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Are Homeowners on the Move?

A study by Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) [1]found about one in 10 Americans moved between 2018 and 2018, which is a decline from the nearly one in five who moved during the 1980s. 

The study found that over the past five years, just over 40 million Americans moved annually, according to the American Community Survey (ACS) data. This represents about 13% of Americans who move each year. 

Most moves, according to the JCHS, are local, occurring within the same county or the same state. County moves accounted for 65% of all moves in 2019, while moves between counties in the same state accounted for 17%. 

Fourteen-percent of moves were across state lines in 2019 and moves from outside the country only accounted for 4% of all moves. 

The most common motivator for moving is housing, as 40% of movers did so for housing-related reasons in 2019. Additionally, 27% moved for family-related reasons; 21% for job-related reasons; and 12% moved for other reasons. 

JCHS states local movers are motivated by housing, but long-distance moves are primarily motivated by jobs. The only exception is for older Americans, who make long-distance moves for family-related reasons more than job-related reasons.

The study by Harvard said that there is “little consensus” as to what Americans are moving less, but three factors are in play: Demographics change, housing affordability, and changes in labor dynamics. 

“People move less often as they age, and as millennials (America’s second-largest generation) age out of their most mobile years, some decline in mobility should be expected,” the report said. 

Also, housing affordability issues could also be slowing mobility, with high costs discouraging moves into unaffordable areas. 

However, the JCHS said it is hard to gauge the possible impacts of mobility due to the effects of COVID-19. The report said mobility may spike and people move to cheaper housing after losing income from unemployment. 

However, mobility could also spike as a result of evictions and foreclosures if payment assistance is not provided.