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What Is the Great American Move?

For the past few decades, major metropolitans have experienced substantial real estate growth thanks to exciting nightlife, walkability, and strong job opportunity. But as COVID-19 continues longer than most would have expected, real estate pundits are noticing a shift trending toward lower-density, suburban areas and away from high-density locations. This change of heart and action by the market is being dubbed the ‘Great American Move’.

The pandemic is not the only driving factor behind the spike in migration to suburbs and smaller metropolitan cities. Before COVID-19, suburban locations were already attractive alternatives to major cities thanks to quality school systems, lower-cost housing for more space, and a stronger sense of community. In addition, thriving suburban areas have expanded to offer more desirable entertainment and nightlife options historically only found in metropolitan areas.

According to the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) Emerging Trends Report, young, Millennial professionals starting families are major proponents in driving the ‘Great American Move’. The population in family formation years (aged 30-49) is expected to grow by 8.4 million people in the next decade. The report projects “this family segment to be a boon to the nearly 80 percent share of household growth that we expect will be captured by the suburbs in the years to come.”

COVID-19 has only accelerated the market’s shift in demand toward lower-density locations.  Trends like working from home (WFH) have provided residents unprecedented flexibility when deciding where to live. As a result, residents are capitalizing on the lack of a commute while their dollar goes further in terms of living space. An important trend to note as many real estate professionals expect the majority of businesses/companies to permanently implement at least partial WFH policies in the future.


Click here for the ULI Emerging Trends in Real Estate 2021 report

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