Pandemic-driven relocation is likely to continue throughout 2021. Twenty-seven percent of homebuyers believe migration will make the country less divided, but the same share believe it will make the country more divided.
Two-thirds of homebuyers and sellers would consider moving—or already have moved—to a different city or area given the opportunity to work remotely permanently.
That’s according to a Redfin-commissioned survey fielded in November and December 2020 of more than 1,400 people who bought or sold a home in the previous 12 months or plan to buy or sell a home in the next 12 months across 32 major U.S. housing markets.
One-third of respondents—34%—have already moved to a different city or area, and just as many—33%—would like to. Broken down by distance, 30% of respondents said they have already moved less than 50 miles away from their former home and 23% would like to move less than 50 miles away. Just 4% of respondents have moved more than 50 miles away and 10% would like to move more than 50 miles away.
“We haven’t seen the end of pandemic-driven relocation; there will be a second wave of migration this year as permanent remote workers are able to let lifestyle preferences and affordability rather than proximity to the office dictate where they live,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “As homebuyers who want more space for their money continue to move into suburban and rural areas, local governments will need to allow more homes to be built to accommodate them. Remote workers will continue to leave New York and San Francisco, which means homes in those places may become a bit more affordable, a development that could eventually attract new residents or allow local renters to become homeowners.”
Broken down by income, 44% of people earning more than $150,000 per year have already moved to a different city or area, a significantly higher share than any other income group. Just 24% of people earning $50,000 to $74,000 per year have already moved or would like to.
The discrepancy in income groups is likely due to the K-shaped economic recovery from the recession that’s unequally benefiting wealthier Americans. People earning more money are more likely to have the opportunity to work remotely, and they’re more likely to be able to afford to move to a different city or area.
More than 70% of homebuyers and sellers expect remote work to continue post-pandemic
Meanwhile, just 17% of respondents who are working remotely don’t expect their work-from-home arrangement to continue, compared with 72% of respondents who expect to continue to do so after the pandemic subsides.
The large share of respondents who expect to continue working remotely combined with the big portion who would relocate if they could work remotely means 2020’s migration boom is far from over. A record 29.4% of Redfin.com users looked to move to a different metro area in October and November.
“Although some people will return to offices this year as vaccines roll out, many more workers will remain remote,” Fairweather said. “We expect even more homebuyers to be moving out of town this year as they solidify their remote-work plans.”
Respondents are divided on whether migration will make America more united
Twenty-seven percent of respondents to the survey believe the current trend of Americans moving from expensive coastal areas to relatively affordable parts of the country will make the country less divided, and the same share believe it will make the country more divided.
Broken down by political affiliation, 33% of Biden voters believe migration will make the U.S. less divided versus 27% who believe it will make the country more divided. For Trump voters, 20% believe migration will make the U.S. less divided, while 31% say it will make the country more divided.
Liberal people relocating from expensive coastal areas to more affordable—and typically more conservative—inland parts of the country may lead to more politically diverse neighborhoods and cities, which could contribute to a less divided America. But on the flip side, people moving to different areas often choose destinations where residents hold the same political views as they do, which means increased political segregation is one possible outcome of the uptick in migration.
Half of people who moved during the pandemic believe migration will make the U.S. less divided
Broken down by whether respondents have already moved, 48% of people who have already relocated believe the trend of Americans moving from expensive coastal areas to relatively affordable parts of the country will make the U.S. less divided, compared with 25% of people who would like to move and 21% of people who are not moving.
One-quarter of respondents are hesitant to move to a politically diverse area, down from 42% four years ago
Twenty-seven percent of survey respondents would be hesitant to move to an area where most residents have political views that differ from their own, the smallest share in at least four years. That’s down from 42% of respondents in December 2016 and 32% in June 2020.
“Because homebuyers are prioritizing affordability and space as the pandemic continues,” Fairweather said, “the political views of their neighbors aren’t as important as they may have been in the past.”