How this US region has become a hip place to live — with it also being dirt cheap: ‘We’re never leaving’

While the Appalachian region of the U.S. might conjure up unflattering stereotypes of coal mines and opioid addiction, residents Greg and Missi Moore don’t mind the rumors that circulate about where they live. They even joke about them.

“They call me ‘The Anomaly’ down here, because I have all my teeth,” quips Greg, who is 6-foot-5 and also goes by “Big Mo.”

In early 2024, the Moores moved from a million-dollar home near Washington, DC, to the West Virginia community of Glade Springs. There, they found a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired home for $675,000.

Both were coincidentally born and raised in West Virginia, albeit in different areas, and both fled the state as soon as they graduated high school to join the military.

“I’m never coming back,” they vowed.

Now, Big Mo swears, “We’re never leaving.”

Greg and Missi Moore moved to the West Virginia community of Glade Springs and found a gorgeous Frank Lloyd Wright–inspired home for $675,000. Courtesy Jon Sinko
In early 2024, the Moores moved from a million-dollar home near Washington, DC, to Glade Springs. Realtor.com
Greg, who goes by Big Mo, swears, “We’re never leaving.” Courtesy Greg Moore

What caused such a complete about-face in where this couple wanted to live?

Appalachia: An affordable and attractive option for homebuyers

As Americans are forced to search farther afield for an affordable place to live, one surprising area that’s gained attention lately is Appalachia.

While the Appalachian mountain range technically stretches through 13 states from New York to Georgia, the Southern parts, in particular, have become increasingly popular—especially for Floridians fleeing their own state for milder climes and lower prices.

While the Appalachian mountain range technically stretches through 13 states, the Southern parts in particular have become increasingly popular. Realtor.com

“Data does seem to show an increase in movers from Florida to Southern Appalachia,” says Hamilton Lombard, a demographer at Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia who studies migration patterns.

The first new wave of Appalachian settlers in the 2010s was largely retirees, but the area has recently started attracting younger age groups, too.

“In Southern Appalachia, most of its population growth has come from its population under age 45,” says Lombard. “For Southern Appalachia, the growth in its younger population is a change from the 2010s, when its population under age 45 shrunk and well over 90% of its growth came from its 65-plus population.”

“The growth in Southern Appalachia’s younger population is a change from the 2010s,” says Hamilton Lombard, a demographer at Weldon Cooper Center at the University of Virginia. Courtesy of Glade Springs Resort

Appalachia’s lower living expenses and home prices are certainly a large part of the draw, with Lombard saying, “The cost of living in most of Southern Appalachia remains relatively affordable.”

Indeed, Realtor.com® listing data shows the median list price in Daniels, WV—where Glade Springs is located—is $319,900, a price range that’s fairly typical throughout the state. By comparison, in Florida, the median home price is $100,000-plus higher, at $422,500.

But affordability is only part of the reason why people are flocking to the area.

“A lot of people are definitely migrating here,” agrees Jon Sinko of Bass Sinko Real Estate, which lists multiple properties in the Glade Springs community where the Moores live. “The affordability, the insurance, the simplicity of living in a Mayberry RFD-type community with friendly neighbors and low crime, and the ability to enjoy four seasons—these are just a few of the factors.”

“The simplicity of living in a Mayberry RFD-type community with friendly neighbors and low crime, and the ability to enjoy four seasons” are some of the factors contributing to people moving to the area, says Jon Sinko. Courtesy of Glade Springs Resort

Appalachia’s cooler temps may feel particularly refreshing because 2024 is slated to be the hottest summer on record in the U.S. It’s also winding up to be the biggest hurricane season in data history. This, in turn, has inflated home insurance rates, particularly in hurricane-prone areas like Florida.

“Right now, Floridians pay arguably the highest average premium in the U.S.,” says Mark Friedlander at the Insurance Information Institute.

As a result of the increase in natural disasters, some insurance agencies are pulling out of Florida entirely, making it extremely challenging to get home insurance at any price.

Appalachia’s cooler temps may feel particularly refreshing because 2024 is slated to be the hottest summer on record in the U.S. Courtesy of Glade Springs Resort

Appalachia is more shielded from extreme weather events. As a result, “Home insurance is still affordable and obtainable here,” says Sinko.

The average cost of homeowners insurance in West Virginia is $1,600 per year, or about $133 per month, according to a NerdWallet analysis.

For comparison, the national average is $1,915 per year. The average cost of homeowners insurance in Florida is $2,625 per year—if you can get it at all (and the number of those who can’t is on the rise).

The average cost of homeowners insurance in West Virginia is $1,600 per year, or about $133 per month, according to a NerdWallet analysis. Robert Peak – stock.adobe.com

For the Moores, the weather was definitely a huge factor.

“We went down to visit some friends in Florida,” Big Mo says. While their friends were hoping the Moores would fall in love with the area, Big Mo found Florida’s humidity oppressive.

Missi agreed, explaining, “We’re not really beach people. We love the mountains. I’m a four-seasons girl.”

“We love the mountains. I’m a four-seasons girl,” says Missi. Realtor.com

The Moores even enjoy the snow in the winter—the mountains of West Virginia do see snow—along with a skating rink and a ski resort 10 miles away.

Weather and rising living costs aside, the Moores are glad they don’t have to deal with stumbling upon alligators like they did in Florida.

“We saw an awful lot of gators roaming around there,” Big Mo recalls, adding that his friend saw them so frequently he’d turned them into a running joke by nicknaming them all “Daryl.”

Appalachia: A growing cultural mecca

Despite its less-than-sophisticated roots, Appalachia has been gaining acclaim as a cultural hot spot with thriving arts and foodie scenes.

In February, Berea, KY, was nominated as the No. 1 “small-town art scene” by Newsweek magazine. In March, the esteemed Martha Graham Dance Company celebrated its 100-year anniversary by joining with Ballet Spartanburg in South Carolina to perform Graham’s “Suite From Appalachian Spring.” In June, Charleston chef Paul Smith became the first in the state’s history to win (much less be nominated for) a prestigious James Beard award.

Upon accepting the award of “Best Chef: Southeast” for his three restaurants, Smith said, “Two words that have never been mentioned here before: West Virginia.”

Appalachia has been gaining acclaim as a cultural hot spot with thriving arts and foodie scenes. Robert Peak – stock.adobe.com

In fact, certain areas of Appalachia have become so trendy and popular, Sinko says, “there just isn’t a lot of availability for single-family homes.”

But there are a few, like these below:

And should someone desire to purchase a lot and build anew, Sinko notes that lots are plentiful and unbelievably low-priced—like this golf course–adjacent lot, below, for one dollar.

In addition to paying one buck, buyers will also need to dish out $153 a month in homeowners association fees. But that seems like a fair deal for access to two top-rated golf courses, fitness centers, pickleball and tennis courts, a bowling alley, kayak launches, clubhouses, lake and river fishing, 24/7 security, and many other community amenities.

Buyers will need to dish out $153 a month in homeowners association fees to access two top-rated golf courses, fitness centers, pickle ball and tennis courts. Courtesy of Glade Springs Resort

“Some people just buy lots for access to the amenities,” says Sinko. “And when you consider the price of a country club membership, that $153 is a great deal.”

While there are several lots listed for $1, Sinko reports that the median list price for a lot in Glade Springs in 2023 is $1,750. This 0.29-acre lot below is listed for $1,100.

Of course, building a house on one of these lots would raise the costs quite a bit. But for anyone looking for a fresh start, it’s certainly intriguing. And given Appalachia’s growing popularity, who knows how long these deals will last?

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