The pandemic has accelerated migration out of large cities, and it seems like most of the movement is—at least for now—permanent. A report from My Move found that nearly 16 million people fled large cities during the pandemic with 14.2 million people filing a permanent change of address form. This is a 1.2% increase from 2019 in permanent change of address submissions.
Temporary change of address submissions also increased. 1.6 million people filed a temporary change of address form with the US Postal Service this year, up 27% from 2019. Temporary filers fill out a change of address form to have their mail forwarded to a new location, but plan to move back to their original home within six months.
Change of address requests peaked from February to July with spikes during the months of March and April. According to My Move, this indicates that most people made the decision to relocate early in the pandemic to quarantine in a less dense market or to be with friends or family. For permanent moves, July was also active, but this likely coincides with peak moving season, which is typically during the summer months.
While the moving patterns have varied throughout the pandemic, migration out of large cities has been a universal trend. Coronavirus initially hit large cities the hardest, particularly expensive markets like New York. The virus is found to spread rapidly among people that are in close proximity, prompting many people in dense urban cores to relocate at the onset of the pandemic. However, remote work has also played a role. Employees allowed to work from home for an extended period of time or whose employers have suggested transitioning to full-time remote work have chosen to relocate to more affordable markets.
New York, Brooklyn, Chicago, San Francisco and Los Angeles are the top markets for outward migration, for both permanent and temporary moves during the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, the nation’s largest cities have also seen significant rent declines. Research from the national Apartment List National Rent Report shows that rents have fallen in 41 of the nation’s largest cities. New York and San Francisco have been hit the hardest, with New York rents down 17% from the same time last year, and San Francisco rents down 23% from last year. On the other hand, Texas has been the largest beneficiary. Katy, Richmond and Frisco, Texas, are the top destinations for inward migration, followed by East Hampton, New York and Georgetown, Texas, which rounded out the top five markets. Texas markets Leander and Cypress also took the number six and seven spots on the list.
Future increases in COVID cases, like we are seeing now, could spark more movement out of big cities. However, the announcement of two viruses could quell desires to move to suburban locations.