“Let’s just talk about the empty nesters from New York, or the empty nesters from New Jersey,” Patronis said. “They then decide to leave the tax hell that those states are in and move to the state of Florida.”
He said that these people bring money into the state without increasing pressure on the school system.
“It provides more money to our schools, though they’re not using the services,” Patronis said.
“It’s a win-win,” he added.
Both people and businesses flocked to Florida during the pandemic
Florida’s population grew by 2.7 million, or 14.6%, between 2010 and 2020, according to US Census data. This is double the rate of overall US population growth.
As Patronis said, Florida is traditionally associated with retirees, but Troy McLellan, CEO of the Boca Raton Chamber, previously told Insider in May that more and more families and young high-flyers are moving to the area.
And Palm Beach County, located just north of Miami, has stood out. Elliott Management is planning on moving its headquarters there, Citadel Securities based its trading-floor’s COVID-19 bubble at a hotel there, and hundreds of families have relocated to the county.
Insider spoke to parties involved in the local economy, including the mayors of Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, and Palm Beach town, to understand what’s driving people to move to the area.
‘We punch above our weight in terms of business strength’
Palm Beach County has been working to drive a migration of businesses for around 10 years, Kelly Smallridge, CEO of the county’s Business Development Board (BDB), told Insider.
The county realized that executives were buying second houses or coming for vacations in Florida, but owned a large business in another state. So the BDB approached them about bringing their business to Florida, Smallridge said.
“That initiative has turned out to be the most lucrative economic development initiative in the last 40 years,” Smallridge said.
The BDB isn’t the only group actively recruiting businesses to move to the county. West Palm Beach mayor Keith James told Insider that the city had been reaching out to financial-services companies for years – not just in New York but in other Northeast states including Vermont and Connecticut, alongside some companies as far afield as California.
“We’ve seen tremendous interest in companies relocating to Boca Raton,” Scott Singer, the mayor of Boca Raton, told Insider.
He said the city had been fielding “plenty” of inbound calls, but that it had also launched targeted advertising in the New York, Chicago, and San Francisco markets, including promoting its technology business hub.
The three mayors told Insider they had especially noticed increasing levels of interest from venture capital, private equity, hedge fund, and financial-services companies, feeding into a state-wide trend.
Hedge fund Elliott Management is in final-stage talks to move its headquarters from Manhattan to West Palm Beach, while Maryland-based mortgage company New Day USA is leasing 50,000 square feet of office space as a second headquarters in the city.
Almost 2,500 financial-service firms have offices in the county, employing 37,000 people in total, according to the BDB.
But other industries are growing, too. West Palm Beach is targeting the marine and medical industries for future growth, while Singer said that Bacon Raton has been a tech hub for decades, noting that IBM developed the first personal computer there in 1981.
Singer said Boca Raton had the number of corporate headquarters you’d expect from a city of four or five times its size. These include the headquarters of The Office Depot, ADT, and Bluegreen Vacations.
“We punch above our weight in terms of business strength,” Singer said.
He said Boca Raton has a “rich entrepreneurial environment” and “an ecosystem that supports business and entrepreneurs,” in part thanks to actions of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He also points to the collaboration between groups such as the Palm Beach’s BDB, the regional Chamber, and Enterprise Florida.
Boca Raton alone has three college campus that create a pipeline of intellectual capital for businesses relocating to the area, McLellan said.
There are a lot of transport developments either in place or in the pipeline for Palm Beach County, too.
The county has an international airport, which more than six million passengers pass through each year. Even the most northern part of the county, Jupiter, is located just 90 minutes’ drive from Miami and Fort Lauderdale airports for a wider range of long-haul flights.
Boca Raton also has its own general aviation airport, while West Palm Beach is planning to launch a study into the feasibility of direct flights from the city to the Caribbean to benefit its marine sector.
And traveling from West Palm Beach to the rest of Florida is getting easier after it was connected to Miami through Brightline, a rail system with investments from Richard Branson’s Virgin, John Boyd of the Boyd Company said. The route will be expanded to include Orlando and its airport as well as Tampa, too.
This transport network is luring both businesses and people to the county.
Singer said there had been “tremendous interest” from executives with businesses overseas, who wanted to open offices or even locate to Boca Raton because of its transport links. Meanwhile, West Palm Beach says it has “one of Florida’s most walkable central business districts,” reducing the need to commute.
People were already migrating – but the pandemic sped this up
Not only have businesses been moving to the county but people have flocked there, too.
Palm Beach County’s population grew by around 14.2% over the past decade, according to estimates from the US Census Bureau. This is almost double the rate of overall US population growth. Its population sits at around 1.5 million, making it Florida’s third-largest county by population and second-largest by size.
