As lockdowns linger, many Americans have made pledges to move to another locale once their city opens up. However, an Apartment List survey released on Monday revealed these pledges may be simple daydreaming, as 30 percent of 10,000 respondents said they’re staying put for the foreseeable future.
Apartment List said the results fall in line with U.S. mobility trends, which show that Americans are moving less than ever before for a number of personal and economic reasons.
“While Americans have historically moved more frequently than those in many other countries, the U.S. mobility rate has actually been declining for the past 35 years,” the report read. “According to the Census Bureau, over 20 percent of Americans changed homes in 1985; by 2019, that rate had been cut in half.”
When it comes to the coronavirus, Apartment List said financial pressure is the main driving force behind Americans’ decision to continue or cancel their moving plans. For the 30 percent who are less likely to move, safety (37 percent), proximity to family (30 percent) and financial limitations (26 percent) are what’s pushing them to stay.
For the 17 percent who said lockdowns have hastened their moving plans, the need for cheaper housing (32 percent), access to lower rent and for-sale prices (31 percent) and having more space (29 percent) were main motivators. Another 54 percent said the pandemic hasn’t swayed their plans either way.
“Unsurprisingly, economic fallout from the pandemic is having the broadest impact on near-term migration, in both directions,” the report read. “Since April, tens of millions have lost jobs, as many as 31 percent have failed to make on-time housing payments, and many fear an eviction or foreclosure is on the horizon.”
“For some, this means they have no choice but to move into cheaper housing; for others, this means they are no longer in a financial position to move, even if they had wanted to,” it continued.
When split by demographics, city dwellers, renters and low-income Americans are more likely to make a move. While urban residents are motivated by the need for more space (30 percent), renters and low-income Americans are motivated by economic factors, such as job loss and rising housing prices.
“Renters are nearly twice as likely as homeowners to say they are moving to find cheaper housing (40 percent versus 23 percent, respectively),” the report read. “And among renters looking to move, 58 percent say that if they don’t, they are concerned they will be evicted from their home before the end of the year.”
“Among those in households earning less than $50,000 annually, 29 percent say that they are now more likely to move, but for very different reasons than the group described above,” the report continued. “Forty percent cite the need to downgrade to cheaper housing and 30 percent say they are pursuing better economic opportunity.”
“For these individuals, moving is less a matter of personal preference, and is primarily motivated by a need to secure stable and affordable housing in the face of financial uncertainty.”
Looking forward, Apartment List said job opportunities and the move toward remote work settings will remain an important factor for employed city dwellers who have the flexibility to work from home. However, a more important factor is access to affordable housing, especially as more Americans find themselves surviving on unemployment or reduced wages.
“We find that many of those who are now more likely to move are planning to do so in order to seek more affordable housing,” Apartment List said of its survey results. “At the same time, the respondents who are now more likely to move are actually outnumbered by an even greater share who say that they are less likely to move as a result of the pandemic.”
“Financial instability and health concerns seem to be top of mind for those who have deferred their moving plans,” they added. “Meanwhile, a more permanent shift toward remote work will likely have some impact on mobility trends, but we expect that this effect will be less pronounced and will play out over a longer horizon.”