Pandemic Migration: Families Leaving Urban Areas for the Suburbs

Pandemic Migration

Migration from city life to the suburbs is nothing new, with the most exoduses in recent times occurring after the financial collapse in 2008 and the horrific event of 9/11 in 2001. Amid the coronavirus pandemic, once again we’re seeing people leaving behind urban living for wide-open spaces, as safer-at-home orders were put into place, schools turned virtual and work became remote. A separate home office, a backyard, and a swimming pool are all in high demand, to say the least.

According to an article in the New York Times, since the pandemic began, the suburbs around New York City – from New Jersey to Westchester County to Connecticut to Long Island – have been experiencing enormous demand for homes of all prices. In July alone, there was a 44% increase in home sales for the suburban counties surrounding New York City when compared to the previous year, according to Miller Samuel Real Estate Appraisers & Consultants. In Westchester County, which is just north of Manhattan, the increase was a whopping 112%.

Some counties are seeing bidding wars among potential homebuyers, with 20 or more offers on a house at 30% over asking price.

Low Interest Rates Making Home Ownership More Affordable

New York is not the only city seeing an exodus among families. More than half of the nation’s 100 largest metropolitan areas are seeing increased interest in the suburbs. A nationwide Harris poll also showed almost 40% of urban dwellers would now consider moving to less populated areas, and the numbers of people browsing online for properties are even higher.

The “nesting trend” to the suburbs is also being facilitated by record-low mortgage rates. A 30-year fixed mortgage rate is hovering around 2.98%, the lowest since 1971, according to data from mortgage finance agency Freddie Mac.

Some Opting to Remain in Vacation Homes

Many homeowners are undergoing renovations and improvements to accommodate their new stay-at-home lifestyle, whether it’s building an addition to a house, enhancing the outdoor patio, expanding the garden, or adding a fire pit.

Those with vacation homes are choosing to stay put as working from home is the new normal and many kids are learning remotely.  Rentals in hot spots like the Jersey Shore, the Hamptons, and parts of Connecticut have seen an uptick with people opting to remain through the winter and wait out the virus.

The move to the suburbs started long before the pandemic with Millennials looking to put down roots with their growing families. COVID-19 has only accelerated the desire for many to leave the city for a less-crowded lifestyle. How long this trend will continue remains to be seen but as in years past, urban living will always continue to be a draw, particularly when things open up again in the cities and life as we know it returns.