Is suburban migration really happening? 

According to recent headlines on news feeds, social media and our favorite article sources, it is. By the titles, we’d believe the hype that people are fleeing the cities and moving to the suburbs:

  • “Hundreds of thousands of people looking for suburban homes…exodus from cities,” states CNBC.
  • “New Yorkers look to suburbs and beyond. Other city dwellers may be next,” says NPR

However, according to Fortune Magazine and Jeff Tucker, an economist at Zillow, there really hasn’t been much of a change. Take for example the number of home searches in suburban areas. 64% of Zillow searches have been for the suburbs, but this has been the case for the past few years.

To add, 63% of the rising mortgage application numbers are for refinancing, not a new mortgage according to CNBC. Meaning more people are staying in their current home rather than actively searching for a new one.

We also don’t want to forget the millions of people who are unemployed and can’t afford to move. 60% of renter households have had at least one person in the home suffer a job or pay cut according to an article in the Washington Post.

With conflicting headlines and statistics, we decided to take a poll of our own at Landis. Specifically, we asked 306 people who currently rent apartments in the centers of Atlanta, Charlotte, and Cleveland the following questions.

Which best describes your current situation?Answer:
I am moving back home temporarily21%
I am moving somewhere that’s not my home in until the pandemic shakes out11%
I haven’t moved and don’t plan to move any time soon59%
I am moving to a suburb to settle down permanently9%

Source: Landis survey, August 2020

From the above, 32% of people are moving during the pandemic. From our poll it would seem that the mass migration was true with so many groups “moving.” BUT only 9% of people actually are moving to the suburbs permanently. In this example alone, you can see that the term moving is extremely fluid and that a very small percentage had made a permanent change.

So is suburban migration happening? Yes. Is it to the extent that the media portrays? Probably not. An illusion is being created as people camp out at their parents’ or live out their digital nomad dreams temporarily for a few months. The majority of the world is staying put, at least for now.


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