This growth isn’t just because of the natural population increases that you would expect over time. There has also been soaring rates of both domestic and international migration. The county’s net migration was around 11,500 in 2020, according to US Census Bureau estimates – compared to a net migration loss of 23,625 for New York County, which has a similar population.
Many of these migrants are coming from the Northeast. Around two in five people moving to Palm Beach County come from the New York City area, per a report by Unacast. But some also come from cities like Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco, or even from countries like India and Brazil, Boyd said.
Forbes identifies Palm Beach County as Florida’s billionaire hub. The 2,600-square-mile county has around 44 billionaires, Smallridge said. This is roughly as many as there are in the entirety of Los Angeles, according to Wealth-X’s 2020 Billionaire Census, and includes Interactive Brokers founder Thomas Peterffy, hedge-fund manager David Tepper, and food-and-drink entrepreneur Jude Reyes, per Forbes.
It’s also the home of Mar-a-Lago, the US’s second-largest mansion, owned by former President Donald Trump.
The county also has around 71,000 millionaire households, Smallridge said. Oracle Founder Larry Ellison recently bought an $80 million house in the county, though he plans to stay living in Hawaii full-time, and fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger sold his house in Greenwich, Connecticut to move to Palm Beach.
Danielle Moore, the mayor of the town of Palm Beach, said it had a reputation as “the hometown of ‘captains of industry,'” which she said motivated even more people to move there.
People had already been migrating to the county before the pandemic but COVID-19 forced people to address their work-life balance, alongside the deterioration of office culture, the mayors said.
Alongside companies opening up offices in the city, the rise in remote working during the pandemic has led to digital nomads flocking to the county.
Moore said the town of Palm Beach was experiencing the lowest inventory of available homes “in decades,” and house prices across the county have gone up around 10% over the past year as more and more people relocate.
“When they were closed down, we had plenty of recreation space and great weather year-round, and people are understanding more and more that this is where they want to be,” he added.
Alongside retirees, Florida is also associated with seasonal residents who move to the state for the colder winter months, and Moore said that the town of Palm Beach’s population more than doubles during the peak season.
But when people relocated to Florida, many started enrolling their children at nearby schools, and soon found themselves settled down in the state, Smallridge said.
Palm Beach County’s median age is 43.6, “and that number is probably going to stay steady even as we all age because younger people are being born and coming here every day,” Singer said.
“Most executives will go take a swim in the beach before they even go to work,” Smallridge said. “They never have to shovel snow and they don’t have to ride with the subway.”
But even as more people migrate to the county, some to work remotely while others to work for the companies opening new offices in the area, this trend is ultimately creating more employment opportunities for local residents, James said. He added that West Palm Beach has offered financial incentives to companies moving to the city based on the number of jobs they create, including expedited permit reviews and tax exemptions.
McLellan, meanwhile, said Boca Raton was trying to create a pipeline of future talent for businesses in the area, and that the Chamber was working to discourage residents from migrating away from the city.
Ultimately Palm Beach County is positioning itself as not just a major financial-services hub, but also a destination for families, young graduates, and high-flying execs to move to.
This is perhaps best summed up by West Palm Beach’s tagline: “business, life, balanced.”
Eric Trump and his wife Lara are the latest members of their famous family to scoop up premium real estate in south Florida.
The couple bought a mansion in Jupiter, Florida, located in Palm Beach County, for $3.2 million in March, property records show. A December real estate listing for the five-bed, seven-bathroom property said it was the largest home in the Trump National Golf Club gated community.
“Breathtaking preserve & golf views surround this luxurious, completely renovated, private estate home located on the largest lot in the exclusive gated community of Trump National Golf Club,” it said. “The exterior has been designed like a Tuscany estate while the interior has a transitional contemporary feel.”
The listing, which features photos of the property, also says the home has two master bedrooms, his and hers closets, and a safe room, as well as a backyard with a pool, kitchen, and a full cabana bath.
The Trump National Golf Club is owned by Eric Trump’s father and former president Donald Trump, who bought the club from Ritz-Carlton in 2012.
The community is next door to another luxurious gated community, Admirals Cove, where Don Jr. and his girlfriend, former Fox News host Kimberly Guilfoyle, spent $9.7 million on a six-bedroom, 11-bathroom waterfront mansion.
Donald Trump also relocated to Palm Beach, Florida, after leaving office, and took up residence at his Mar-a-Lago resort along with his wife, Melania, and son Barron. Though Insider’s Tom LoBianco reported the family is temporarily relocating to Trump’s golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, for the summer.
