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Why Only 11% of Us Are Moving

Friday, November 17, 2017

By John McManus

Businesses that thrive when American households, in droves, pack up their belongings and move them to another residence are mystified. Why, since the economy has been growing, wealth and household equity have been restored, and the Internet has continued to enable connectivity from nearly anywhere, haven't more people gotten the urge to move?

Here's a look from the Census' Current Population Survey at American mobility, which is falling as a percentage of a growing population.

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You can see here that the absolute number of movers has hovered at an average of around the 35 million mark for 10 years now, spiking up to 37 million or so only a couple of times since the Great Recession. Before 2007, the average was up around 40 million.

However, it's the share of people moving that's been steadily declining, even as economic recovery, and job growth strength traces back almost five years now.

New Strategist Press editorial director Cheryl Russell observes:

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Among people living in owned homes, 5.5% moved from one house to another between 2016 and 2017, above the all-time low of 4.7% recorded in 2011 and 2012. Among people living in rented homes, the mobility rate fell to a new all-time low of 21.7% in 2017.

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That means one of two things. Either people like where they live and choose to stay in their dwellings longer, or they remain in those homes for other reasons. Census data that captures people's “reasons” motivating moves that do take place doesn't shed a lot light.

What the data does seem to signify is of material importance to businesses that sell and rent properties, and to those that remodel them. The 35 million or so people who do move are a more and more valuable customer universe, because they represent a smaller and smaller percentage of the whole. Likewise, the 288 million non-movers, who represent 89% of the United States population, are themselves a critical customer base to understand more about.

Recent remodeling trends data bear out the sense that the opportunity trajectory increases in direct correlation to a combination of economic growth and a decline in mobility rates. Here from Builder sibling title Remodeling is a piece entitled “Remodeling Work Is Speeding Up Nationwide, RRI Finds,” with data from Metrostudy.

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“Big-ticket remodeling activity nationwide rose 1.2% in the third quarter from the second, and 4.8% from 2016's July-to-September period, hitting a new high, according to Metrostudy's latest Residential Remodeling Index (RRI) released today.

“The index rose to an unprecedented 110.0 in the third quarter, meaning that the economic conditions known to influence remodeling activity are 10% better than the old peak in early 2007, just before the Great Recession. The RRI has shown year-over-year gains for 22 consecutive quarters.”

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