COVID-19 has greatly impacted the way Americans live their lives. Both short and long term decisions are made with the pandemic in mind in today’s world. When looking specifically at the housing industry, mortgage rates have dropped significantly. Although home sales suffered in the spring, by summer of 2020 we saw them rebound again.
However, even though mortgage rates have decreased, the number of homes for sale compared to this time last year has decreased. At the same time, the number of homeowners refinancing their homes have increased. The ever growing concern for job security may also impact people’s decisions regarding when and where to make such a large purchase.
Even with the lower mortgage rates, the Federal National Mortgage Association predicts that 15% fewer homes will be sold this spring than last spring, specifically due to COVID-19. And yet in many cities in the United States, people are moving in historical numbers! So it is clear that COVID-19 has affected people throughout America differently – this article will touch on some of the factors behind that impact and what it means for the moving industry moving forward.
COVID-19 and how often people move.
Has the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak impacted how often people are moving? With the widespread lockdowns and corresponding shelter in place mandates, it would be easy to assume moving has been all but nonexistent during 2020.
Intriguingly, this has not been the case. Moving has been impacted, as have most major industries, but not to the extent that might be expected. In fact, in some areas such as large cities, moving has rapidly increased in 2020 compared to 2019. The graphic below offers a visual comparison of individuals moving out of cities in the last two years.
With millions of more Americans now working remotely, people are beginning to realize they can work from almost anywhere. What has been occurring, slowly yet surely, is a steady drip of individuals and families leaving their cramped, urban accommodations for nearby suburban or even rural living spaces.
This coincides with reports that more people are choosing to escape lockdown quarters by getting outdoors locally to explore. There is an argument that people are beginning to seek out nearby greener pastures in a very real and tangible way. However, some such moves – most especially in hard-hit cities like New York City and San Francisco – may also prove to be temporary.
In other cases, people have been moving from one urban area to another urban area, often one just as densely populated as the one being left behind.
Many single adults living independently reported choosing to leave New York City and surrounding areas in favor of moving home to be with family during lockdown. For example, where pandemic-related school closures left college students temporarily homeless, many may have moved back home with family to ride out the lockdown. In many larger cities, COVID-19 seems to spread more rapidly, which also plays a role in people leaving to be more “on their own” in the country, away from the masses.
Interestingly, statistics show that people are sharply divided in terms of future moving plans. For example, a full 25 percent of a recent survey stated that pandemic concerns may prompt a future move. Yet a full 25 percent also report that they do not anticipate moving in the near future for pandemic-related reasons. The following graphic dives into detail regarding people’s opinion on moving based on the pandemic.
COVID and Why People Move.
An estimated 22 percent of people in the U.S. have moved in the last six months. One-third of these survey respondents stated that their move was prompted by a need to relocate to a safer area.
Those moving also cited the following reasons for choosing to live elsewhere:
- Seeking a less densely crowded area.
- Moving home out of a need to care for an elderly loved one.
- Better work prospects to replace lost income.
- Access to safer and less crowded transportation options.
Even while some statistics indicate COVID has not been a major trigger for how often, where or why people move, the respected Pew Research Center recently released data contradicting these moving COVID claims.
Of the 20 percent of survey respondents who reported moving COVID plans, these are the top five reasons:
- 35 percent of moves were initiated by the need for more indoor space.
- 34 percent of moves occurred because they needed a new building.
- 31 percent of moves were prompted by a need or desire for more outdoor space.
- 23 percent of moves were caused by the need to find more affordable housing.
- 23 percent of moves took place to bring families back together during lockdown.
Space is clearly a pressing concern prompting many moves over the last year. With the sudden surge in remote workers, many families have discovered their living space simply couldn’t effectively accommodate two or more adults living and working from home.Perhaps this is also why the cohort is reporting the strongest potential to make another COVID-related move in the near future is between the ages of 24 and 55 prime workforce years.
COVID-19’s Impact on the Moving Industry in 2020
Up until now, we have focused on the impact COVID has had on how often, where and why people are moving (or are choosing not to move). But what about the moving industry itself? Have moving professionals and companies experienced the type of economic impact that has rippled through the travel industry?
Not surprisingly, movers and shakers in the moving industry are genuinely worried about the near future economic health of the industry and their business. From a risk management perspective, this makes perfect sense, especially when bolstered by data showing that 74 percent of moving industry professionals have witnessed some level of downsizing during the last 12 months. 72 percent of survey respondents affirmed a near-past business slowdown attributed to the pandemic and subsequent lockdown orders.
However, as the data previously cited here showcases, moves are still taking place. Sometimes, these moves are prompted by the very same sort of downsizing that is causing economic concern in the moving industry.
However, the underlying impetus for the economic downturn itself is different this time around. Never before has the United States or the global economy experienced a downturn on this scale due to a seemingly unstoppable virus. The pandemic seems set to change our way of life – potentially forever. This means all the data available to us for study and prediction gives us only a baseline guesstimate at best for what could happen in the months and years ahead.
The rise of the remote workforce will likely have its own impact on the moving industry and it is one we are not yet well-equipped to predict. As a faint foreshadowing of brighter days to come (pandemic notwithstanding), 42 percent of Real Trends survey respondents stated that they did not intend to self-move ever again, even though 91 percent of these stated they felt capable and prepared to move again.
This statistics suggests that professional moving services will remain very much in demand for near-future moves and that demand may even increase due to COVID.
Facts about Moving for COVID or Non-COVID Reasons
These statistics represent general data about how people plan and prepare for an upcoming move, whether that move may be related to COVID or made for other reasons.
Choosing the right moving service is important.
On average, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of survey respondents said they took up to six months prior to their move date to choose a moving service!
Just 18 percent of respondents stated they took only a few weeks to one month prior to their move date to choose a moving service.
Older adults report moving as a higher stress life event.
Among adults aged 55 years or younger, moving was rated as one of the “most stressful” life events by 45 percent of survey respondents. The numbers, as high as they are, go up as age increases. Among adults aged 56 years or older, moving was rated as one of the “most stressful” life events by 66 percent of survey respondents.
In both cases, moving outranked every other option in terms of the stress it causes.
Source: Moving during COVID 19