2. Where people are moving (and aren't)
A "swarm to warm" migration pattern has taken over America during the pandemic, with people (by and large) fleeing urban centers in the North in favor of greener (and less congested) pastures in the South.
- Sun Belt dwellers are more likely than others to stay put.
- People from early COVID hotspots have been moving — Seattle residents to Phoenix, for example, and New Yorkers to Miami and Tampa — only to see some of their new hometowns become hotspots.
How it works: Geospatial analytics company Orbital Insight used pings from people's cellphones (c0llected anonymously, with the owners' permission) to track where people were primarily using their cellphones before and after the pandemic began. The data sample size used to detect the migration patterns described in the chart above was 3,771,338.
- "We're looking at persistent moves right now, not somebody that goes away for a weekend," James Crawford, CEO and founder of Orbital Insight, tells Axios. "We're looking at a cellphone that was almost always here and now it's almost always there."
Among the other trends: Migration from places with very high tax rates to places with lower rates, less density and a sigh-of-relief cost of living.
- Also: "Migration from every state that touches a Great Lake down to Florida, Texas, California," says Matt Larriva, VP of research and data analytics at FCP, a privately held national real estate investment company (which commissioned the study from Orbital Insight).
For FCP, which primarily invests in moderate-income residential housing, the findings confirmed their decision to focus on the Sun Belt and helped pinpoint target areas for a West Coast expansion.
- The results have "also made us more tentative when we invest in places like Philadelphia. We might still look at deals there, but we might require a bit higher return," Larriva told me.
Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has definitely noticed the influx of new residents. "They're crossing our border every day," she told me on the phone this week. "Because it really is a great place. You know, the quality of life, the cost of living — everything about it is just absolutely wonderful."
The intrigue: There are other migration dynamics at work besides long-haul interstate moves.
- People in urban areas are selling their homes and moving to more pastoral locations nearby, typically offering the property's list price (or above) and still finding themselves outbid.
- In New England, buyers are selling their homes in the southern tier (Connecticut and Rhode Island) and coming up to Massachusetts, Maine and New Hampshire flush with cash, Mike Keeler, regional VP of Coldwell Banker Realty, told me.
Coldwell Banker has tracked all the "new listings" and "under agreements" in the Multiple Listing Service weekly since the pandemic began in March. In Massachusetts, for example, 2,600 residential properties went "under agreement" last week, compared with 2,300 in 2019, Keeler said. (The numbers in New Hampshire, where Keeler lives, were 466 last week vs. 300 in 2019.)
- "I was talking to a broker last week, and he said he's working with three buyers who are moving out of Baltimore and moving to New Hampshire. He's never worked with three buyers from Baltimore" simultaneously before, Keeler said.
- "Who would have thought that a worldwide pandemic would create the hottest real estate market that we've ever seen?" Keeler said, sounding amazed.