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Widespread Desire to Relocate Could be Waning

Has the well-documented, pandemic-driven desire to migrate into the suburbs from denser urban areas hit its peak? It's possible that April's small decline in the share of homebuyers looking to relocate to new metropolitan areas is an early indication that the trend is waning as more Americans receive COVID-19 vaccinations and return to the office.

That said, experts do not have the definitive answer, but offer insights for our consideration.

"The swell in relocations may be coming down from its peak, but the share of homebuyers looking to relocate to a different area is still well above pre-pandemic levels. Redfin agents in popular destinations say the surge of out-of-towners shows no signs of slowing," said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather.

"The small decline in April could be the start of a slowdown in the yearlong surge of people moving from one metro to another, but it could also just be a blip before things pick right back up. The dust has not settled, as there are still a lot of unknowns about what portion of workers will return to the office and how many will pick up and move because they finally have clarity from their employers about whether or how often they can work remotely. Once people know more about their future, we could see another big wave of migration ..."

Nationwide, 30.6% of Redfin.com users looked to move to a different metro area in April, down slightly from 31.5% in the first quarter but up from 26% at the same time last year, according to Redfin's reporting.

Back in March, Fannie Mae reported that there was widespread anecdotal evidence that the pandemic had shifted consumer demand from core city centers to lower-density markets, like the suburbs.

"A look at the population of people applying for a mortgage, revealed a clear shift in behavior," wrote Rebecca Meeker for Fannie Mae. Since then, many property data providers have confirmed mortgagees' want to relocate.

Redfin's April data show this trend, which shows some signs of slowing, is still strong for certain regions, and that home price is an increasingly significant factor.

It seems that sunny, inland metros and sections of Florida are the most desirable destinations for movers this spring.

"PhoenixLas VegasSacramentoAustin, and Atlanta were the most popular destinations for Redfin.com users looking to move to a different area in April. That's based on net inflow, which is a measure of how many more Redfin.com home searchers looked to move into a metro than leave, out of a sample of two million users," reports team Redfin.

"Relatively affordable inland metros tend to be the most popular destinations for Redfin.com users searching for homes in a different part of the country, as home searchers leave expensive coastal cities like Los Angeles and New York in favor of places with more affordable, more spacious homes."

For all 10 of the top-10 most-moved-to metros, inflow is up from last year during the same period.

"I'm still seeing tons of interest from homebuyers outside the area," said Sacramento Redfin agent Andrea White. "Some remote workers living in San Francisco or Silicon Valley are paying more than $3,000 a month to live in very small spaces. When potential buyers look at listings in Sacramento, they realize their big-city rent costs more than a mortgage here. Most of them aren't concerned that competition is intense and home prices are going up because it's an attractive lifestyle move. Employees who have the option to work remotely often decide it's worth the tradeoff to move out of a big city to live in a larger home for less money."

She added that she works with house hunters looking in the Sacramento Valley because they're planning for the future.

"Some buyers from the Bay Area and Southern California are nearing retirement and want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, and some are planning to have children in the future and they're looking for a more spacious home to raise their family."

Here's a list of those top-10 metros, courtesy of Redfin.

Top 10 Metros by Net Inflow of Redfin.com Users and Their Top Origins

Rank

Metro*

Net Inflow,
April 2021

Net Inflow,
April 2020

Portion of
Searches
from Users
Outside the
Metro, April
2021

Portion of
Searches
from Users
Outside the
Metro, April
2020

Top Origin

Top Out-of-
State Origin

1

Phoenix, AZ

6,949

5,308

38.5%

35.2%

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, CA

2

Las Vegas, NV

6,375

3,948

53.6%

46.1%

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, CA

3

Sacramento, CA

6,165

3,985

48.7%

44.1%

San Francisco, CA

Reno, NV

4

Austin, TX

5,670

2,915

38.9%

31.9%

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco, CA

5

Atlanta, GA

5,309

3,891

26.9%

26.7%

New York, NY

New York, NY

6

Miami, FL

5,250

2,109

32.2%

27.1%

New York, NY

New York, NY

7

Dallas, TX

5,056

2,521

32.0%

26.4%

Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles, CA

8

Tampa, FL

4,650

2,391

60.1%

57.1%

Orlando, FL

New York, NY

9

Cape Coral, FL

3,815

1,280

78.0%

75.7%

Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

10

Orlando, FL

3,668

1,502

59.0%

52.8%

New York, NY

New York, NY

*Combined statistical areas with at least 500 users in April 2021

†Negative values indicate a net outflow; among the two million users sampled for this analysis only

And the largest outlflow numbers go to:

Top 10 Metros by Net Outflow of Redfin.com Users and Their Top Destinations

Rank

Metro*

Net Outflow,
April 2021

Net Outflow,
April 2020

Portion of
Local Users
Searching
Elsewhere,
April 2021

Portion of
Local Users
Searching
Elsewhere,
April 2020

Top
Destination

Top Out-of-
State
Destination

1

New York, NY

32,234

15,714

35.4%

36.0%

Boston, MA

Boston, MA

2

San Francisco, CA

23,139

16,545

22.3%

22.0%

Sacramento, CA

Seattle, WA

3

Los Angeles, CA

18,239

8,549

18.8%

15.6%

San Diego, CA

Las Vegas, NV

4

Washington, DC

10,876

4,831

14.7%

11.7%

Salisbury, MD

Salisbury, MD

5

Denver, CO

6,056

2,420

31.7%

24.0%

Seattle, WA

Seattle, WA

6

Seattle, WA

4,713

2,400

15.3%

12.7%

Phoenix, AZ

Phoenix, AZ

7

Chicago, IL

4,490

4,335

13.2%

10.9%

Cape Coral, FL

Cape Coral, FL

8

Milwaukee, WI

2,776

570

46.6%

34.9%

Chicago, IL

Chicago, IL

9

Boston, MA

2,018

2,039

14.4%

11.7%

Portland, ME

Portland, ME

10

Detroit, MI

1,528

598

26.2%

25.6%

Cleveland, OH

Cleveland, OH

*Combined statistical areas with at least 500 users in April 2021

†Among the two million users sampled for this analysis only

The full report, including charts, is available at: redfin.com/news/april-2021-housing-migration-trends.

About Author: Christina Hughes Babb

Christina Hughes Babb is a reporter for DS News and MReport. A graduate of Southern Methodist University, she has been a reporter, editor, and publisher in the Dallas area for more than 15 years. During her 10 years at Advocate Media and Dallas Magazine, she published thousands of articles covering local politics, real estate, development, crime, the arts, entertainment, and human interest, among other topics. She has won two national Mayborn School of Journalism Ten Spurs awards for nonfiction, and has penned pieces for Texas Monthly, Salon.com, Dallas Observer, Edible, and the Dallas Morning News, among others. Contact Christina at christina.hughesbabb@thefivestar.com.
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