How The COVID-19 Pandemic Spurred Americans’ Exodus From Cities

Once it was clear that COVID-19 was spreading rapidly in big cities, Americans across the US fled to less-populated cities. 


Moon Salahie, owner of Elite Moving & Storing in Yonkers, said that the majority of moves out of New York City are to the suburbs. According to Salahie, “The least movement would be the Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue crowds. Those people don’t have to leave because they have second homes.”


David Giampietro, the chief administrative officer of FlatRate Movers said, “We used to move a lot of people from Brooklyn to Manhattan or Queens. Now it’s the mileage. We’re not going 5 miles anymore. It’s more like 20, 30, 40” to New Jersey, Connecticut and upstate.


For Americans making out-of-state moves, popular destinations in 2020 included Sacramento, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia. 


According to a New York Post article, “United Van Lines and Mayflower movers said it had done 1,000 out-of-state moves from New York City starting in March, with 28 percent to Florida and California, and 16 percent to Texas and North Carolina.”


Reasons to Move

One reason why Americans are moving is the desire for more space in suburban and rural homes. In an NBC News article, Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather said, “It’s a K-shaped recovery. Wealthy people are doing well, and more affluent people are more able to work remotely.” 


Buyers are looking for homes with ample yard space, home offices for working parents, designated areas for children learning at home, and workout spaces. Homes with guest houses or extra suites are being scooped up by families taking in their parents from nursing homes.


Buyers are taking advantage of virtual 3D home tours, having their agents tour houses by video and buying homes without making a personal visit, out of fear of exposure. 


South and Southwestern states with fewer lockdown restrictions are welcoming “people fleeing restrictive counties and states for both economic and ideological reasons,” according to NBC News.


Others are leaving major cities out of fear that they will die from COVID-19 and burden their partners with steep housing costs.


In an NBC News article, Amber Parker of Atascadero, California said, “We realized if either of us were to die or lose our jobs, the other could not cover the mortgage.” So they decided to move to Lexington, South Carolina. Parker added, “We mainly just want to see our kids thrive. California is completely shut down.” 


In their new home town, their youngest child will attend school in person four days a week and their fourteen-year-old two days a week. Both will have the opportunity to play sports.


Thanks to the rise in remote work, Millennials have been able to move away without having to quit their jobs. Abigail Jaffe, 28, moved from New York City to Austin in August and was able to afford a one-bedroom apartment for herself, rather than splitting a two-bedroom flat with a roommate like in New York City. 


Demographic Shifts

The pandemic has given workers and families the opportunity to make long-term moves to suburban and rural areas. Before the pandemic, working individuals had to choose between commuting for several hours or paying steep housing costs. Now, workers can avoid both.


Those who left big cities may return if their employers allow it or require one to two days of in-person work. However, many could stay in the suburbs and take advantage of lower living costs, higher quality of life, and greater access to nature.


Younger workers, on the other hand, may be enticed by discounted rents in big cities and opportunities to meet new people and develop skills that could advance their careers.


Closing Thoughts

We’d like to hear your thoughts about how these events are impacting your business, and what you see trending as we go into 2021. Please call Greg at: (818) 254-5823. Your insights are invaluable as we strive to keep our clients informed about the state of our ever-changing market.



January 2, 2021
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