There's some new research that sheds light on why real estate consumers pick up and move. Not surprisingly, most do so to better their lives. According to Relocation.com, the a leading online consumer resource for moving services, 50 percent of people who recently moved did so to improve their living situation, whether to move into a bigger home or move to a better neighborhood. The results of Relocation.com's most recent survey, conducted in June, is a dramatic reversal from a similar Relocation.com survey in March 2009 that found the recession played a much larger role in the decision to move.
As the primary reason for moving, No. 1 on the list was to live in a bigger/better home (26 percent), followed by living in a better neighborhood or area (24 percent); to be closer to family/friends (12 percent); living in an area with a lower cost of living (9 percent); or a move that was sparked by a change in marital status (6 percent). Moving because of school, job loss, retirement or foreclosure each garnered 3 percent or less.
The change between the March and July surveys point to evidence that consumer attitudes are shifting. With more people taking advantage of favorable real estate deals and falling rents, even as the recession continues to pinch most Americans, they are demonstrating a boost in consumer confidence.
“Even in the midst of the toughest economy in years, people who are moving are still motivated by the same things that motivated them in the past: to make a better life,” said Sharon Asher, founder and chairman of Relocation.com. "Despite the drumbeat of bad news, our survey indicates that consumers are starting to return to actively making positive moving choices, and fewer reactive moves due to the down economy.” While finances still factor into the moving decisions, fewer people were feeling the need to move due to job losses, foreclosures or downsizing to cut costs. The people who looked to improve their living situation were a mix of those buying a home or renting that were seeking to take advantage of lower rents and home prices to move smart.
“We did get a much better price on our house due to the recession,” said Mari Boor Tonn, a survey respondent who purchased a home. "[The house] sat on the market for a long time. We were able to purchase it for well below appraised value.” Government incentives to buy a home, coupled with market forces lowering housing prices, have helped boost home sales in recent months.
The overall slowing of demand for housing has also produced lower rents in many major metropolitan areas, benefitting renters. Of the people who indicated they were looking to improve their housing situation in the survey, 54 percent were renters who moved into a new rental.
Nearly 42 percent were people buying a home or planning to buy one: either renters who became homeowners (15 percent), homeowners who moved to a new home (16 percent), or homeowners who moved into a temporary rental as they continued their search for a home to buy (11 percent).
A similar survey in March found that people were more likely to list symptoms of the economic downturn as reasons for their move: 41 percent said that the recession had a moderate to strong influence on their decision to move.
Family reasons also played a larger role in the earlier survey: 23 percent said their primary motivation was moving closer to family or friends, while 13 percent cited looking for work or starting a new job. Only 14 percent listed moving to a bigger home or moving to a better neighborhood as a reason for their move.
The March survey also found that people were more likely to move long distances - 60 percent said their move was between 800 and 3,000 miles. Respondents in the July survey were much more likely to move shorter distances - only 31 percent made a move greater than 800 miles - further indicating that "trading up" in their current community for a more favorable living situation was more of a motivation than the poor economy.
[Editor's Note: Relocation.com is focused on helping make the relocation process easier and less challenging for the 40 million people moving each year. For more analysis on this survey, go to: www.relocation.com/blog/relocationcom-survey-more-make-moves-for-the-better.]