It’s only natural that young people move more frequently. It takes time to decide where you want to settle down long term.
According to a recent study from Fortune, 25.3% of Gen Z and 26.7% of millennials moved or planned to move during the pandemic, compared to 12.6% of Gen X and 10.1% of boomers. Likewise, surveys conducted by Pew Research in November 2020 and October 2021 found that young adults are more likely to have moved due to the pandemic, including 13% of 18- to 29-year-olds in the most recent survey.
So where are young people moving? If you look at population trends going back the last decade, it’s clear they are heading south and west. Studies from companies including Knock.com and SmartAsset have found Texas, Georgia, North Carolina and Colorado are especially popular destinations. Moreover, east and west coast cities are no longer the ]No. 1 destination for this age bracket. The largest urban centers, particularly in the Northeast, are bleeding population.
A 2017 report by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management 2017 found that 18-29 year olds were fleeing the state. Per Brookings Institution, New York, Los Angeles, San Jose, Boston and San Francisco all lost population in 2019-2020, while Austin, Fort Worth, Seattle, Tampa and Tucson showed general population growth in this period.
What’s driving these migration patterns? For one, it’s business. Lindsey Treadaway, an agent with Berkshire Hathaway Homeservices Georgia Properties, believes that the high concentration of both Fortune 500 companies and start-ups in Atlanta has made the city a relocation destination for younger buyers.
“We’re seeing the amount of opportunity that Atlanta the city is having for recent college grads or entry- and medium-level positions with start ups because there’s just a ton, we have a ton of funding,” Treadway says.
These trends have survived COVID-19, but the pandemic introduced a new wrinkle: working from home. While businesses may still prefer cities, younger workers now don’t have to live near their jobs. This means many are opting to live where they want to instead of where work mandates they must.
Amanda Peterson, an agent with Nashville brokerage RE/MAX Advantage, observes, “I think that a lot of people worked from home during Covid and it gave the drive to decide whether you liked where you’re living, whether you liked the person you were living with, there’s a lot. It made people really look at where they were spending their time. So if they’re spending their time in a home that they don’t like anymore, then they’re actively looking for a home elsewhere because this open concept that we’ve had for 10 years worked whenever we were all at school or work…but it doesn’t work whenever everyone’s trying to work together.”
Indeed, in many large metropolitan areas, the median cost of rent exceeds first time home buying costs. These continuously spiking rent prices mean that buying is becoming a more attractive option. Moreover, a 2021 CNBC survey found that southern states, from Tennessee to Mississippi, rank as the states with the lowest cost of living. If buyers are looking to stay long term, that only makes these states more attractive prospects.
Peterson adds, “I think the generation is studying a little bit more on how to maximize their profit basically and how they can do better, rather than renting, do better with owning.”
Peterson likewise believes that political polarization is driving where many are choosing to move, particularly the increasing popularity of the South. This reflects an ongoing growth of tribalism in the United States, reported on as early as 2009 in “The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart” by Bill Bishop.
Treadaway summarizes her young client base as, “single-income earners, people living alone, people living partnered and unmarried, people living without any dependents or tax…people who historically might not have been interested in homebuying are with increasing amounts interested in homebuying.”
Where young buyers are choosing to live may be different, but how they want to live isn’t. When they begin browsing the market, this cohort initially holds the same suburban fantasy as their parents enjoyed. One of the challenges agents face is getting their clients to break out of this and broaden their horizons about where to live.
“I think if people can break that mindset of needing to have a yard they can find amenities that are really important that may not have been in their budget tolerance if they look into townhomes and condos,” Treadaway concludes.