In the United States, the East Coast is considered a highly attractive place to live for job opportunities, diversity, weather and some other benefits, such as a fast-paced lifestyle.
Before you move to the East Coast, there are several factors to consider. What’s the climate like? Which areas are affordable? How does the Northeast compare to the Southeast?
"If you are relocating to the East coast and especially the Northeast, be prepared to find people to be less friendly and far more reserved when they don't know you,” says Bill Gassett, owner of Maximum Real Estate Exposure. “It will be tough to get used to at first, especially when you're coming from the South, where people are much more friendly.
Once people get to know you, they'll give you the shirts off their backs to help you."
We cover all of these topics and more in our guide to moving to the East Coast. Here are 10 things you need to know about the East Coast before making your move.
1. Eastern Time is standard in many industries
Eastern Standard Time (EST) is the most commonly used time zone in the US because the largest portion of the country’s population lives there..
The Eastern time zone is so widely recognized in the US that most residents – and even many living outside the US – refer to Eastern time first, and much of the business and government entities operate on Eastern time, too. The American stock market, for instance, opens at 9:30 a.m. ET. Your favorite show is almost always mentioned as starting at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. Central.
2. You can get all four seasons in many East Coast cities
The East Coast has more than a dozen states along the coastline: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. We’re talking about so many states, you can get a lot of variety on the East Coast—and that means there’s a lot to do.
Along the center of the East Coast, the climate is moderate. In states like New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina, you can get all four seasons through the year. It might snow in the winter and hit 90-plus degrees during the summer.
In the Southeast, humidity is a major issue. In much of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida, it’s especially muggy during the warmer months. In some of the most humid areas, it may even get so hot and humid during late July and early August that you don’t even want to go outside, and consider getting a dehumidifier. Florida is home to some of the most humid cities in the US. On the other hand, in Northeast states like Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, the winters are cold and the summers are more moderate.
If you’re thinking about moving to the East Coast, consider the type of weather you like. If you want a warmer, more subtropical climate, look at the Southeast. If you want a colder climate with snowy winters, the Northeast is your best bet.
3. There are few earthquakes compared to the West Coast, but hurricanes are a bigger concern
The West Coast is known for its earthquakes, and this is especially true in California. The US Geological Survey Reports that Southern California has about 10,000 earthquakes each year, although most of them are so small they go unnoticed.
Earthquakes on the East Coast are far more uncommon, but hurricanes are a much bigger issue on the East Coast. Policygenius reports the East Coast is home to six out of the top 10 states with the most hurricanes, with Florida being the East Coast state with the most hurricanes, followed by North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, New York and Virginia.
4. Many of the most populous states are on the East Coast
According to data published on Statista in 2022, the District of Columbia has the highest population density in the country by far, with more than 115 times the number of residents per square mile when compared to the rest of the US. After Washington, other East Coast states followed, with New Jersey, Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut rounding out the top five.
California is the most populous state overall, but five of the top 10 most populous states (Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia and North Carolina) are East Coast states, and New York City is the most populous city.
5. The Northeast is way more expensive than the Southeast
As of this writing, the Zillow Home Value Index in New York is $759,901, but if you travel down to Georgia, that index goes down to $306,113. Generally speaking, you’ll pay more than double in New York compared to what you’d pay in Georgia. Of course, this varies depending on what city you choose, but this shows New York is much more expensive overall.
The Southeast is known for its affordable cost of living, with the average home price in North Carolina being only around $309,000, and the average home price in South Carolina being around $281,000, according to Zillow’s Home Value Index for each state.
6. The Southeast is becoming more tech-centric, providing more job opportunities
The Southeast is becoming more and more attractive for young, techie individuals who want high-paying jobs but don’t want the high cost of living associated with the Northeast or West Coast. Atlanta has become a hotspot for entrepreneurs, while North Carolina’s Research Triangle has attracted software engineers, programmers and tech businesses.
In many of the areas surrounding the Research Triangle (like Cary and Holly Springs), the average household income exceeds $100,000. Apple announced plans to build a campus near the Triangle, and more and more tech firms are also looking at the Triangle for possible campus locations.
Years down the road, the Research Triangle Park right outside of Raleigh, North Carolina, might just be the next Silicon Valley.
7. You can live the city life or country life, have mountains or beaches
While there are several cities along the East Coast, such as New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Atlanta and Miami, there’s also a lot of “country” in between those cities.
If you want acreage, you can get it along the East Coast. You don’t even need to live in the South to get that country lifestyle, either. The East Coast has a lot to offer in terms of variety. It offers skiing, beaches, rock climbing, fishing, mountain climbing and so much more. Because there’s so much variety between the coastline and the inland portions of the states, you can choose whatever lifestyle you want on the East Coast.
You can travel all the way up and down the East Coast relatively quickly, too. From Maryland to southern Georgia, the trip takes about nine to 10 hours. You can drive all the way from the beaches of Miami Florida to Maine as well, but that trip will likely take you around 24 hours. If you’re constantly on the move and driving up and down the coast, consider storing bulky luggage items to make space and pick up when you’re back in town.
The East Coast is primed for driving, with highways like I-95 and Route 1 traveling pretty much the entire coast.
8. Drugs are a major issue in some cities
Baltimore has long been a city struggling with drug use. It has improved a bit in recent years with major intervention from lawmakers and police, but Maryland still ranks among the top 10 for drug-related deaths, according to 2020 data from the CDC. Half of the top 10 states with the highest drug death rates are East Coast states.
9. Many states offer rich history, culture and political diversity
The first American settlements were along the East Coast, so there’s a rich history. You can take part in war reenactments, visit museums or explore historic sites. If you’re into fashion, New York is one of the biggest fashion centers in the world. There’s also a lot of tourism along the East Coast, including famous sites like the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building and Liberty Bell.
If you want to be an activist or get any sort of job in politics, the East Coast is the place to be. Washington is considered one of the major seats of global power, and it’s the epicenter of American politics.
10. Many of the best colleges are on the East Coast
Eight of the top 10 universities in the US are on the East Coast, according to the QS World University Rankings. On top of that, seven of the 10 most educated states are East Coast states.