American mobility declines, but Atlanta’s still a popular destination

Feb 09, 2018
The share of Americans who move each year has been declining for a long time, according to the government. (Photo, Bob Andres, AJC)

Americans aren’t moving as much as they used to. But, when they do, metro Atlanta remains a prime destination.

Atlanta is near or at the top of the charts as a place that footloose Americans are targeting, according to Penske Truck Rentals and several other companies that track such things.

Many of those newcomers are the kind of young professionals the area needs, said Kate Atwood, executive director of ChooseATL, a marketing initiative of the Metro Atlanta Chamber.

Opendoor, an online service that advertises a simplified process to selling, buying or trading a home, has made it to the metro Atlanta housing market. Atlanta Engel & Völkers real estate advisor Erik Dowdy explains how the technology is changing the home buying process. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

The area’s culture, innovation and quality of life were an increasing draw, she said. “As millennials, now the largest generation on the move, get more familiar with what is happening in Atlanta, we are consistently seeing more of them choosing to call the city home.”

Penske named Atlanta as the No. 1 destination for the eighth year in a row. Atlanta edges out Phoenix and Dallas to top the Penske list.

The Census Bureau tracks American moves. In 2016, metro Atlanta gained the fourth most residents in the nation, adding 90,650 people, according to the bureau.

The bureau has said that the overall mobility rate of Americans is declining.

The reasons are not clear, but the collapse of the housing market after 2007 made it much harder for many people to move, since it often hamstrung their ability to sell their homes.

Still mobility has been declining for decades.

Now, the smaller share of movers are apparently going to fewer places, according to Redfin, a national real estate brokerage. Moreover, the tax changes passed by Congress could accelerate that rush to certain cities.

Among residents of high-tax states, online searches for low-tax destinations have ramped up, Redfin said.

The highest share of people looking for homes in different metro areas came from residents of San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Chicago, Redfin said. And the most popular places researched? Phoenix, Las Vegas, Atlanta and Nashville.

“People leaving coastal hubs in search of affordability has been a consistent trend for the last five years,” said Redfin chief economist Nela Richardson. “Late last year, there was a twist. Many of the popular migration paths that we saw Redfin.com users exploring yielded tax benefits along with increased affordability.”

She calculates that New York resident who moved to Atlanta would save an average of $5,809 in taxes, while the median home price would drop by $161,000.

It is not just affordability — recent changes in the city have made it more attractive, said Roslyn McClure, a Redfin agent in Atlanta.

“My buyers are prioritizing walkability,” she said. “Everyone wants to be in a home where they can walk out their door and be able to access all the cool neighborhoods in the city.”

And, since Atlanta is trying so hard to lure Amazon, it might be worth noting that Seattle has become one of the metros with more people looking to leave than people looking to move in.

Atlanta has been luring people consistently for decades. Of course, some people move out, but more have been moving in.

Migration into an area is generally considered important for economic health, since more people bring more skills as well as more spending money. Still, population growth has its drawbacks. It also means more congestion and more demand on infrastructure and schools.

A wave of new residents often pushes up the prices of apartments and houses, at least until the construction sector can catch up.

Top 10 metro destinations — and the places where the most inquiries come from

1. Sacramento

2. Phoenix

3. Las Vegas

4. San Diego

Atlanta

6. Portland

7. Dallas

8. Nashville

9. Boston

10. Austin

Source: Redfin

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AJC Business reporter Michael E. Kanell keeps you updated on the latest news about jobs, housing and consumer issues in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

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