Millions of Americans ended 2020 living at a different address than where they started the year. By October, 8.93 million people had moved since the pandemic began in March, according to an analysis of United States Postal Service change of address requests by the National Association of Realtors. That’s an increase of nearly 94,000 from the same period the year before.
Where were these people going?
Atlas Van Lines shows that people who chose to move to a new state headed away from the population centers on the coasts, with New York and California losing the most residents in 2020. And NAR’s report found newly untethered remote workers left big cities for the suburbs.
“New York and California had much higher outbound activity,” said Barry Schellenberg, Atlas Van Lines president. “It could be the cost of living, tax rates, or the political climate, perhaps.”
This pattern is expected to continue into 2021, according to NAR. With more people deciding where they live based on their own personal needs instead of their commuting time to work, it could mean long-term growth for suburbs and smaller cities.
“People want to migrate where they want to go and a lot more companies are allowing employees to work remotely,” said Schellenberg. “Very large organizations have broadcast to their employees: You don’t need to be close to the office anymore.”
Rushing to Idaho
Idaho topped Atlas’ list for states with the most inbound moves, meaning more moving trucks were arriving in the state than leaving it. Also in the top 10 were North Carolina, Maine, Alabama, and New Mexico.
The Southeast is Another Destination
Tennessee was another top destination among people looking to relocate last year, which tracks the net gain of one-way trucks entering a state versus leaving over the course of a year. Texas and Florida, which had a lock on the top two spots since 2015, came in second and third, respectively, last year.
Leaving the cities for Smaller Neighborhoods
While large cities lost the most people during the first seven months of the pandemic, many residents that left didn’t go far, according to NAR’s analysis.
Between March and October of 2020, most Manhattanites moved to Brooklyn (33%), the Hamptons (29%) and Jersey City (8%), according to NAR. Similarly, most San Franciscans moved to a county within 60 miles of their previous home.
Suburban counties topped the list of places gaining the most people, while cities saw the biggest losses.
Williamson County in Texas, a suburban area outside of Austin, saw the biggest migration gains in the country during the first seven months of the pandemic, according to NAR. Another county with a large influx was Suffolk County, New York, home to the tony Hamptons.
In contrast, New York County (Manhattan) and Texas counties Travis, Harris, and Dallas Counties (home to the cities of Austin, Houston, and Dallas, respectively) lost the most people.
Atlas Van Lines, a large provider of corporate moves, saw a dramatic drop in companies relocating employees last year and a rise in the number of people doing it on their own.
The rise of remote work brought on by the pandemic is a major reason for the shift away from big urban centers, according to Schellenberg.
Despite the rollout of vaccines and optimism about a return to work, Schellenberg expects that shift to continue as many companies permanently adopt remote work.
“The pattern [in 2021] will be similar to what we saw in the past year,” Schellenberg said. “People will be moving away from coastal areas where there is a higher cost of living and going to places like Idaho, Arizona, Texas, Tennessee.”