[REN #894] Harris Poll: Many City Folks Want Homes in the Suburbs

Harris Poll: Many City Folks Want Homes in the Suburbs, Real Estate News for Investors Podcast Episode #894

The lure of the big city might be fading a bit. A new Harris Poll shows that a growing number of people would like to move away from the city, and that preferences for other lifestyle habits are changing. The poll includes a wide range of questions from how people intend to buy their food in the future to whether they are worried about dying from the virus.

This particular Harris Poll has been tracking coronavirus trends since mid-March and includes more than 300 questions. (1) It appears that many of the questions have been added in more recent weeks, such as the ones about migrating to more rural areas. Each “wave” of the poll is done weekly over a three-day period with the latest information from the last week of April.

Tracking Coronavirus Trends

To find out what participants might do about their living situation, researchers asked them how likely they were to do various things after the pandemic was over. 79% of the people said they would save more and spend less which is probably a result of job losses and the need for emergency cash. 68% said they would continue to avoid non-essential travel and 59% said they would probably travel long distances by car instead of by plane. Another 43% say they will continue to order groceries online. Home schooling may continue for about 31%, and 29% said they want to move out of densely populated areas. The idea of a move was last on the list but accounted for almost 30% of the people who participated in the study.

To dig deeper into the idea that people want to move, researchers asked how likely it will be that that will happen. 13% said it was very likely and another 16% said somewhat likely. There are still plenty of people on the flip side, who say they have no plans to move away from their city hoods but the 29% figure is substantial.

There’s also data on how remote people want to get. 42% of the people who said they are considering a move said they are targeting the suburbs, while 31% said they want to live in a more rural area. This poll didn’t appear to differentiate between people who would buy a home and those who would rent. It was only polling for an answer to the question about whether people were considering a move.

“Private, Spacious, and Quiet”

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Berkshire Hathaway real estate agent John Downs said that, “Suddenly it’s hip to be private, spacious and quiet.” He says he’s had more people calling from the city about properties that have a lot of land. (2) Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman also commented in a CNBC article that there’s been a “profound, psychological change” in the way that people feel about rural areas. (3) 

And money is no object for some. Brokers say that some of the people wanting to move away from New York City, for example, are wealthy people looking to rent. One real estate adviser said that he had 18 people on a waiting list to see a home in Connecticut that’s renting for $65,000 a month. (4)

The Harris Poll shows that 30% of the participants had recently looked online for homes and/or apartments to rent or to buy, which again supports the idea that about a third of the people in the poll are considering a move.

Sampling of Other Questions

Here’s a sampling of some of the other questions.

When asked what public activities people would engage in first after social distancing restrictions were lifted, the top choice is to visit loved ones. Next on the list — go to a restaurant and then the barber or the hairdresser. Going to the gym is fourth followed by hiking with friends and going to a nail salon.

When it comes to taking care of business, the top priority was to patronize local merchants followed by rescheduling a vacation. Booking a dental appointment was third with plans for creating a budget after that. Finding a job was next along with getting out of debt, refinancing the car, and refinancing the house.

Spending money on a vacation is a priority for many, but only when the time is right. A lot of people don’t think they will be able to go on a vacation for another six months to a year, or longer. Going to a simple movie is second on the list of “wanna do’s.”

Participants were asked about being forced to go back to a job, and whether businesses should be liable if employees get infected. There were more “yes’s” than “no’s” for that question, but a good 73% didn’t think they would die if they got the virus. It’s a comprehensive survey with many more questions.

If Harris continues tracking these sentiments, we should get more data on what the future might hold. That could help us understand more about the road ahead, including to what extent people will actually move, or whether these moves will be permanent. 

We’ll stay on top of it here on Real Estate News for Investors. And if you’d like to get data on the fastest growing metros in the country where real estate values are holding steady, and rental demand is on the rise, visit realwealthnetwork.com. It’s free to join, and when you do you’ll have access to dozens of free educational videos.


(1) The Harris Poll

(2) The Wall Street Journal Article

(3) CNBC Article 1

(4) CNBC Article 2

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