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Zillow confirms people are moving to smaller cities and bigger homes

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A house under construction in Culver City, California.

Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

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The pandemic changed a lot about how Americans live and work — and where they live and work. New analysis from real estate site Zillow confirmed what we’ve been hearing anecdotally: There’s been a big shift in where people are living now.

Zillow analyzed data from 2016 to 2020 from one of the biggest moving companies in the country, North American Van Lines.

According to Jeff Tucker, a senior economist for Zillow, people were seeking out less expensive regions and more square feet of living space last year. “The opportunity to work remotely was really changing the game for some homeowners who took this opportunity to move someplace where they could get more bang for their buck.”

Working from home increased demand for space and made it possible for people to leave big, pricey cities where high-wage jobs are concentrated. 

According to North American Van Lines, people left Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco at the highest rates. The five cities that saw the most inbound movers were smaller, more affordable metro areas in the South and Southeast like Phoenix, Charlotte, Sarasota, Dallas and Austin.

Steven Pedigo, professor of public affairs at the University of Texas, Austin, said his city has become “California central. I can tell you how many license plates of the new houses that have been bought in our neighborhood are all California plates.”

He added that cities in the Sun Belt were already growing, but the pandemic accelerated the trend.

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