Former first daughter Ivanka Trump has also settled in Florida, further south in Miami. Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner spent $32 million in December on an empty lot in a private island community known as Miami’s ‘Billionaire Bunker.’ The couple is staying in a luxury oceanfront rental until their new home is ready, The Miami Herald reported.
Software company Civix and Sonesta International Hotels are opening new offices in Orlando, too.
Deloitte has invested $63 million in Orlando since 2014, while KMPG chose Orlando for its $450 million global training center, which Barnes said is the largest capital investment in KMPG history, according to Casey Barnes, vice president of business development at the Orlando Economic Partnership.
Colliers previously told Insider that interest from out-of-state firms in South Florida real estate is “torrential” – and they’re looking for much bigger officers than before, too.
Average salaries are climbing
As these businesses open offices in Florida, the job-market in the state is booming, too.
Andrew Hunter, co-founder of job search engine Adzuna, told Insider Florida’s job vacancies are back at pre-pandemic levels and the number of unemployed is reaching record lows while average city salaries are climbing.
The number of financial-services employees in Florida has almost returned to pre-pandemic levels with nearly 600,000 people working in the sector. New York, on the other hand, is rebounding much slower, and still has around 30,000 fewer employees in the sector than it did in early 2020, according to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Casey Barnes, vice president of business development at the Orlando Economic Partnership, told Insider that Deloitte has created more than 2,200 new jobs in the city since 2014, while KMPG chose Orlando for its $450 million global training center, which Barnes said is the largest capital investment in KMPG history.
Adzuna said that tech company Oracle is the top company hiring in Florida on its site. Boyd said that financial services and tech workers are leaving cities like Boston, Chicago, and New York to move to Florida, but some are coming from overseas in India and Brazil, too.
The rise of remote working has also made it easier for workers to relocate independently of their employers.
Boyd said that the pandemic has created “a time of historic mobility for both companies and people.” Companies are increasingly letting staff work from home on a permanent basis, which allows them to save on real estate costs, he said.
“Orlando was an ideal place to live, work, and play priorto COVID-19, and the region’s offerings will only be more valuable to professionals in the pandemic’s wake,” Barnes told Insider.
This was something Alexandra Scherbich, global head of B2B marketing at Tenth Revolution Group, found when she relocated to Tampa from London in April 2019. She told Insider that managing her colleagues in the UK could be challenging from abroad because of the time zone differences, but that she is able to now dedicate her afternoons to meetings with clients on the West Coast, which would have been much harder in the UK because of the eight-hour time difference.
Florida has a pro-business environment
Florida famously doesn’t have a personal income tax, and this is one of the major motivators for migration, Boyd told Insider. He added that many people moving to the state come from high-tax states that don’t have such a pro-business environment, like Connecticut and New Jersey, as well as New York, which recently announced plans to bump up its income-tax rates for its wealthiest residents.
“And the other part of all this is, you know, economic development really comes down to leadership at the end of the day,” Boyd said.
“Governor DeSantis is a good salesman-in-chief of the state of Florida,” he said. He added that Miami’s Mayor Francis Suarez was positioning the city as a major tech market.
Florida has sun, sea, and no lockdown
Florida has also remained largely open during the pandemic compared to other states. This led to people choosing to make Florida their primary residence for the pandemic, Kelly Smallridge, CEO of the Business Development Board (BDB) of Palm Beach County, told Insider.
When people relocated to Florida, they started enrolling their children at nearby schools, and soon found themselves settled down in the state, Smallridge said.
Barnes said that many companies are choosing to expand in or relocate to Florida because “they see it as a destination that will attract workers and their families.”
“Most executives will go take a swim in the beach before they even go to work,” BDB’s Smallridge said. “And, you know, they never have to shovel snow and they don’t have to ride with the subway.”
Scherbich said that, alongside work opportunities, the climate was part of her reason for migrating. She added that she’s settled into the city well and that it has a large UK expatriate community.
Housing and living costs are lower than New York
House prices have gone up around 10% over the past year as more people move to the state, but Florida still has a “very attractive” real-estate market compared to some other major markets in the US, Boyd said, adding that there are affordable housing options “in virtually all parts of Florida.”
The average price for a house in Florida is $277,429, rising to $323,094 in Palm Beach County and $407,245 in Miami, according to data from Zillow. In New York, in comparison, average house prices are $323,094 for the city and $649,490 for the state.
And it isn’t just houses that cost less in the Sunshine Site. Overall living costs in Orlando are 6% lower than the US average, Barnes said.
