The Light: The Great American Move Accelerates

The Light: The Great American Move Accelerates

Never before have space and location been more important. The housing industry continues to benefit from The Great American Move. We continue to track the acceleration of movements to exurban communitiesthose in the affordable West and South.

Many growing families rely on 20-foot moving trucks when moving to a larger home, ideal for 2–3-bedroom homes or large apartments. We just updated our analysis of U-Haul rental rates between cities, which gives us insight into migration patterns:


People are still leaving expensive areas:

Coastal California. With the shift to staying home and technology now enabling work from home, buyers can relocate. Not only did the eight California markets we track experience the most outmigration in the country, they all also showed more out-migration than one year ago.

Although buyers are moving out of California (when compared to all markets), Riverside-San Bernardino and Sacramento are attracting in-state buyers looking for more space and affordability. 

The Northeast. Retirees and first-time buyers are now making the move south and seeking more space. New York, Baltimore, Boston, and DC were the next 4 largest out-migration markets.


People are still moving to:

The Coastal Southeast and Florida. Our Burns Housing Survey reported strong sales, and builders are quickly raising prices to accommodate an influx of demand for new homes, especially in Jacksonville, Myrtle Beach, Charleston, Sarasota, Orlando, and Tampa. (Check out our Great Regional Debate #1 highlighting the opportunities and risks between the Southeast and Florida here.)

The Big Southern markets like Charlotte, Atlanta, Nashville, Houston, Dallas, and Fort Worth. Builders in these markets averaged 7%+ price appreciation in September, according to our Burns Housing Survey.

  • Renting a truck from Washington, DC, to Houston cost $1,600 pre-COVID-19 and now costs $2,900. This equates to $1,200 more to leave.
  • Phoenix continues to be an in-migration anchor in the Southwest and one of the strongest housing markets in the country. Accordingly, all buyer segments continue to perform well, with strength in the entry-level segment and reinvigorated active-adult demand. Check out our Great Regional Debate #2 here, which showcases Phoenix’s economic and housing growth.

The affordable tech markets: Boise (experiencing an influx on Northern California immigrants), Austin, Raleigh-Durham, and Salt Lake City


A few surprises this quarter:

The Pacific Northwest. Previously, Seattle and Portland have been in-migration markets. They have flipped to out-migration markets for two quarters in a row, now that buyers are moving to more attainably priced locations or further out submarkets.

Pre-COVID, the cost to rent a 20’ truck from Seattle to Austin was $1,446. Now that same truck costs $2,567a $1,121 difference!

Read our analysis on second homes and drive-to destinations here.


Thank you to Christen Fayette for keeping us informed every quarter with insightful migration data and trends.

For more on geographic opportunities, join our research subscriber membership or let our consultants help you devise a strategy that fits your risk-reward criteria and background. Please contact Lesley Deutch or Ken Perlman for more local insight. Our team is always available for assistance. 


Methodology: John Burns Real Estate Consulting, LLC, analysis of U-Haul statistics. The statistics above measure the average cost of taking a rental truck to a market from the other 39 markets, less the cost of returning the truck. In-migration markets are those where it costs more to bring a U-Haul into that city than to take one out of the city. The premium to bring trucks in implies more people moving in than moving out. Data is year over year.


Danielle Nguyen If you have any questions, please contact Danielle Nguyen, Manager, Research at (949) 870-1247 or by email.
Lesley Deutch If you have any questions, please contact Lesley Deutch, Managing Principal, at (561) 998-5814 or by email.
Ken Perlman If you have any questions, please contact Ken Perlman, Managing Principal, at (858) 281-7214 or by email.