Although the overturning of Roe v. Wade promises to have a massive cultural impact, some experts also posit an impact on migration patterns. Jay Thompson looks at the evidence (or lack thereof) to determine the likelihood of market disruption based on the decision.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He’s also the co-founder of AgentLoop. He “selectively retired” in August 2018, but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His Inman column is published every Wednesday.

Unless you pay absolutely zero attention to the news (and I wouldn’t fault you for that), you’re aware that Politico recently published a leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that indicates the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision will likely be overturned. 

Some have incorrectly assumed this would result in making abortion illegal in the United States. If the draft isn’t modified and holds up, it will end the federal constitutional protection of abortion rights and allow each state to decide whether to protect, ban or restrict abortion.

In other words, there will be fifty different state laws determining whether abortion is legal or not, which may, or may not, include restrictions or exceptions for things like gestational age, endangerment of the mother, pregnancy due to rape or incest, insurance coverage, fetal abnormality, “partial-birth” abortion, fetal viability, mandated counseling, parental involvement, waiting periods and more.

It’s a deeply complex, emotional and important topic. 

I’m not here to offer my thoughts on abortion. As a white, 61-year-old cisgender male, in my opinion, it’s not my place to say or control what a woman should or shouldn’t be allowed to do with their body. What I think about it doesn’t really matter.

You’re reading this on a real estate news media site, where I write a regular op-ed (opinion-editorial) column. As such, this piece is limited to my opinion on what impact overturning Roe v. Wade might have on the real estate industry and market. 

The short answer is it won’t have much, if any, impact. 

Inman reporter Jim Dalrymple II recently published, “What would the end of Roe v. Wade mean for housing and real estate?

In that article, Dalrymple quotes people such as Matthew Gardner, chief economist for Windermere Real Estate, and tax attorney, real estate investor and author Toby Mathis who tell us things like, “Hypothetically, we could see households who oppose the Courts’ decision consider relocating from conservative states” to more liberal ones where abortion remains legal (Gardner), and conservative states with abortion bans “might have some people leaving” (Mathis).

The keywords, for me, in these quotes are “hypothetically” and “might.” Sure, hypothetically some people might decide to relocate if Roe v. Wade is overturned. 

Do we want (or need) to be concerned with hypotheticals and mights? I don’t think so. I seriously doubt there will be a mass exodus of people fleeing from one state to another due to differing abortion laws. No doubt some will, but it seems highly unlikely there will be enough people relocating to have a measurable effect on the real estate market.

Political ideology is not typically cited as a major reason people pick up and move. As both Gardner and Mathis point out in the Dalrymple article, jobs, taxes and socio-economic factors play far more significant roles in where and when people choose to move.

Also, it’s not like there are states where everyone, or even a large majority, of residents hold the same political ideology. Sure, there are very “red” and “blue” states that are considered conservative or liberal strongholds. But even the reddest and bluest among them have significant populations of the opposite side.

Check out the Pew Research Center “political ideology by state” chart. It shows there’s a notable balance of ideology, even in the most conservative and liberal states.

I live in Texas, generally considered very “conservative” and “Republican.” My son spends part of his time in California, typically considered quite “liberal” and “Democratic.” I seriously doubt the liberal Texans (of which there are millions) are all going to pack up and move to California. Nor are California conservatives (also numbering in the millions) on their way to Texas en masse.

I moved to Texas because I (mostly) grew up here, the fishing is world-class, the cost of living is low, and there is no state income tax. My son lives in California part-time because he likes the climate, and many of his friends are there. Neither of us are bleeding-heart liberals or conservatives. We are, like tens of millions of people, fairly centered in our respective political ideologies.

Yes, some may decide to migrate based on the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe v. Wade, but it won’t be enough to cause even a blip on the real estate market radar. Not to marginalize this decision at all but, to be honest, I’m not sure why we’re even talking about it in regard to real estate. 

This decision by the Supreme Court is important. There are many valid questions and concerns, and more than likely there will be some unintended consequences. It could well mark a turning point in the path of our country, the law, politics, the courts and more. I just don’t think it will impact real estate in an appreciable manner.            

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and co-founder of AgentLoop living in the Texas Coastal Bend. Follow him on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. He holds an active Arizona broker’s license with eXp Realty. Called “the hardest working retiree ever,” as the founder of Jay.Life, he writes, speaks and consults on all things real estate.

Jay Thompson
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