Survey: Buyers Still Eager for Smaller Cities But Prefer Not to Move Far

Couple loading boxes in moving truck

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Many home shoppers who purchased during the pandemic did not make big, cross-country moves. Instead, they have mostly stayed in the same state but have relocated to smaller cities nearby. It’s a trend that will likely continue over the short term, according to a new survey of 2,000 homeowners conducted by Knock, a real estate technology company that helps consumers buy a home before listing their current house. Knock was recently selected for the 2021 REACH class, a technology accelerator program through Second Century Ventures, the strategic investment arm of the National Association of REALTORS®.

Home buyers have been on the hunt for more space while also having the flexibility to work remotely. This caused many to rethink where they want to live over the past year. Nearly six of every 10 pandemic home buyers surveyed by Knock opted for a new, often less populated city within the same state they currently reside.

The pandemic has particularly encouraged younger generations to move. Millennials and Gen Z will likely continue to drive the shift to smaller towns and cities, according to Knock. Thirty-seven percent of Gen Z and millennials surveyed say they want to buy their next home in a city or town with fewer than 10,000 people. That’s more than other age groups. For comparison, Gen X was at 32%, and Baby Boomers/Silent Generation had 25% saying they wanted to move to a smaller town.

“Almost overnight, our homes took on a whole new meaning,” says Sean Black, Knock’s co-founder and CEO. “In addition to where we live, they became where we work, go to school, workout, and everything in between. It prompted us to re-evaluate what we want and need our home to be. Although the pandemic may have ignited this trend, it’s not likely to subside anytime soon.”

Black says that Americans are placing a higher value on where they live. “For many, it means putting where they live ahead of being close to the office, especially now that so many have the ability to work remotely, at least part of the time,” he says. “It also could mean we will see people moving more often, especially as technology helps to simplify the process of buying and selling homes.”

The desire for a larger home may also be motivating more moves lately. According to the Knock survey, respondents said the top reasons prompting them to move were a desire for a larger home (40%), a quiet neighborhood (39%), and outdoor space (37%).