Florida’s transport networks are growing
There are a lot of transport developments in the pipeline for Florida, too, Boyd said. This includes Brightline, a rail system with investments from Richard Branson’s Virgin, which connects Miami to West Palm Beach, with expansion plans Orlando and Tampa.
And North Miami Beach official told Insider’s Grace Kay the city is in early talks with Elon Musk’s The Boring Company over a possible plan to build a one- to two-mile tunnel to tackle congestion.
The state has more than 100 public airports, and Tampa’s direct flights to London were part of Scherbich’s decision to relocate to the city.
Orlanda in particular bills itself as the “tomorrowland of transportation,” Barnes said. This includes serving as a hub for one of the world’s first jet-powered flying taxis, which will depart from more than 10 locations across Florida. The aircrafts by German startup Lilium will be based at Orlando’s Lake Nona, which Barnes said it “a growing testbed” for smart city technology.
“The signal is really ahead of the curve,” Boyd said.
Larry Ellison is staying in Hawaii full time – and knocking down the $80 million Palm Beach mansion he just bought.
The Oracle billionaire sent an email to employees this week explaining his future plans after reports surfaced that he had purchased a 15,000-square-foot home in South Florida. Ellison confirmed that he had purchased the mansion, but that he’s “tearing the house down and not moving to Florida,” according to Recode’s Theodore Schleifer.
“Last year I moved from California to the island of Lana’i and became a resident of the State of Hawaii,” Ellison wrote. “I love it here and have no plans to move back to Florida, Texas, back to California … or anywhere else.”
Ellison’s home in Palm Beach sits on 7.35 acres, making it the third-largest oceanfront parcel of land in Palm Beach County, according to a real estate listing. The Tuscan-style home, which previously belonged to hedge-fund manager Gabe Hoffman, includes seven bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and three half-bathrooms, a VIP guest suite, a home theater, a wine room, a chef’s kitchen, a swimming pool, and a tennis court.
The home was built in 1998, and it’s unclear why Ellison would want to knock it down. Ellison already has an extensive real estate portfolio that includes multimillion-dollar homes in San Francisco, Malibu, Lake Tahoe, Rhode Island, and Japan.
Ellison purchased nearly 98% of the island of Lanai in 2012 for a reported $300 million – his purchase included 87,000 of the island’s 90,000 acres of land. Lanai, which is home to about 3,200 residents, is the smallest inhabited island in Hawaii and is home to serene beaches, rugged terrain, high-end resorts, as well as Ellison’s sustainability ambitions, which he’s executing through a development company called Pulama Lanai.
He also launched a wellness company called Sensei in 2018, which is working on three main issues: global food supply, nutrition, and sustainability. Sensei has since launched two 20,000-square-foot hydroponic greenhouses on the island, known as Sensei Farms, and a luxury spa called Sensei Retreat that costs $3,000 a night.
Chris Leavitt, Ashley McIntosh, and Tonja Garamella of Douglas Elliman handled the transaction and declined to comment on the deal.
Ellison said in December that he had moved from California to Lanai, the Hawaiian island he owns.
After Ellison announced in December that he’d be moving Oracle’s headquarters from Redwood Shores, California, to Austin, Texas, he got questions from employees about whether he was also moving to Austin, Recode reported.
“The answer is no. I’ve moved to the state of Hawaii and I’ll be using the power of Zoom to work from the island of Lanai,” Ellison wrote in an email to staffers.
At 7.35 acres, his new Palm Beach property is the third-largest oceanfront parcel of land in Palm Beach County, according to the listing.
Ellison’s newest home purchase adds to the billionaire’s already impressive real-estate collection.
He also owns a 23-acre estate in Woodside, California, and a home in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood, multiple homes on Malibu’s “Billionaire’s Beach,” and several properties in Lake Tahoe.
An Oracle representative did not respond to Insider’s request for comment for this story.
His newest purchase is the third-largest oceanfront parcel of land in Palm Beach County, according to the listing, which was held by Douglas Elliman. The Tuscan-style estate sits in a gated community and sprawls over more than 15,000 square feet, with 520 feet of ocean frontage. It features a home movie theater, a wine room, a large private pool terrace, and a tennis court.
It’s one of “only a handful of properties in Florida where someone could land and take off in a helicopter from the estate,” according to the listing.
Ellison bought the 7.35-acre property from hedge-fund manager Gabe Hoffman, who put it on the market in June 2020, asking $79.5 million.
With his newest purchase, Ellison joins an affluent community that’s added even more billionaires to its ranks in the past year.
These new ultra-wealthy Palm Beach residents may rub shoulders with longtime billionaire denizens like Stephen Ross, the chairman and owner of Related Cos., which owns Equinox and SoulCycle.
