Market Insights

Highlighting Trends in Moving During COVID and Beyond

June 22, 2021


As Americans embraced the Sun Belt and suburbs at higher rates, will the behavior stick in a post-COVID America?

It’s no understatement that COVID-19 changed every corner of our lives in 2020. Seemingly overnight, how we lived was completely upended—we lived, worked and moved differently than just weeks before. Moving during COVID both accelerated existing trends and saw a sea-change in short-term moves.

As we look towards the future and a post-pandemic landscape, it’s time to see if we can learn any lessons. For moving companies, we must understand how COVID affected migration patterns for Americans and what will stick and what was a short-term phenomenon.

It’s still likely too early to know for certain which is which, but by examining 2020 moving trends, we can be more anticipatory in 2021 and beyond.

What Moving Looked Like in 2020

How many people do you know who moved in 2020? According to MYMOVE research, 15.9 million Americans filed change-of-address requests with the U.S. Postal Service, a 4% increase from 2019. The telling stats: while there was a 2% increase in permanent movers, 2020 saw a 27% increase in temporary movers. 

Major, densely populated cities became veritable ghost towns in 2020 as people looked for more space and cheaper rent in the face of the spreading disease and economic uncertainty. San Francisco, New York City and Seattle were hit the hardest, according to CBRE

As CityLab finds, the San Francisco and San Jose regions saw “rates of permanent moves increase the most, by more than 23% and 17% respectively, compared to 3% nationally.” 

Where People Went

As we read the tea leaves, it’s important to note that many cities that saw influxes in 2020 were already hotbeds for growth before COVID. Still, there’s valuable information to glean from recent studies. 

According to CityLab, 82% of urban centers saw more people moving out than in, while 91% of suburban counties saw more people moving in than out.

As people moved from city centers, Sun Belt suburbs benefited the most. Suburbs, semirural and rural spaces in Austin, Charlotte and Dallas saw significant growth, driven by “young, affluent and highly educated urban dwellers.” These Uptown Individuals’ penchant for moving increased by about 10 percentage points in ‘20. 

The affordability of cities like Austin, Sacramento or Tacoma is already disappearing. The influx of the more affluent meant a more competitive marketplace. Tacoma rent increased by 21%, while Seattle rents decreased by 15% YoY in February ‘21. 

Office Space is Changing

If there was one real estate space that felt COVID the most, it was traditional office space. Work From Home (WFH) became ubiquitous for many office workers in March 2020. Even as the United States opens up with rising vaccination rates, there’s no rush to return to cubicles and corner offices.

76% of CEOs indicated that their organizations would need less space moving forward, according to an October 2020 Fortune/Deloitte CEO Survey. Further, a follow-up survey in January 2021 saw CEOs say that more than one-third of employees will be WFH well into 2022.

Similarly, research from McKinsey Global Institute found that more than 20 percent of the workforce would remain remote three to five days per week. This means that three to four times as many people will work from home as compared to before the pandemic. 

The effect for moving is two-fold: 

  1. Workers are no longer moving cities for new jobs the way that they used to. Indeed, they may not even be moving through their MSA or city for jobs if they don’t need to be in the office full-time. 
  2. The hybrid model of combining WFH with a day or two in the office each week requires a different approach to what an office looks like. Think fewer dedicated desks and more open, collaborative spaces in a smaller overall footprint. 

For movers, that means O&I moving might be scarcer, save for companies downsizing their spaces to something more flexible under a hybrid model. Still, the office isn’t going away entirely—rather than one national headquarters, large companies’ satellite offices will take on more importance as regional hubs for clusters of remote workers. As people moved into Sun Belt cities like Austin, Atlanta and Dallas, these cities are attractive to companies looking to maintain flexibility and culture while tapping into these talent clusters.

Looking Forward, What Sticks?

Going past COVID, are these long-term moving trends or merely aberrations in response to a (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime event? Will all of those temporary movers stay where they migrated? Are they already looking to return to cities like San Francisco and New York City that now have cheaper rent in response to losing so many people in ‘20? 

Case Study: A Moving Company Gets Off The Ground

For moving companies, it appears that COVID accelerated pre-existing trends. People were already moving to the Sun Belt in droves (ask an Austinite about traffic, for example), and aging millennials were making the typical migration from trendy urban spaces to the more staid suburbs. 

Now, it’s about flexibility; can moving companies accommodate increased worker mobility throughout the country as office spaces also change? Can they get hold of the Uptown Individual market and facilitate the Sun Belt suburb shift to pick up the slack for the decrease in O&I? 

What Victory Packaging Can Do For You

The right moving and storage partner can ensure that your company can stay flexible as you navigate this new world of post-COVID migration. Our dedicated sales team works with moving companies of all sizes.

Ready to see how a partnership with Victory Packaging can upgrade your moving and storage equipment and packing supplies? Contact our moving and storage experts today.

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