Study: Nobody Wants to Live in Miami, Including Miamians

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Perhaps the tritest thing you can do in this town is stick your head through a hotel-room window or luxury-car sunroof and scream something dumb, like "I love Miami!" or "Here's to the life!" into the balmy night air. In fact, the entire plot of HBO's Ballers  appears to be centered on this very concept. People really like announcing they can afford to hang out here.

But if a study by Zillow released this past Friday is to be believed, most of those folks are faking it. According to the online real-estate database company, when Miamians aren't outdoors partying, they're hunched in front of their computers searching for ways to get the hell out of here.

Last week, the website ranked America's major cities in terms of who is searching for properties to buy there. Because Zillow keeps track of everyone who searches for property in a metro area, the company is able to track which cities attract the most property searches, as well as which city residents are searching for homes that are outside their own metro areas.

Miami ranked dreadfully in both categories. Zillow's search data shows that outside residents aren't pining to live in Miami and that the people who do live here are largely looking for homes elsewhere.
Though residents in D.C., San Antonio, and a few other major metros also want to leave their hometowns just as much as residents want to leave Miami, it appears the people fleeing those towns are replenished with new blood. And though outsiders really aren't interested in living in Chicago or Houston, Zillow's data indicates that the people who do live there kinda like living there and aren't looking to move.

But Miami fared poorly in both categories, which is certainly a problem.

Granted, the study tracked only home searches rather than sales, which even Zillow admits might not be the most accurate way to gauge real-life housing markets. The website admits its study shows where people fantasize about moving rather than actually want to live:

Our analysis sheds light on potential migration trends among residents in large U.S. housing markets – with the admittedly large caveat that people’s home views may reveal more about their housing fantasies or just plain voyeurism than any actual intent to move near or far. People might peer enviously at the large backyards or bustling downtowns of other communities, but the reality of jobs, schools and other ties often make it difficult – if not impossible – to simply pack up and move long distances. And sometimes people use Zillow simply to revisit their childhood home or ogle celebrity mansions. As a result, data from home views themselves don’t necessarily predict broad national migration patterns.

Still, the results are interesting and reflect a very real sentiment felt in Miami: Many high-earning folks from the Northeast and West don't consider living here, and those who do move here quickly realize our public infrastructure is terrible.

(Plus, the city is an immigrant town: Many residents move here from South America with the dream of one day making their way up the East Coast. One possible shortcoming is that the study doesn't reflect foreign buyers who often look at Miami first.) 

There is one piece of good news here. Miami's homepage is the tenth most-seen in the nation, immediately after Raleigh and San Francisco. 

Zillow compared Miami's housing issues to those of Detroit and New Orleans, which is company that the Magic City certainly shouldn't feel proud to keep. While the website says Detroit's safety issues and New Orleans' sea-level-rise concerns seem to be scaring people away, it instead blames Miami's troubles on the city's biggest, most persistent problem: affordability.

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