Hedge-fund billionaire Ken Griffin, who heads Citadel, has spent nearly $250 million over the years on real-estate along Palm Beach’s “Billionaires Row” with reported intentions of building a massive mansion.
Goodbye, Silicon Valley. Hello Texas, Florida, and Hawaii.
Ellison’s Palm Beach purchase is not the only big move the tech billionaire has made during the pandemic.
“I’ve moved to the state of Hawaii and I’ll be using the power of Zoom to work from the island of Lanai,” Ellison wrote in an email to staffers.
It’s unclear whether Ellison plans to make Palm Beach his new home base or simply add it to his collection of homes. He also owns a 23-acre estate in Woodside, California, and a home in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights neighborhood, multiple homes on Malibu’s “Billionaire’s Beach,” and several properties in Lake Tahoe.
An Oracle spokesperson did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment for this story.
Trump requested a mail-in ballot a week after the deadline in Palm Beach County, according to the report, meaning that he will have until 7 p.m. local time on Tuesday to turn in his ballot and cast his vote in the Palm Beach municipal elections.
Palm Beach County elections chief Wendy Sartory Link said last week that her office had produced 126,136 mail ballots in the county, which covers more than a third of eligible voters in the area.
In Florida, requesting a mail-in ballot covers all elections through the calendar year, according to the Post. The report added that Trump has only cast his vote in person once in Palm Beach.
Trump spread relentless conspiracy theories about mail-in voting during the run-up to and after the 2020 election, falsely claiming that they could be manipulated.
The lies about mail-in voting eventually led to an avalanche of twitter sanctions on the former president’s former tweets, before he was fully de-platformed in the wake of his encouragement of violence during January 6 insurrection.
Trump and Republican allies also filed, and lost, dozens of lawsuits challenging election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, and elsewhere based on unproven claims about mass voter fraud.
Jeffrey Epstein’s New York City townhouse is under contract to sell for $50 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. The deal would be one of the most expensive in New York over the last year.
Jeffrey Epstein’s lavish New York townhouse and Palm Beach residence hit the market for a combined $110 million in July. The New York home was originally listed for $88 million, while the Palm Beach house sold in December for $18 million, $4 million under the asking price. The Palm Beach estate is set to be demolished.
The proceeds from the sales will go to Epstein’s estate, which has established a victim’s fund for the women accusing Epstein of sexually abusing them when they were minors.
Epstein was accused of luring young girls and then sexually abusing them at both properties. Last July, investigators said they found “hundreds” of nude photos of girls, some of whom appeared to be underage, at his New York townhouse. And in 2018, the Miami Herald reported that dozens of girls were routinely abused in his Palm Beach mansion.
In June, a compensation fund, bankrolled by Epstein’s multi-million dollar estate, opened for victims of Epstein’s abuse. Victims can apply for these funds outside of court and there is no cap on claims.
Epstein’s Upper East Side property is one of the largest private homes in the city, with 7 stories and 28,000 feet, according to Modlin Group, which is brokering the deal. It’s more than twice the width of a standard row home.
“It’s definitely a trophy property,” said Kyle Egan, a New York-based real-estate agent not involved in the sale. “Does it have a recent, very negative past? Totally. But I don’t think that will give buyers pause. A property like this comes up so infrequently.”
Epstein’s estate has been valued at more than $600 million, and also features a private island in the US Virgin Islands, and properties in New Mexico and Paris.
Appaloosa Management already has an office in Miami Beach, Florida, and Tepper owns a nearby condo, which he bought in 2017 for $10.7 million, according to the Journal. Still, his latest home purchase signals a commitment to South Florida at a time when Wall Street firms and their executives are heading south, lured by a low tax burden.
Wall Street luminaries like Carl Icahn and Charles Schwab have also relocated from New York to Florida, and in January, hedge-fund billionaire Dan Loeb purchased a mansion in Miami Beach for $20 million. The seven-bedroom waterfront home features amenities such as a home theater, a private boat dock, and separate guest quarters.
The migration is being echoed in the tech industry as well. Tech billionaire Peter Thiel recently purchased an $18 million Miami compound on a manmade island and Shutterstock billionaire Jon Oringer paid $42 million for a sprawling Miami Beach mansion in October. Prolific investor Keith Rabois has also been outspoken about moving to Miami, citing low taxes as well as ideological diversity as his reasons for moving.
The influx of wealthy executives is sending South Florida home prices soaring: According to data from real estate firm Douglas Elliman, the median home sale price in Palm Beach shot up to $4.9 million by the end of 2020, an increase of 29% from the year earlier.