Chicago-area homebuyers help drive Florida’s ‘Zoom town’ housing boom

by Jason Porterfield

Chicago-area homebuyers help drive Florida’s ‘Zoom town’ housing boom

Florida has long been an attractive seasonal destination for Chicago-area snowbirds looking to escape harsh winters. This year has brought an increased interest in sunny Florida living. The east and west coasts of the Sunshine State have become more enticing with the normalization of working from home, drawing prospective buyers who intend to make so-called “Zoom towns” their permanent residences.

Climate, taxes and ample recreational options are all driving factors for Chicago-area residents who are looking to move to Florida full-time, according to Drew Backoff, senior project manager for Compass Development.

“The weather is a given,” Backoff said. “Chicago winters are hard and with more and more people able to work remotely, the weather in South Florida is a draw for sure. Post-COVID, people are – and will be – longing for outdoor space year-round, as well as pools and environments that, even during a quarantine, will allow for outdoor living. Of course, no state income tax is a big draw for prospective buyers.”

Compass is handling sales at Amrit Ocean Resort & Residences on Singer Island in Riviera Beach, about 80 miles north of Miami. Backoff said his company’s data shows interest in the development and online traffic from the Chicago area spiked by a daily average of 99.62% year-over-year. Chicago suburbs like Lake Forest, Schaumburg, Glen Ellyn, Arlington Heights, Evanston, Highland Park, Westmont and Hinsdale drove the increase in traffic, as well as more form fills and inquiries via the Amrit website.

Chicago-area agents who send their clients to purchase one of the Amrit residences would be entitled to a referral fee, Backoff said. He expects Florida to remain a popular destination for people who want to leave the area.

“Florida is easy to get to from Chicago,” Backoff said. “So, traveling back and forth and getting back to see friends and family is easy and provides a quality of life many are looking for.”

A number of Zoom towns are booming as people seek to relocate to Florida from northern states like Illinois:

Singer Island

Riviera Beach’s Singer Island neighborhood offers a laid-back vibe and seven miles of beaches. Hiking trails, scuba diving, kayaking and natural features like mangrove forests are all draws, while luxury hotels provide meeting space for business travelers. When Amrit opens in 2021, the resort will offer 182 condo units with private balconies.  The units are priced between $1.2 and $4 million.

Boca Raton

The golf courses and beaches of Boca Raton draw migrating Chicagoans to the city’s luxury developments. Units at the 327 Royal Palm Residences, located less than half a mile from the beach and next to Mizner Park, recently sold out. The 24 open-plan condos collectively sold for more than $50 million, according to One Sotheby’s International Realty.

Jupiter Island

Jupiter Island is part of the Village of Tequesta and is one of Florida’s southernmost barrier islands. Located along the Intracoastal Waterway, the community provides access to beaches, boating and snorkeling. Construction began this spring on the SeaGlass development, which is surrounded by Coral Cove Park and features 21 residences with unobstructed ocean views.

Bonita Springs

Located between Naples and Fort Myers on the southwest coast of Florida, Bonita Springs is known for its fishing, popular dog beaches and Lovers Key State Park, a remote nature area located on a small island. The Crest at Bonita Springs, A 264-unit, six-building development situated on 21 acres, is currently under construction.


In August, closed sales in Naples were up 70 percent from August 2019, according to the Naples Area Board of Realtors. The city’s attractions include the Old Naples Historic District and Marco Island, which is part of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. The five-tower Kalea Bay development is currently under construction. When completed, it will feature 582 residences overlooking Wiggins Pass and the Gulf of Mexico.

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