Moving to the Suburbs: A COVID Response or Long-Term Trend?

The COVID-19 pandemic has had numerous effects on just about everyone, as it’s affected everything from their health to where they work and live. In fact, if you think of five of your friends, it’s likely that at least one has moved due to the pandemic — or knows someone who has. After all, Pew Research Center found that one-fifth of U.S. adults either moved because of the pandemic or know someone who did. And it turns out that the most popular place to move during the pandemic has been the suburbs! So, why is this, and what does it mean for the housing market in the long run? Here’s what you should know about the trend we’ve seen when it comes to moving to the suburbs.

Where Are People Moving?

A Gallup survey taken in 2020 showed that almost half of adults in the U.S. would rather live in a small town than a big city. This was a 9% increase compared to 2018. And according to data from the U.S. Postal Service that counted the number of change-of-address requests, 15.9 million moved from February to July of 2020 alone.

The same survey said the following big cities lost the most residents during the pandemic:

  • New York City
  • Brooklyn
  • Chicago
  • San Francisco
  • Los Angeles

So, where did these residents move to? Most ended up moving to the suburbs, with Texas being one of the most popular places to settle down in during the pandemic. In fact, the following Texas suburbs gained the most people in 2020: Katy, Richmond, Frisco, Georgetown, Leander, and Cypress.

Note that most people who opted for moving to the suburbs didn’t go far from where they lived previously. In fact, almost 90% of people who moved stayed in the same county. For instance, many people who left New York City moved to East Hampton, NY. And many of those who left Chicago moved to nearby Evanston, Naperville, or Oak Park, IL.

What Are the Most Common Reasons for Moving to the Suburbs?

Clearly, the suburbs have gained a lot of new residents in the last year or so. But why? What about this pandemic has people thinking about moving to the suburbs? There are several big reasons for this.

The first is the trend of working from home, which the pandemic made much more common than before. Previously, most jobs were found in big cities, so people felt the need to live nearby so they could have a reasonable commute to work. But considering how many companies now allow remote work, it’s no longer necessary to live in a big city to get that decent paycheck. In fact, one survey found that in 2020, up to 23 million Americans were considering moving due to being able to work from home, with nearly 55% moving more than two hours away from their current city.

Of course, just because you can work from home doesn’t mean you have to move. It just means you have the option to do so without losing your job. And for many people, the option of moving to the suburbs during a pandemic is attractive. One reason is the ability to save money on housing, as homes in the suburbs typically cost a lot less than homes that are within walking distance of all that a big city has to offer.

Another reason for moving to the suburbs during a pandemic is that when you’re suddenly expected to stay home most of the time, having some space to stretch out is nice. Many people used to working in a big city didn’t mind squeezing into an apartment or condo since they weren’t home much anyway. When they weren’t at work, they spent their free time with friends or co-workers at local restaurants, bars, shops, museums, etc.

But when the pandemic hit and everyone had to stay home, all of that came to a screeching halt. Suddenly, people who were stuck at home all day realized it would be nice to have more than a tiny balcony or patio to hang out on. They wanted a whole yard and even space for a home gym. And having a home office became a necessity for many people working from home, especially those who needed space for bulky work equipment and a quiet room for work phone calls.

Additionally, other big city issues came to light during the pandemic. Protests, higher crime rates, and increasing homelessness have driven many to consider getting out of the city and moving to the suburbs.

Is This Trend Here to Stay?

As you can see, moving to the suburbs has become an increasingly popular decision since 2020. But will this trend last? Well, many experts claim that as long as people are allowed to work remotely, they’ll want to live in a suburban area rather than a big city — mainly due to the more spacious properties and lower prices.

And it’s likely that many people who currently work from home will be able to continue to do so even after the pandemic ends. According to the National Association of Realtors, about 20% of the population — or possibly more — will probably be able to keep working remotely, compared to 6% before the pandemic. That means about 28 million people may be able to work from home permanently, so they can live anywhere without having to think about the commute to work.

Just note that the trend of moving to the suburbs has largely affected millennials, most of whom are in their 30s or early 40s and have families now. Big cities will likely always be attractive to younger people who are just starting out in their career and need to live near the office so they can easily network and socialize. That means that as millennials move out of the big cities, you can expect members of Gen Z to take their place within the next few years!

What This Means for Buyers and Sellers

As more people plan on moving to the suburbs, you should consider what this means for you as a buyer or seller. If you’re thinking of buying a house soon, know that you might have a bit more competition than usual as you try to find your dream home in a quiet suburb compared to a big city. However, the good news is that as suburbs gain in population, homebuilders have responded by building more homes. Similarly, enterprising business owners in the suburbs have been busy opening more shops, eateries, museums, and other spots to appeal to people leaving urban areas.

So, what if you’re selling your home soon? Well, if your house is located in a suburb and has a great yard, a dedicated home office, or a guest/in-law suite, it will likely sell pretty fast. Just be sure to highlight all that open space in order to catch the eye of millennials moving away from cramped quarters in big cities!

And if you’re selling a spot in a big city, you still have a good chance of finding a buyer. Just think about targeting younger buyers who are beginning to thrive in their career and like the idea of owning a home near the office.

Whether you’re buying or selling, you’ll need an experienced real estate agent to help you along the way. If you don’t have one yet, let LemonBrew match you with a Partner Agent. If you already have an agent and you’re ready to buy, come to LemonBrew Lending for help getting a mortgage for your dream home in the suburbs!