The pandemic stimulated a need for employees to work from home, which fueled a movement to work-from-anywhere. That phenomenon triggered an exodus from more expensive cities to more affordable suburban locations. In fact, suburban and rural areas have seen more people moving in than out, while 82 percent of urban areas have seen more people moving out than in.
Surprisingly, in the first part of 2021 alone, more than 10 percent of Americans moved residences – that's nearly one percent more than would move in an entire year. This translates to approximately 33.5 million Americans who moved during the global pandemic!
According to the United Van Lines 2021 Annual National Movers Study, 34.5 percent of respondents said they were making a move to be closer to family and 34.6 percent reported they moved due to a job transfer – “moving due to a job transfer” was down from 51.4 percent in 2019. Regardless, relocations related to workforce mobility were still one of the top reasons people moved last year.
Other top reasons surveys cite behind recent moves to new areas include:
- Needing more space
- Increasing proximity to family
- Reducing monthly costs
- Desiring to buy a home
A primary factor for deciding where to move next over the last few years has been housing affordability. Unfortunately for first time buyers, those looking for more space or those wanting to downsize, high housing prices show no signs of lowering in 2022. Mortgage rates, however, are expected to rise.
It is tougher than ever before for people to make the transition from renting to owning due to the housing affordability challenge, especially as the inventory of available homes to buy is at a record low. In many places, it is still more affordable to rent rather than to enter the high-priced, competitive housing market which explains why 48 percent of renters are worried they will not be able to afford a home during their lifetime, according to a Lending Tree survey.
To increase the nation's housing inventory, the National Association of Realtors is advocating that all levels of government include funding for affordable housing construction; preserve, expand, and create tax incentives to renovate distressed properties; convert unused commercial space to residential units; and encourage and incentivize zoning reform.
Whether people are moving for a job or other personal decisions, the pandemic has influenced decisions related to moving in the last two years, whether it was for space, family, cost of living, lifestyle, or a better climate. Price escalations have slowed, but the availability of affordable housing remains a challenge – one that is not going to go away any time soon.