been abandoning the Forest City since the 1970s, and a lack of good job opportunities and public schools is just the start.

Although housing in Rockford is relatively cheap, a study from Attom Data Solutions found Illinois homeowners are paying the highest effective property tax in the country: almost double the national average.

And violent crimes and robberies in Rockford have escalated this year, particularly with rioting and looting in late May.

Redditor tacomaprime was eager to depart for better prospects.

“Illinois is in a death spiral, and Rockford's crime, despite what the city will tell you, just keeps getting worse and spreading,” tacomaprime said. “The state just wants to tax us to death, and I can keep way more of my money by simply moving to the state to the east.”

9. Indianapolis

Midwest neighborhood in Indianapolis, Indiana area after a snowstorm.
Saeng M / Shutterstock

Indianapolis joins the list for the first time since Redfin started tracking migration. Many hoosiers are packing up for nearby Chicago, even though that’s also one of the cities being abandoned.

Home prices are decent in Indiana’s capital city, and unemployment rates are comparatively low, but the region is prone to freezing winters and long, humid summers. Many sellers are looking to move entirely out of state, says Redfin agent Andrea Ratcliff.

“The most common reason is a new job that requires a move to a different area, and some sellers are retired couples who own two homes and have decided to sell their primary residence in Indianapolis and move full time to their vacation home,” she says.

If you don’t have your retirement plans figured out yet, you may want to talk to an adviser while you still have enough time to save and invest.

8. Milwaukee

Aerial view of the downtown area of Milwaukee WI in winter taken at Ogden Street.
James Meyer / Shutterstock

The Cream City has split, residents say, with the wealthy able to enjoy a good life while those of lesser means wrestle with poor public transit and public schools.

A surge in violence has put this midwestern city on track for a record 200 homicides this year, though it was already considered one of the most dangerous big cities in the U.S.

“No one likes being around crime,” writes optimisma on Reddit. “I live in Riverwest, and despite being here for eight years, I'm looking to sell and move to a quieter suburb because I fear that the higher crime level will negatively impact my child.”

7. Seattle

A beautiful view of the city of Seattle, USA underneath the breathtaking colorful sky
Wirestock Images / Shutterstock

No, it’s not the invasion of the “murder hornets” — those have been spotted well to the north of the city and are mainly a threat to ordinary bees.

Instead, the violence that seized downtown Seattle in July may be inspiring some residents to flee the big city for quieter areas.

A group armed with baseball bats and fireworks smashed windows and injured a dozen police officers as they marched down city streets. One real estate broker told local network KOMO News that people are now eager to leave and that she lost a buyer who saw footage of the vandalism and looting.

AndyWSea on Reddit, who left Seattle for better job prospects, was also glad to leave “the West Seattle Bridge, high cost of living and homelessness issues” behind.

6. Denver

homeless woman in downtown Denver, Colorado
C.C. Buckthorn / Shutterstock

Housing costs are rising quickly in the Denver area, but considering how many people are looking to move to the more expensive Seattle, it can’t be the only reason to leave.

Many Denverites complain that the city is crowded and is mismanaging its unhoused population, particularly during the pandemic. Building closures and crowded shelters led to multiple outdoor camps cropping up across the city, The Colorado Sun reported in July.

“There is a huge homeless problem,” writes Kay Starr on Quora. “It’s not well-controlled either, so it’s a very loose atmosphere.”

5. Chicago

The Nike Store was damaged during a night of unrest in Chicago
Mike Lodgson/Shutterstock

Though plenty of people in other cities are fleeing to Chicago, even more are flooding out. Residents say their home just doesn’t feel safe anymore.

Riots and looting over the summer struck even affluent parts of the city, and city officials, real estate agents and property managers all report signs of a potential exodus. By July, homicides and shootings were up 50% over the same time last year.

Chicago’s population has been in decline for years, but the riots and pandemic are speeding up residents’ plans. Reddit user nickname_this said they wanted to be closer to their family and have more space to socially distance, and the possibility of more rioting is just another push.

4. Washington, D.C.

Washington DC aerial view with capitol hill building and street
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock

Americans are normally drawn to the nation’s capital to take advantage of its many job opportunities, but it seems the noisy and crowded environment is finally becoming too much.

The cost of living in D.C. is notoriously high; Zillow places the median home price at over $600,000, more than double the national figure. With jobs drying up and people working from home during the pandemic, fewer people have a reason to shell out.

“A single 30-year-old making $40,000 a year will live like a pauper,” Vern Adams on Quora says. “After paying rent/utilities/car/metro/groceries, you’re broke before we get to important things like health care, retirement and taxes.”

If your day job isn't bringing you the returns you want, it may be time to consider picking up a lucrative side gig.

3. Los Angeles

Traffic jam in Los Angeles
egd / Shutterstock

It’s hard enough to make it in the City of (Broken) Dreams. High housing prices, high rent and high property taxes put a serious strain on anyone without an oversized income to match. Zillow puts the median home price at more than $760,000.

Then unemployment shot to 20% in April, up from 4% the year before, making the balancing act even less unsustainable. Residents are now looking to San Diego or Las Vegas for a break.

“If you don't have work and there's limited social situations you can do, there's not much tying you to the city, especially if you're not from here,” says Redditor KatzyKatz.

2. San Francisco

Wildfire smoke turns San Francisco Bay Area sky orange, USA - 09 Sep 2020
JOHN G MABANGLO/Shutterstock

Wildfires were once a rarity around San Francisco but have become an all-too-common crisis. The Bay Area suffered the “world’s worst air quality” this summer thanks to blazes raging across the western U.S. — a disaster made even more frightening as the coronavirus attacks the respiratory system.

“Lost a lot of friends since COVID, and a lot of things that made the city special to me, like festivals, concerts, bars, nightclubs, something fun to do every night, are no longer available,” said Redditor dvdbrownr, who is considering a move out of the expensive city.

“Paying high rent to live like a hermit doesn't make much sense, and I don't see this changing anytime soon.”

Redfin agent Nicole Arnold says many San Franciscans are finding refuge up north in Portland.

“Most of them are working from home at tech jobs, and they’re realizing they need and want more space,” says Arnold. “A house in Portland is about half the price as one in San Francisco. Buyers are selling their Bay Area homes and cashing out their equity to move here, where they’re able to live a different lifestyle in a larger home.”

1. New York

Mature man wearing disposable medical face mask in car of the subway in New York during coronavirus outbreak. Safety in a public place while epidemic of covid-19.
Maria Sbytova / Shutterstock

The City That Never Sleeps has gone unusually quiet as COVID-19 keeps New Yorkers inside, clawing at the walls of their cramped apartments.

“Many people who were living in relatively small $1 million or $2 million apartments no longer need to live close to their office because they’re working remotely, and now they want more space and a separate, quiet space for Zoom calls,” says local Redfin agent Ken Wile. “Plus, they want to take advantage of low mortgage rates.”

The first wave of the coronavirus brutalized the Big Apple, leading to almost 24,000 deaths so far. Now everything that people once found appealing — the density, range of activities and vibrant street life — have either disappeared or lost their sheen.

“The coronavirus pandemic showed a lot of New Yorkers that they don't want to live right on top of other people and be jammed into small spaces all the time, whether they're alone in their tiny apartment or in public,” says Reddit user Mercurydriver.

About the Author

Serah Louis

Serah Louis

Staff Writer

Serah Louis is a staff writer with MoneyWise. She loves storytelling and research and was published in Ricepaper Magazine's 2019 anthology, Immersion: An Asian Anthology of Love, Fantasy, and Speculative Fiction.

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