"California or bust!" That's been the mantra for generations of Americans who wanted to ride the wave of westward migration. Now, the tide may be turning, as families turn back to their Midwestern roots, searching for a more affordable lifestyle for themselves and their children. NBC’s Mark Mullen reports.
Carl and Judy Jackson are looking forward to watching their son, Ben, grow up in a big house with his own playroom, and a giant backyard. It's the kind of place they could never dream of owning where they lived near San Francisco. So they moved to a Cincinnati suburb six months ago.
"I grew up in California and this is the biggest house I've ever been in," says Carl.
The Jacksons pay less money for their mortgage in Ohio than they were paying for rent in California and they’re getting six times as much space.
"We didn't want to be house poor. We wanted to save money for college. We wanted to retire someday,” laughs Judy.
Real estate agents in the Midwest say they're seeing more California families like the Jacksons relocate.
"The cost of living is going to be lower in the Midwest than it is in the West Coast, so maybe if they take a five, 10 percent pay cut, you know it's cheaper to live here," says Brandie Malay, a real estate consultant for HGTV’s “Designed to Sell.”
West Coast families like the Jacksons only tell part of the Midwest migration story. The Census Bureau shows Northeast states including Rhode Island, Massachusetts and New York are dropping in population.
Jimmy and Charlotte Trezza left their Long Island home earlier this year to move to a suburb of Kansas City called Overland Park. For $180,000 they bought an 1,800 square-foot home with plenty of room in the backyard for their teenage sons to play catch.
"The most notable thing is the square footage price. You're gonna get twice the house here for half the money," says Jeff East a real estate agent for Keller Williams.
The average cost of a house in the suburban Midwest costs anywhere from $100 to $120 per square foot. On the East coast, you can pay from $300 to $325 a square foot. If you want to live on the West coast, some areas run as high as $500 per square foot.
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Affordability isn't the only factor. The Trezzas are also enjoying the laid-back lifestyle in Kansas, and that famous Midwestern hospitality.
"The friendliness, the genuineness of the people… It's just been a very nice change, and it's a lot less stressful. After all is said and done. We're real happy that we did it," says Charlotte.
Taxes are another big reason that families are moving away from coastal properties. The Trezzas were paying almost $10,000 a year in property taxes for their Long Island house — five times more than they will be paying on their home in Kansas.
For more and more people — like the Trezzas — giving up the excitement and price of big city living, for more house and peace of mind in middle America, is an easy trade.