Survey: Home Affordability Boxes Out Americans Who Dream of Relocating

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Written by Elizabeth Renter
Senior Economist
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Lead Assigning Editor
Fact Checked
Survey: Home Affordability Boxes Out Americans Who Dream of Relocating

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It’s one thing to dream about living in completely new surroundings; it’s another (sometimes costly endeavor) to pack up and move.

About one-fourth (26%) of Americans would prefer to live in a different location type — be it a city, suburb, small town or rural area — and many cite financial reasons as primary obstacles to getting there, according to a NerdWallet survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults conducted online from July 30 to Aug. 1, 2019, by The Harris Poll.

"When it comes to where we live, some are cursed with more options than opportunities — it’s not as simple as packing up and going,” says NerdWallet mortgages expert Holden Lewis. “We long to leave our sleepy suburbs for the exciting city, or we dream of ditching the city for a quiet small town. But moving is expensive — you have your job and a new cost of living to think of, and you're often leaving friends and family behind."

Note: Throughout this report, references to living location, surroundings or area refer to the four location types in the survey — city or metro area, suburb, small town and rural area.

To uncover Americans’ sentiments, the survey didn’t define location types and instead asked respondents where they lived versus where they would like to live based on what they think is a city, suburb, small town or rural area.

Key findings

  • One-fourth are eyeing greener grass. About one-quarter (26%) of Americans are not living in their ideal location type, our survey found.

  • Affordability is the biggest blocker. Of those Americans not living in their ideal location, 45% say it’s because they can’t afford the homes they like in that place.

  • Metro area homes are outside the range of affordability. In close to half of the nation’s 25 most populous metro areas, homes are selling for at least five times the median income for that location, according to NerdWallet’s analysis.

  • Most Americans would make sacrifices to move. Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) of those not living in their ideal location would take action to make a move happen. Among them, some are willing to start working or take on a second job (38%) or give up all leisure travel (28%), the survey found.

  • Renters would forgo homeownership to move. About 6 in 10 (61%) renters not living in their ideal location would rather give up the opportunity to own a home where they currently live if they could rent in the area they prefer.

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