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Many Regret Moving Out of the SF Bay Area, What Happens Next?

This year’s pandemic has caused many people to consider moving out of cities and into suburbs or even more rural areas. In just San Francisco alone, residents have hastily gathered their belongings and rushed out of the city in the hopes of the grass being much greener on the other side of the hustle and bustle that comes with an urban lifestyle. 

While it’s alarming to live in a city during a pandemic, many who do choose to leave out of panic end up returning to urban areas once the panic has settled down. In this article, we look at where people are moving to, whether or not they regret it, and if it’s likely they will eventually move back to the San Francisco Bay Area. 

What Are the Migrating Patterns?

As of the 1st of July, real estate reports for the SF Bay Area have revealed that rent for one-bedroom homes has dropped by a surprising 11.8% as people leave in search for new employment opportunities. 

With the added bonus of the new work-from-home opportunities that have emerged in response to COVID-19, countless residents have chosen to move to more affordable housing opportunities outside of the city despite the drop in rental costs. 

Families, in particular, are already more inclined to move away from cities as their families grow. With the added threat of the pandemic, families are moving even more quickly to less crowded locations, where they have space for their children to play and grow.

This may explain the drop in one-bedroom homes, as realtors seek to encourage new, young adults to move into the city. Young, tech-savvy people are more likely to embrace the pace of the city life, while also being at less of a risk for complications with the coronavirus, making them more willing to move into the cities.

It’s not surprising, then, that the biggest areas for people to move to the SF Bay Area from include similar, large tech cities. Many people move from other parts of California, as to be expected, but many still end up moving to San Francisco from out of state. The top states are New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida, Washington, Georgia, and Texas.

Where Are They Moving to?

For the people who end up leaving San Francisco, where are they going? Many migrants end up moving completely out of state, with most moving to the same states that people are migrating from. New York City, Seattle, and Brooklyn are the most popular cities outside of California for people to move to when leaving SF. 

Many also choose to find a home in other California cities, where the scene most closely resembles the area they left. While the number one city in the US for San Franciscans to move to is Colorado, Portland, New York City, Los Angeles, etc. It is likely that this year’s pandemic has heavily influenced where people are moving to in 2020. New York City, for instance, is probably not as popular of a choice for San Franciscans to migrate to, as it was originally the epicenter of the pandemic within the US. 

Do People Regret Moving? A Look into Real-Life Stories

Some residents avidly stand by their decisions to move, claiming that leaving the city was the best decision of their lives. Wendy Silverstein, for example, says it was surprisingly refreshing for her family to leave their home in New York City. For 30 years, Silverstein fondly resided in the busy city, but when COVID-19 affected hundreds of thousands of New York residents, they made the decision to move over 2 hours away, to a small town north of the city. Now that they’ve been out of the city for a few months, they can’t imagine going back. 

Others who have left the big cities aren’t settling into their new homes as much as they initially thought they would. Going from fast to slower-paced living can feel like a cultural shock to those who have lived in cities most of their lives. For Maureen Cross, who gave up her small rental apartment to move to a bigger home in a small town, she quickly became unimpressed with the lack of diversity and activities. It wasn’t long before she moved right back to the city, where she found a home with a backyard to give her more space without having to compromise on location.

Then, there are people like Jenn, who left the big city to move to the suburbs with her husband and children. Though she intensely misses their former city life, Jenn has decided to stay put for her husband and kids, who are enjoying living in the suburbs. 

Returning to the City

Jenn isn’t alone. There are quite a few reasons why San Francisco will eventually see people returning. One reason is that many former SF residents have been displaced in response to COVID-19. Though they left in droves, with moving trucks and trailers lining the roads during the start of the pandemic, it is likely that a portion of migrants will return once the economy improves. 

Another reason people might start returning to the cosmopolis is because their remote work is a temporary solution for some companies. Those who were able to leave and work remotely might have to make their ways back into the city once the virus eventually becomes less of a threat. And, of course once COVID-19 dies down, city-life will begin to appeal to many who are homesick for their culturally-rich ex city.

What the Future Holds

In the midst of scary times, people will always panic and over-react, often fleeing to seemingly greener pastures. While some permanently move out of San Francisco, never looking back, many do end up regretting their rash decisions, opting to return to the urban areas in which they once called home. 

In the future, expect to see a swing-back as former residents cautiously seek the familiar hustle and bustle of their former city lives. 

What to do if you want to return to the SF Bay Area?

The good news is that if you’ve moved away and now you decide you want to return, you may be able to negotiate a longer contract with your landlord. Many landlords are struggling to fill the vacancy and they are actually losing out on rent each month that their unit is empty. Some are offering months of free rent or rent credits. If you do sign a longer lease, you can enjoy low rent for the next 2-3 years.

Don’t know where to start? Contact our Property Manager for a free consultation. pm@thecalagents.com

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Lex Shan

Lex is a real estate broker, real estate developer, entrepreneur and technologist. He has started an architectural design firm, real estate development private equity fund and California's largest real estate 3D marketing company.

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