Half of Renters Say They Are Moving This Year

Half of American renters are planning post-pandemic moves, building on a trend that began last year as COVID-19 and shifts to remote and flex work disrupted migration patterns. 

About 56% of renters say they’ll relocate in 2021, and 22% of those surveyed by multifamily property management software provider Entrata say they moved to a bigger apartment with more space last year. 

The top reasons for moving? Cost of rent, needing more space, desiring a change of pace, and of course, COVID. One-third of those who moved say the change is temporary, while 61% say it will last more than a year. 

Another 14% of Gen Z renters reported moving back in with their parents in 2020. But interestingly enough, 20% of Gen Z respondents moved from a rural or suburban area into a larger city like Houston or New York, which saw respective rent decreases of 9.3% and 6.6% from 2019 to 2020.

Those planning to move to urban areas cited lifestyle conveniences, better job opportunities, and walkability as the top factors influencing their decision, while those planning a suburban or rural move say they want more space for less money.

“2020 was a life changing year for people, industries and businesses across the globe,” said Chase Harrington, Entrata’s president and chief operating officer. “Our survey of US renters shows that many moved to larger spaces to accommodate work from home needs, moved back to hometowns and some even moved to the city to take advantage of lower rental rates. We’re seeing a shift in the industry as renters look for more flexible leasing options and think differently about apartment amenities.” 

The economic uncertainty wrought by the pandemic also led nearly half of renters to switch to month to month payments. Of those, 34% say the pandemic increased their rent.

COVID also impacted amenities: according to renters Entrata surveyed, 61% of on-site amenities have closed or are now strictly regulatedbut only 14% of renters say their rent has decreased because of those restrictions. The vast majority think that their rent should have dropped as a result. 

The findings underscore the rapidly growing gap between the cost of renting and owning a home. The cost of homeownership has increased dramatically in both gateway cities and secondary markets, and 39% of those surveyed by Entrata say they can’t afford a down payment. The firm notes that the desire of many workers to continue working from home could further add to the housing crunch: “as many as 66% of renters say that renting fits their current lifestyle more than owning a home, while 33% say that the COVID-19 pandemic has made them motivated to buy a home and stop renting,” the report notes.  

This trend has fueled the rapid growth of the SFR market in particular, as renters looking for more space turn to build-to-rent communities.

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