CoronavirusReal Estate

Will COVID-19 spur a migration from dense cities?

Realtors and demographers say this is an acceleration of a trend already taking place

New York City skyline

When state governments ordered residents to stay at home more than a month ago, it triggered a wave of temporary migration.

“We immediately saw a pickup in our rental market, especially a pickup in our high-end market,” with some renting sight unseen, said Tammy Felenstein, executive director of sales for Halstead Real Estate in Stamford, Conn., close to the New York state border.

Some in the Northeast flocked to Florida. Others, wary of germs easily spreading in high-rise building elevators and through dense city life, rented homes in the suburbs. Still others, particularly young single adults, packed bags and moved back in with their parents. And even for those staying in place – whether in their condo, apartment or house – the isolation made the walls feel closer.

As states plan to reopen their economies, what changes COVID-19 will have on the housing market remain to be seen. Demographers and Realtors alike predict this is a tipping point for people who’ve already been dreaming of backyards, private pools and more space. It will accelerate trends that were already happening, they said, and bring a new level of consideration – whether people upgrade their apartments and condos for larger units or move out of dense cities altogether.

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