‘People vote with their feet’: Florida just became the fastest-growing state for the first time in 65 years — here are 3 top stocks to capitalize on this historical shift

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With warm weather and no state income tax, Florida has been an attractive destination as of late. In fact, the Sunshine State is so attractive that it just reached a historical milestone.

According to data from the Census Bureau, Florida’s population grew by 1.9% to 22.2 million from 2021 to 2022. That makes it the fastest-growing state in the nation.

“For the third most-populous state to also be the fastest-growing is notable because it requires significant population gains,” the bureau said in a statement.

‘People vote with their feet’: Florida just became the fastest-growing state for the first time in 65 years — here are 3 top stocks to capitalize on this historical shift

It’s a good look for Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

“People vote with their feet,” said DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern. “We are proud to be a model for the nation, and an island of sanity in a sea of madness.”

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To be sure, Florida has been in a growth phase for a while now. Its current population is over nine times its 1946 population of 2,440,000. But this is the first time since 1957 that Florida has taken the top spot for population growth in the country.

And since people need a place to live, this migration trend could mean an opportunity for savvy investors.

Here’s a look at three real estate stocks with notable exposure to Florida.

St. Joe

Headquartered in Panama City Beach, Florida, St. Joe (NYSE:JOE) is a real estate development, asset management and operating company. It has substantial real estate assets and operations in northwest Florida.

The company plans to use its existing assets for residential, hospitality, as well as commercial ventures. At the same time, it has significant residential and commercial land-use entitlements.

That being said, 2022 was not an easy year for real estate stocks and St. Joe shares slipped for the most part of year. More recently, though, the stock has been making a comeback and has climbed 21% in 2023.

Business remained on the right track.

St. Joe generated $190.7 million of revenue in the first nine months of 2022, representing a 14% increase year-over-year. Net income came in at $42.8 million for the first nine months, slightly up from the $42.6 million earned in the prior-year period.

St. Joe pays quarterly dividends of 10 cents per share, translating to an annual yield of 0.8%.


Lennar (NYSE:LEN) started out as a local Miami homebuilder in 1954. Over the decades, the company has substantially expanded its presence. It went public in 1971 and now commands a market cap of around $25 billion.

Lennar’s fiscal 2022 ended on Nov. 30 so it has already reported full-year results. For the fiscal year, the company delivered 66,399 homes, up 11% from fiscal 2021.

Notably, Lennar delivered 21,214 homes in its East division, which includes Alabama, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. East was the biggest contributor to the company’s deliveries in fiscal 2022.

Read more: Rich young Americans have lost confidence in the stock market — and are betting on these assets instead. Get in now for strong long-term tailwinds

Financials have improved as well. Total revenue grew 24% year-over-year to $33.7 billion for the fiscal year, and net earnings increased 4% to $4.6 billion.

In fact, Lennar’s net earnings, deliveries and revenues for 2022 were the highest in its history.

In December, KeyBanc analyst Kenneth Zener reiterated an “overweight” rating on Lennar while raising the price target to $110 — implying a potential upside of 4% from the current levels.

Sun Communities

Florida’s warm weather is also attractive to people who want to live in mobile home parks.

And since manufactured homes are some of the most affordable non-subsidized housing options in America, this segment could be worth considering for investors given the gloomy economic outlook.

With that in mind, check out Sun Communities (NYSE:SUI), a real estate investment trust that owns and operates manufactured housing communities, recreational vehicle resorts and marinas.

As of Sept. 30, 2022, Sun Communities’ portfolio consisted of more than 180,500 developed sites and over 46,100 wet slips and dry storage spaces in 39 states in the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Puerto Rico.

The company’s biggest exposure is Florida, where it has 46,494 manufactured housing and RV sites and 5,139 wet slips and dry storage spaces.

Rents are on the rise and Sun Communities is capitalizing on this trend. The company has sent notices to its manufactured housing residents, expecting 6.2% to 6.4% average rental increases for 2023. For annual RV residents, rental increases are expected to be in the range of 7.7% to 7.9%.

Truist analyst Anthony Hau has a “buy” rating on Sun Communities and a price target of $163 — roughly 2% above where the stock sits today.

A better way to buy property?

Of course, buying Florida-based REITs isn’t the only way to invest in real estate.

Amid hot inflation and the uncertain economy, real estate moguls are finding different ways to effectively invest their millions across the country.

Prime commercial real estate, for example, has outperformed the S&P 500 over a 25-year period. With the help of new platforms, these kinds of opportunities are now available to retail investors. Not just the ultra rich.

With a single investment, investors can own institutional-quality properties leased by brands like CVS, Kroger and Walmart — and collect stable grocery store-anchored income on a quarterly basis.

This article provides information only and should not be construed as advice. It is provided without warranty of any kind.


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