Homebuyers looking to leave hearts (and homes) in San Francisco, Redfin data show

Los Angeles and New York also top the relocation list as remote work leads to more movement nationwide

San Francisco /
Dec.December 01, 2021 07:00 AM
Despite all the talk about the onslaught of tech workers moving to Austin, San Francisco residents moving out of state were most likely to look in Seattle. (Getty)
Despite all the talk about the onslaught of tech workers moving to Austin, San Francisco residents moving out of state were most likely to look in Seattle. (Getty)

San Francisco has more homebuyers looking to leave the area than any other metro in the country as remote work sets off a national game of musical chairs in the most-expensive urban markets.

Nationwide, about 30% of buyers were looking to relocate in the third quarter of 2021, according to Redfin data gleaned from searches by about 2 million of its users. That is down from the peak of 31.5% in the first quarter of this year but still higher than before the pandemic, when the rate was around 25%.

Nearly 32,000 more Redfin users were looking to leave San Francisco than move there in October of 2021, about 6,000 higher than at the same time one year ago. However, Redfin data shows that San Franciscans are also searching more within the city than they were a year ago, so the portion of local users searching elsewhere actually dropped slightly year over year—to 22.4% in 2021 from 23.6% in 2020.

“Dense, expensive cities often experience the biggest exodus of residents—a trend that has intensified during the pandemic as more Americans have been able to move to more affordable places thanks to remote work,” according to the Redfin report.

Second-place Los Angeles had a net search rate outside the city of more than 26,000 homebuyers in October 2021, up 10,000 from one year earlier. The city’s percentage of local homebuyers searching elsewhere was also up to 19.2% in 2021 from 17.8% in 2020.

New York City had the highest percentage of locals looking to move out in October 2021 at just over 26 percent, and had a net rate of 17,000 homebuyers searching outside the city; it also had the highest percentage one year ago when nearly 35 percent of local homebuyers were looking elsewhere. Denver and Detroit also had more than a quarter of homebuyers looking to relocate in October 2021, though the net rate of buyers was much smaller—fewer than 2,000 more were looking to leave than come in in both markets.

In all markets where homebuyers are most interested in relocating, they were inclined to move somewhere nearby and less expensive. San Francisco buyers’ top destination was Sacramento, contributing to the 41 percent of searchers from outside the state capitol looking to buy there in October 2021, down from almost 50 percent one year ago. Despite all the talk about the onslaught of tech workers moving to Austin, San Francisco residents moving out of state were most likely to look in Seattle.

Price increases in Seattle may be contributing to the 9,000 looking to leave in 2021 versus only 1,100 in 2020. Those searching outside Seattle are primarily targeting Los Angeles but also represent the biggest out-of-state interest in Sacramento.

While Seattleites arrive, Angelenos are primarily considering San Diego and Phoenix, but are also the top out-of-market online shoppers in Las Vegas and Dallas. New Yorkers are most interested in moving to Philadelphia, though there is a growing interest in Miami and Atlanta. New Yorkers make up the biggest percentage of out-of-market shoppers in both those Southern markets and Miami in particular has shot up in interest with nearly 7,000 in net homebuyer interest from outside in 2021—the most in the country—versus about 2,200 in 2020.

Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather said in the report that with remote work becoming permanent in many places, the listing site is expecting to see an ongoing interest in relocating nationwide. But with those who moved from more expensive locations earlier in the pandemic already pushing up housing prices in their newly adopted cities, she said, “what will likely change are the places people choose to relocate to.”

“Popular Sunbelt migration destinations including Phoenix, Atlanta and Austin will probably fall out of favor as skyrocketing home prices have rendered them less affordable,” she said. “Northern cities like Columbus, Harrisburg and Indianapolis will likely rise in popularity as homebuyers seek better bang for their buck.”





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