Home sales and migration trends for the first half of 2020 appeared to hinge on shifting values and finances in the US as the pandemic raged on. Some nine-to-fivers were leaving their busy cities, working from home and no longer beholden to office commutes. Many people lost their jobs and, therefore, the ability to pay rent. Certain areas have grown more popular and more expensive — exclusive beachside neighborhoods, family-friendly Texas suburbs — others have gotten cheaper as people flee.
However, the data on 2020 US home prices, listings, and moves doesn’t lead to just one explanation of where Americans are going and why. According to USPS data, over 15.9 million people have moved during the pandemic, based on change-of-address requests. The number of movers who filed for mail forwarding from February to July 2020 is up 3.92% from the same time last year. Temporary Change-of-Address requests were up almost 27% from last year.
On the other hand, home sales for existing properties have been down this year. In June, they were 11.3% lower than the same month last year, Bloomberg reports. This was still an increase from May 2020, the weakest sales month since October 2010. Long-distance moving company United Van Lines reported fewer moves during the pandemic, but a rising interest in June, 14% higher compared to the same month last year.
There isn't a definitive answer as to whether people are moving more during the pandemic, but home sales data can give us a better understanding of the cities in flux.
Californians are moving closer to nature
Popular areas in California have seen home prices rising throughout the year. On Opendoor, the average listing price for places in Riverside and Manhattan Beach have increased by 50% and 23% YTD, respectively. It’s likely that LA residents are moving away from crowded cities to these slightly more laidback, outdoorsy areas. The average sales price for listings in Twin Peaks, which is located just under 3 miles from Lake Arrowhead, skyrocketed 85%.
Over the last six months, Desert Hot Springs’ average home price has declined by 52% on Fathom, but there are 34% more listings. Indio, another California desert region, has seen a 50% price decrease. This could suggest Californians moving away from desert climates. Alternatively, it could lead to these cities becoming more desirable as they become more affordable.
Expensive cities aren't getting much cheaper, but the luxury market is taking a hit
The average price for Fathom’s listings in Pomona, the seventh biggest city in the Los Angeles area, has increased by 71% over the last six months. Rancho Mirage, known for its gated communities, has seen its average listing price increase by 19%.
Some of the country’s biggest and most expensive cities made USPS’s list of the ten places with the most people moving out in 2020. The list includes New York City, Brooklyn, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Fathom shows Chicago’s average listing price dropping 20% since July.
It’s important to note that 2020’s most-moved-out-of cities haven’t changed much from last year, as people were migrating from cities long before the pandemic. NYC, Brooklyn, Chicago, San Francisco, LA, Houston, Naples, and Fort Myers all made the top ten in 2020 and in 2019.
Back in August, real estate firm Douglas Elliman reported that the apartment vacancy rate in Manhattan had exceeded 5% for the first time in 14 years. The New York Times analyzed smartphone location data and found that the city’s wealthiest neighborhoods were the areas that emptied out the most between March and May.
New listings in Manhattan were down 56% year-over-year between March 23 and August 16, but luxury real estate was hit the hardest. For properties priced over $4 million, sales plummeted 67%, according to UrbanDigs. Florida and Connecticut’s luxury markets are the lone survivors. Data from AvalonBay shows luxury rental prices increasing by 9% and 12% since July.
The residents leaving New York aren’t going far
New York City experienced the highest losses, USPS data shows, with more than 110,000 residents filing change-of-address requests from February to July of this year. That’s a 487% increase from the number of requests in 2019. Brooklyn isn’t far behind; its residents’ change-of-address requests quadrupled in 2020.
But just because people are ditching Brooklyn doesn’t mean movers aren’t taking their place. Brooklyn had a near-record number of contract signings in August, some of which came from New Yorkers trading tiny Manhattan apartments for BK’s more spacious digs.
735 homes in Brooklyn went into contract that month, a 38.7% increase from August 2019, according to a report from StreetEasy. Across the bridge, contract signings were down 6% in Manhattan for the same period. Just a jitney away, the Long Island town of East Hampton saw an influx of movers during the start of the pandemic.
Proximity takes precedence
New Yorkers aren't the only ones seeking out suburban homes. MyMove’s registration data shows that many residents who left populous cities relocated to nearby suburbs and small towns.
Chicagoans fled to Evanston, Illinois, which is less than 20 miles from Chicago. The city's 74,000-person population pales in comparison to Chicago’s over 2.7 million. Oak Park, which also saw an influx of movers during the pandemic, is less than 10 miles from Chicago and has only 52,000 residents.
In Chicago, Apartment List found that the number of users looking to move to a nearby secondary city increased by 7% quarter-over-quarter compared to pre-pandemic levels. 6% of users searched for apartments in lower-density cities. Boston users’ searches in the metro’s secondary cities rose 6%, searches to other metropolitan areas rose 28%, and out-of-state searches rose 30%.
“Urban exodus” looks more like city-hopping
While some people are moving out of urban areas and into quiet towns, many are just hopping from one busy city to another.
According to data from moving company Hire a Helper, 80% more clients were moving out of San Francisco and New York City than moving in between March and the end of June. United Van Lines’ data shows move requests out of New York City and San Francisco were up 45% and 23% between May and August, compared to the same time last year.
Apparently, these movers were mainly headed to other large metro areas. Top destinations for UVL’s San Francisco clients during this period included Seattle, Austin, and Chicago. Most New Yorkers were leaving for the Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Tampa metropolitan areas.
Apartment List’s study found that among users searching beyond their current city in Q2, over 35% were looking for homes in cities with higher population density than their current areas, a 4% increase quarter-over-quarter.
Prices are rising in small towns
The small cities that have gained the most movers during the pandemic, according to USPS data, include Riverview, Florida and Cumming, Georgia. Cumming has seen a 25% increase in average listing price over the past six months on Fathom.
People are flocking to Texas. The state contains six of the ten cities that had the highest net gain of movers during COVID-19— Katy, Richmond, Frisco, Georgetown, Leander, and Cypress. Frisco has seen a 35% price increase on OpenDoor during the pandemic, as the city becomes more appealing. The average price for a home in Blue Ridge, a small Texas town, was up 90% earlier this month.
Fewer people left states with relaxed COVID restrictions, despite rising rent
Hire A Helper found that moves decreased the least in states with no stay-at-home orders from March to August. Idaho had the largest net gain of movers at 194%, meaning 194% more people moved into Idaho than left the state during that time period.
Data on Mid-America Apartment Communities shows average rent in Mississippi and Kansas growing 20% and 8% respectively from July to October. Listings in Kansas dropped by 39%, while Mississippi fell 27%. Florida’s average rent rose 8% with 17% fewer listings.
Rogers, Arkansas, located in the Ozarks, saw its average listing price surge 157% from late July to mid-November, according to Fathom data.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.