Which City’s House Hunters Are On The Move, & Which Are The Most Loyal?

published May 2, 2017
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(Image credit: Eleanor Büsing)

American home buyers are getting itchy feet, especially in some of the nation’s priciest housing markets. That’s according to real estate brokerage Redfin, which found one in five house hunters was searching for a home outside their own metro area in the first quarter of 2017.

In the Bay Area, where the median home price was $709,000 in March (and $1.1 million in San Francisco itself), 19.4% of local Redfin users were looking for a home someplace else — often in relatively more affordable alternatives like Sacramento, Calif., Portland, Ore., Seattle, or Austin, Texas.

(Image credit: Redfin)

In New York, where 23.3% of users exhibited similar wanderlust (or price fatigue), the most commonly searched out-of-town location was the nearby-but-cheaper Philadelphia. Philly was also the most popular alternative for home buyers looking to leave Washington, D.C.

However, folks are looking to leave some lower-cost cities, too. In terms of sheer percentages, Dayton, Ohio (59.8%), Buffalo, N.Y. (29.7%), and Houston (25.4%) were among the metros with the most local users searching for homes elsewhere.

Meanwhile, home seekers were most likely to search locally in the Chicago (92.5%), Boston (91.6%), and Seattle (91%) areas. Redfin suggests these metros have the “most loyal” home buyers. That sounded nice to me, a Boston-area native; perhaps strong local economies, public amenities, or family roots in these areas are helping to retain residents.

(Image credit: Redfin)

But then I turned that statistic on its head a bit: If 92.5% of home searches in Boston are coming from Boston — i.e., not from other places — you could also make the case that no one else wants to move here. After all, homes in Boston are ridiculously expensive, and two winters ago we got beat up by a miserable 100 inches of snow in six weeks. I can see how that might deter even the most footloose newcomers. Seattle’s housing prices are likewise pretty prohibitive, and Chicago, where only 5.9% of home searches originated elsewhere, has even harsher winters than we do.

And that more cynical view actually aligns with another trend confirmed by the Redfin analysis: Americans are still migrating south. While Sacramento saw the highest net inflow of any city studied (largely the result of priced-out Bay Area residents), Sun Belt cities dominated the other net-inflow leaders, including Phoenix, Las Vegas, Dallas, Miami, Tampa, Fla., and Austin.

There’s an interactive feature at the bottom that allows you to compare data for any of the 75 metro areas Redfin studied. So you can look up your own city to see where people are thinking of moving to — and where your new neighbors might be coming from. (Fair warning: If you like maps and data, this is an easy way to squander an afternoon.)