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In Real Estate, 2022 Has Been The Year Of Moving Farther Away – Forbes

For decades, Americans moving into new homes stayed pretty close to where they’d been living. In the 33 years that such records have been kept, the farthest median distance they moved from one house to another was 15 miles.

That changed in a big way this year, to 50 miles, according to the National Association of Realtors annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. For perspective, that’s like going from New York City to Westport, Connecticut, or San Francisco to Santa Rosa.

“People want to be closer to their support networks,” Jessica Lautz, NAR vice president of demographics and behavioral insights, told Forbes. “And of course, we can’t underscore affordability enough and how important that is to home buyers.”

Home buyers, with pandemic lockdowns still foremost on their minds, took advantage of work-from-home rules to move farther away from their previous homes and closer to family and friends, according to the report, released Thursday. Buying to be near loved ones was cited by 13% of buyers as their primary criterion for where they settled down, up from just 5% in 2010. Only the desire to own a home was mentioned more often as the main reason to buy in 2022. The changes in purchasing preferences add up to the biggest and fastest reshuffle in U.S. real estate history.

The report also shows that first-time home buyers made up just 26% of the market, the lowest share since data collection began. The age of those entering the housing market for the first time jumped to 36, while the age for repeat buyers hit 59. Both are the highest ages ever recorded.

First-time buyers skewed the trend of moving farther away. If 50 miles sounds like a big leap, that’s nothing compared to how far repeat buyers were willing to go. Take first-time buyers out of the equation, and the median distance jumped to 90 miles. That’s like New York to New Haven, Connecticut, or San Francisco to Sacramento. The previous high for that measure, set in 2021, was just 20 miles.

As a result, only about half the homes purchased this year have been in or near cities. From 2017 through 2021, those areas routinely claimed a 65% market share.

The biggest uptick was seen in small towns, where 29% of all purchases occurred. That’s nine percentage points higher than what it was just last year.

That created a ripple effect for longtime small-town residents, who saw home prices rise, Lautz said.

“For people who have always lived in small towns, it’s absolutely impacting their ability to enter the market,” Lautz told Forbes.

Whether long-distance moves are the new norm or just a reaction to being cooped up during lockdowns is still being settled.

Lautz said she’s heard the stories of regret from those who’ve traded the bright lights for one-stoplight towns.

“We’re hearing a lot of stories about people who don’t like the small towns or suburbs that they moved to,” she said.

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