Nevada and Arizona were major destinations in the late 1990s, with many new residents coming from California. And Florida is still a favorite retirement state, but is slowly losing ground as retirees seek out other locales, according to two reports released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

One of the reports finds that Nevada experienced the highest rate of net inmigration (factoring how many moved in versus how many moved out of state), gaining 151.5 people for every 1,000 residents. Arizona gained 74.3 migrants per 1,000 residents, Georgia saw 48.6, North Carolina 48.4, Florida 44, and Colorado 43.8.

When adding up how many people left California and how many people the state gained, the net outmigration was 775,000.

Researchers say economic issues - primarily home prices - sunny weather and abundant recreational opportunities like golf are enticing Californians to make Nevada their new home.

"They're a captive audience for developers and communities who want to cater to the yuppie elderly," Bill Frey, a demographer with the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., told the Reno Gazette-Journal in an Aug. 5 article. "California has attracted a lot of people who have done well for themselves and as they retire ... a lot of Western states are going to benefit from this."

The article highlights the experience of Carol and Bill Dickson, who left California's Silicon Valley for Sparks, Nevada, five years ago. The California house they bought for $57,000 28 years ago is now worth $975,000. They were able to pay cash for their Nevada home - and add a Jacuzzi, waterfall, gazebo and other back yard goodies.

Indeed, the prices of California homes continue to skyrocket .

The California Association of Realtors says the median price of an existing, single-family detached home in June 2003 was $376,260 - 15 percent more than a year ago.

And a recent report from the National Association of Home Builders found that Californians own 41 percent of the nation's million-dollar homes. The state's homebuilders say that's indicative of several factors leading to higher home prices.

"In light of our state's strong rate of home appreciation, ever-increasing demand, and rising land and regulatory costs, I'd venture that the number of million-dollar homes here has probably doubled since the 2000 Census," said Bob Rivinius, CEO of the California Building Industry Association.

The NAHB points out that you'll get more house for your money in other states.

" ... So a million-dollar home in California may be comparably equipped to a high six-figure home in some other market - the difference being entirely in land and regulatory costs," said Jerry Howard, CEO and Executive Vice President of the NAHB.

Meanwhile, California was second only to New York when it came to the net total of people exiting the state with 874,000 residents. Most of those New Yorkers now call Florida and New Jersey home.

In fact, the largest state-to-state move was from New York to Florida.

When it comes to older Americans - those 65 and older - Florida is still the top spot, although its status as the chief retirement location is ebbing. About 287,000 people in this age bracket moved to Florida from another state while 137,000 left the state.

Florida claimed 19 percent of older movers, falling from its peak of 26 percent in 1980.

"There's definitely a gradual decline," Charles Longino, a demographer at Wake Forest University told the Palm Beach Post in an Aug. 6 article. "Florida has been the biggest retirement state for four decades, but now people are starting to spread out more."

And that is troubling to Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who named a commission last year charged with finding ways for the state to attract more retirees. The panel ultimately recommended a formal marketing program and other steps to increase the state's appeal, such as improving transportation for disabled people. The report noted that the state's older residents paid $2.8 billion more in taxes in 2000 than they received in state and local services - a benefit that explains why so many jurisdictions are luring retirees.

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