We Left Florida Because Our Homeowners Insurance Ballooned to $12,000


  • Florida residents Natalia and John were increasingly squeezed by rising insurance and utility costs.
  • They fled to Wisconsin after their homeowners insurance premium doubled, seeing no end in sight.
  • As lifelong Floridians they didn’t want to leave but chose their family over their homestead.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with John, 41, and Natalia, 38, who asked that only her first name be used for privacy reasons, about their decision to move from Plantation, Florida, a city just outside of Fort Lauderdale, to Dell Prairie, Wisconsin, 127 miles from Milwaukee. The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Natalia: In 2016 my husband and I purchased the home I grew up in in Plantation, Florida, from my parents.

John: It’s about 15 minutes from Fort Lauderdale and about 20 minutes from Miami.

Natalia: It’s about 2,400 square feet with five rooms and three bathrooms. We did have a pool, but pretty much everybody in Florida has a pool.

We got a letter in the mail from our home insurance carrier in 2021 saying, “Hey, your roof is X amount of years old. You either need to replace it or we can’t guarantee that we’re going to insure you for the upcoming year.” We were thinking, we’re new homeowners — we’re freaked out about everything. We thought, what are we going to do?

We didn’t have enough money for a new roof. We went out and got quotes. The cheapest I could find just to replace the shingles was $28,000. We emptied out our savings and I had to borrow against my 401(k).

We weren’t ready for that kind of expenditure, but we did it.

The insurance company came back and said, “Thanks for doing your roof, it’ll now be $29,000 to cover you a year.” We told them, “Thank you, but we can’t afford it.”

John: Before the roof, we paid about $6,000 for our insurance premium.

After the roof, we got a quote from the statewide insurance, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. It was the most affordable one.

Natalia: But our premium still doubled from the year before. Before we left, we were paying $12,000 for insurance.

We couldn’t keep up with the rising monthly expenses on top of childcare. It’s what finally convinced us to move.

Natalia: In the house, we took care of the MEPs: mechanical, electrical, plumbing. Those are my biggest important things. I could care less if my house is beautiful aesthetic-wise, I was more worried about making sure that we had new insulation, we redid the duct work, we put in a new AC, and we changed out the electrical panel.

John: The FPL (Florida Power & Light Co.) man came out there and did a synopsis on the home and told us that we’re doing everything correctly, but the reason why we’re paying $100 more for electricity this year than the previous year was because of the FPL rate increases.

Natalia: Our electric bill would be up 33% by this summer, and that would’ve given me a $1,000 bill for the months of August, September, and October. Those are your hot months out there. And I was like, I can’t afford this.

I put up the white flag, unfortunately.

John: We started looking at upcoming trends as far as cost-of-living increases. We have four children, three of them are in school and you have to pay the daycare expenses on top of it. So we ran the numbers for a year, it was going to cost us $31,000 for daycare and after-school care while we work in Florida.

It was just kind of like you’re walking, you’re walking, you’re walking with your head down, and then when you finally look up, you realize you’re lost. That’s the feeling you get once you realize the costs of childcare on top of your monthly expenses — and FPL kept on raising their prices.

Natalia: By the time we left, we were paying about $2,400 a month for the house, and that included taxes and insurance.

We chose Wisconsin because of an affinity for ‘Happy Days’

Natalia: We sold the house for about $700,000 and some change, and we only owed about $260,000 on it. So we had nice equity.

But that broke my heart. I was really hesitant on moving — that’s my stomping grounds. That’s where I grew up. I wanted to die there. I wanted my kids to learn to swim in the same pool I did. I wanted them to fish the same canals, and climb the same trees, and go to the same schools I did. I wanted them to have the same experience that I did because I think that my youth was good. I was very fortunate.

John: Growing up my dad would make me watch “Happy Days” all the time. And then later on in his life, he was a huge fan of “That ’70s Show” and for whatever reason, I was feeling nostalgic and I started watching it and I was like, “Oh, Wisconsin doesn’t seem so bad. Let me look it up.”

And then I found out “Happy Days” was Milwaukee and I started doing a little research about Wisconsin. That’s the main reason why we chose to move here.

We live in the township of Dell Prairie, which is actually on the outskirts of Wisconsin Dells. It’s a nice, small city.

We definitely did a lot of research on the real estate around the area, looking at lot size, home size, and schooling. We found we can get a lot more bang for our buck here than back home.

Our lot was 0.31 acres in Plantation, and we were able to come here and now we’re on over two acres.

One of the first things I did as soon as we got here was started planting corn just to see if I could grow it.

Natalia: And he can.

The costs in Wisconsin are a fraction of what we’re used to

John: The home we purchased was about $325,000. It’s five bedrooms and three bathrooms.

Natalia: That left us a little change to be able to pay off a bit of debt.

John: We haven’t paid insurance yet, but all our neighbors tell us that insurance is about $1,200 a year.

The landscape is awesome, my kids actually get to enjoy nature. They have always been outside kids. It’s just in South Florida and that landscape, you can’t go outside.

A river running through Wisconsin Dells with clouds and sunset.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, is nearly 130 miles from Milwaukee.

Twig & Olive Photography/Getty Images

Natalia: I joke with everybody, but at the end of the day I say it’s like living in a Disney forest.

John: You get a lot of squirrels, chipmunks, deer, turkey, and an occasional bear in the middle of the night.

Natalia: I’m excited to have a white Christmas. That’ll be fun for us. Taking the kids out, having snowball fights and sledding and snowmen and the little snow angels, all that good stuff. And literally having a reason to make hot cocoa.

John: A lot of people that I worked with would always wish they could move and find somewhere cheaper. There are a lot of people who are scared of walking away from everything. But you have to do what you have to do for your family. Your family comes first.

I don’t think people can swallow their own personal pride to do what’s best for their family. And that’s what me and my wife did. We didn’t want to leave Florida. We just didn’t see a future there for our kids. And if there was a future, it was a future of hardship.


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