11% of Americans moved during the pandemic, survey finds

Thanksgiving airport coronavirusDavid Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty ImagesTravelers wearing protective face masks.
  • A Zillow survey found that 11% of Americans moved during the pandemic, mostly for positive reasons.
  • Life and financial uncertainty were main reasons homeowners haven’t listed their homes for sale.
  • There are 40% fewer homes on the market than last year, and experts expect inventory to remain at record lows.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The pandemic has taken a financial and emotional toll on the country, but a new survey found that the option of remote work has been a bright spot for many Americans in terms of flexibility in choosing where to live.

A Zillow survey released on Tuesday found that 11% of Americans have moved in the past year – either by choice or circumstance – and that more homeowners say they are more likely to move or sell their homes as a result of the pandemic. The survey found 2.5 million more homes could soon hit the market.

Of the 11% of Americans who moved, 75% said they did so for positive reasons, like being closer to family and friends or living in an area they have always desired.

“After their most recent move, more than half of Americans said they experienced happiness (54%) and relief (53%),” the survey said. “A vast majority of recent movers – 80% – say their most recent move was worth it.”

According to US Census Bureau data, 31 million people in the US moved in 2019, or 9.8% of all Americans, so the pandemic seemed to spark an increase in millions of people moving.

The Sun Belt topped the list of popular moving destinations. The survey found that the cities of Phoenix, Charlotte, and Austin saw the highest net inbound moves in the first 11 months of 2020, mostly due to affordability and warmer weather.

“More affordable, medium-sized metro areas across the Sun Belt saw significantly more people coming than going, especially from more expensive, larger cities farther north and on the coasts,” Zillow senior economist Jeff Tucker said in a statement. “The pandemic has catalyzed purchases by millennial first-time buyers, many of whom can now work from anywhere.”

Insider’s Hillary Hoffower reported in February that more millennials became homeowners than any other generation in 2020, and with interest rates hitting a historic low last year, it was easier for those who had enough money saved for a down payment to buy a home.

Moving hasn’t been accompanied by easy home-buying, though, as the number of houses for sale, or inventory, has dwindled during the pandemic, which only served to drive prices higher. Insider reported on Monday that there are 40% fewer homes on the market than last year, and home builders are struggling to keep up with the high demand for homes because of the low supply of building materials, like lumber.

The situation has gotten so dire, in fact, that housing-data platform Zonda found at least 70% of builders were intentionally raising home prices to slow demand and give them more time to acquire materials.

Insider’s Taylor Borden reported on March 23 that the number of homes for sale could run out in just two months, and experts expect inventory to remain at record lows.

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