The Great Relocation: 2/3 of Americans moved during COVID-19 pandemic

Key Findings

  • 1 67% of Americans moved between March 2020 and October 2021
  • 2 37% of Americans moved into homes with more square footage
  • 3 76% of 18-34 year olds moved during pandemic
  • 4 For 39% of Americans, their move was motivated by working remotely
  • 5 33% of those who moved into smaller homes did so due to financial hardships

Government-ordered lockdowns and concerns about COVID-19 have led most Americans to spend much more time at home than they did pre-pandemic.

This is just one reason why the majority of Americans moved during the pandemic, according to a new survey.

The survey, conducted in November, found that 67% of Americans moved out of their homes between March 2020 and October 2021. 

We also found that side effects of the pandemic, such as working remotely or financial losses, influenced the type of dwellings Americans relocated to. 

Nearly 4 in 10 Americans upgraded to larger homes

Thirty-three percent of Americans stayed put during the pandemic, and didn’t relocate to new dwellings. The rest of the nation, however, was on the move.

For real estate agents across the country who helped Americans relocate during the pandemic, these shifts were not entirely shocking.

“The clients I worked with who relocated had various reasons for their moves, but they all come back to one thing – the pandemic changed everyone’s lives,” says Rogers Healy, owner and CEO of Rogers Healy & Associates Real Estate. 

From families that needed larger homes to accommodate office and classroom space to remote workers who traded congested cities for sprawling suburbs, “The pandemic changed our habits and needs,” Healy says. “As people realized this was going to be the new normal, it became necessary to find permanent fixes. For many people, the home that once fulfilled their needs no longer worked for the new 24/7 stay-at-home lifestyle.” 

The need for more space appears to be the biggest driving factor for moving during the pandemic. Thirty-seven percent of Americans moved into larger homes with more square footage between March 2020 and October 2021. 

Meanwhile, 9% of Americans moved into a different home with similar square footage as their previous residence. Eight percent moved in with family members. Seven percent are living a nomadic lifestyle with no permanent residence, and six percent downsized to a smaller home. 

3 in 4 young adults made moves during pandemic

To understand what was driving this mass migration within the last year and a half, it’s helpful to look at who was relocating. 

Seventy-six percent of Americans ages 18-34 changed residences between March 2020 and October 2021, as did 69% of 35-54 year-olds. 

For 41% of both 18-34 year-olds and 35-54 year-olds, the lure of a larger home, particularly among those working remotely, was too strong to pass up. 

However, Gen Zers and Millennials were slightly more likely than Gen Xers to swap a permanent residence for a nomadic lifestyle, by a rate of 10% to 6%. Ten percent of younger adults moved in with family members, as did 8% of people 35-54.

For Americans 55 and older, the opposite is true – 66% of these individuals stayed put during the pandemic. Among the 34% who did move, 24% say financial hardship forced their relocation, while 22% cited a divorce or separation from their partner as the impetus for their move.

Remote work biggest motivation for moving

Remote work, one of the defining aspects of the pandemic, is the primary reason 39% of Americans moved to a new home.

Real estate agents throughout the U.S. saw this need firsthand, as buyers sought homes that could double as offices.

“With multiple people in the home working remotely and learning virtually, many families found a need for more private spaces,” real estate agent Lisa Lewis, of Ebby Halliday Realtors, says. “Open concept homes do not provide the separation of needed workspace. At the same time, people were longing for more elbow room.”

Freed from the tethers of commutes to permanent work and school locations, it also became possible for Americans to switch up the city or state in which they live. Twenty-five percent of respondents say their move was motivated by wanting to live in a different location.  

New Hampshire-based real estate agent Chelsea Donahue says many of her clients during the pandemic came from cities like Boston and New York.

“Most buyers were looking to get out of their smaller places in the city, and move to homes where they would be comfortable not only working from home, but spending a lot of their free time,” Donahue says. “People were driven by a desire for more rooms and more land for outdoor activities.”

Remote work is also making it easier for Americans to abandon a permanent residence altogether. Thirty-eight percent of respondents who are living a nomadic lifestyle say the ability to work remotely is the primary motivation behind their move.

1/3 of Americans who downsized cite financial hardships as primary reason

On the flip side, financial woes caused or exacerbated by the pandemic forced many Americans to downsize or give up their own homes entirely.

For 21% of Americans who moved, their primary reason was financial hardship, another common side effect of the pandemic. 

Among respondents who moved into a smaller home during the pandemic, 33% cited financial hardships. 

This was also the top reason for moving for Americans who moved with family members (30%), and people who are living a nomadic lifestyle with no permanent residence (44%).

3 in 4 Americans who moved rented storage unit space during relocation

These pandemic moves were a boon for rental storage unit companies, with 78% of those who moved saying they rented storage unit space.

The majority of those individuals, 60%, only needed storage unit space temporarily, during the move itself. However, 40% are using their storage units on an ongoing basis.

Individuals who moved in with family are most likely to have ongoing storage unit needs. Fifty-three percent of these respondents are renting storage unit space on an ongoing basis, followed by 49% of individuals who downsized, and 42% who are living in a similar-sized home.  

The top items that people are keeping in their storage units include furniture (74%), clothing (64%), appliances/electronics (59%), books and media (55%), and seasonal items (55%).

The pandemic changed many things about how Americans live, including where they live. For some, working remotely or moving to a different area gave them a chance to upgrade to a bigger home, or live a nomadic lifestyle.

Meanwhile, others had to downsize or move in with family due to financial hardships. But ultimately, the winners may be the storage unit owners playing host to belongings during the transitional phases in Americans’ lives.


All data found within this report derives from a survey commissioned by, and conducted online by survey platform Pollfish. In total, 1,250 American adults were surveyed. This survey was conducted on November 10, 2021. All respondents were asked to answer all questions truthfully and to the best of their abilities. Survey respondents were not asked if their moves were temporary or permanent, only if their living arrangements between March 2020 and October 2021 included a move to a different residence. 

Survey results

Full survey results also available on

Q1. Between March 2020 and October 2021, which of the following best describes your living arrangements?

  • Did not move to a different residence: 33%
  • Moved to a larger home (more square footage): 37%
  • Downsized to a smaller home (less square footage): 6%
  • Moved to a home with similar square footage as previous home: 9%
  • Moved in with family (parents, grandparents, siblings, etc.): 8%
  • Living a nomadic lifestyle with no permanent residence: 7%

Q2. What was the primary reason for your move?

  • Financial hardship: 21%
  • Working remotely: 39%
  • Divorce/separation from partner: 6%
  • Relocated to a different city or state: 25%
  • Other: 9%

Q3. Prior to your move, did you rent storage unit space in a storage rental facility?

  • Yes: 78%
  • No: 22%

Q4. As a result of your move, did you rent storage unit space in a storage rental facility?

  • Yes: 78%
  • No: 22%

Q5. What were your storage unit needs?

  • Temporary: 60%
  • Ongoing: 40%

Q6. What are you storing in your storage unit? Please select all that apply.

  • Furniture: 74%
  • Clothing: 64%
  • Motorized vehicles: 45%
  • Bikes/exercise equipment: 48%
  • Appliances/electronics: 59%
  • Books/media: 55%
  • Seasonal items: 55%
  • Antiques/family heirlooms: 38%
  • Other: 5%

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