Pandemic-Driven U.S. Homebuyer Migration Boom Is Dying

Pandemic-Driven U.S. Homebuyer Migration Boom Is Dying

Residential News » Los Angeles Edition | By Michael Gerrity | January 2, 2024 9:34 AM ET

Share of U.S. Homebuyers Relocating at Lowest Level in 18 Months

Based on new data from Redfin, the share of U.S. homebuyers looking to move to a different metro area declined for the third straight month in November 2023, dropping to 23.9%. That's the lowest share in a year and a half. It's down from 24.1% a year earlier-a tiny drop, but the first annual decline in Redfin's records-and down from a record high of 26% over the summer.

Overall home buying slowed in 2023 because it was the least affordable year on record and there was a severe supply shortage. There were 4% fewer users looking to move to a new metro in November than a year ago, compared with a 3% year-over-year drop for users searching within their home metro. The slightly bigger drop for house hunters looking to relocate explains why migrants are making up a smaller share of overall home searchers.

The portion of house hunters who are relocating to a new area is coming down for a few reasons. One, there's less flexibility to work remotely as employers call workers back to the office. That means the flow of homebuyers moving from the Bay Area to Austin, TX or Boise, ID, for example, has slowed. Two, home prices generally increased more in popular migration destinations than they did in expensive coastal metros during the pandemic, making the case for moving a bit less compelling. For example, prices in Sacramento-the most popular destination this month-are up about 35% since before the pandemic, compared with an 8% increase in the Bay Area.

Still, the migration rate remains above pre-pandemic levels of around 19% as some Americans are still chasing affordability. All 10 of the most popular migration destinations have lower prices than the most common origin of buyers moving in.

Spokane, WA lands on list of popular destinations for the first time

Spokane has made it onto Redfin's list of popular migration destinations for the first time on record, landing at number 10. Popularity is determined by net inflow, a measure of how many more users looked to move into an area than leave.

The number-one origin of homebuyers moving to Spokane, the second most populous city in Washington, is Seattle, followed by Los Angeles and Portland, OR. Spokane has comparatively low housing costs: The typical Spokane home sells for $416,000, compared to $775,000 in Seattle.

Los Angeles tops list of metros homebuyers are leaving for first time

More homebuyers are leaving Los Angeles than any other metro area in the country. That marks the first time on record it has been the number-one place homebuyers are leaving and the first time in over two years the Bay Area has dropped out of the number-one spot. The Bay Area comes in second, followed by New York. That's based on net outflow, a measure of how many more users are looking to leave a metro than move in.

Migration out of both Los Angeles and the Bay Area has slowed since the height of the pandemic, when remote workers were fleeing both California metros in favor of more affordable places. But Los Angeles has surpassed the Bay Area because the flow out of the Bay Area has steadily slowed, while the flow out of Los Angeles has picked back up in recent months.


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