At the onset of the pandemic, city dwellers in large metropolises fled their homes to hunker down in the suburbs or at their more spacious vacation homes. This trend was most pronounced in New York City where 5% of the population vacated to move elsewhere. Check out our article on the economic impact on NYC businesses as one of the major effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Watching people pack up their cars was a common sight during most of March and April and only continued to increase in the following months. The pandemic created renewed interest for less populated areas as entertainment avenues (that gave big cities their allure) remain shut for the foreseeable future.
From college students to urban dwellers, the change in addresses created an exponential rise in demand for moving services. Overworked movers were faced with the challenge of meeting the physical demands of the job while social distancing. Eventually, many businesses could barely manage the capacity of requests and were forced to turn down jobs.
Movers become an essential service
With a second wave of the pandemic in sight, the debate over school reopening has left many families to consider a permanent move to the suburbs. This is buttressed by the notion that many jobs will stay remote well into the next year. Some tech companies have also made remote work a permanent option.
This urban exile has created a substantial demand for moving businesses that find themselves inundated with requests. An NYC-based company, Oz Moving, saw a 30% increase in requests in a year-over-year comparison. Booked to maximum capacity, the company was forced to turn down jobs for the first time in its 27-year history.
The situation was not uncommon among other moving companies. Matt Jahn of Brooklyn-based Metropolis Moving said that the company usually braced for a slow summer season and would spend more on advertising during this period. But this year, the company saw exceptional demand for its services with zero dollars spent on advertising.
At the outbreak of the pandemic, moving companies, like many other businesses found themselves questioning their future. While restaurants and other entertainment avenues were deemed non-essential businesses, the sheer volume of relocations in NYC led Governor Andrew Cuomo to announce that movers were considered an essential service.
Moving businesses saw one of their busiest summers in history and many believe the outflux of urban-dwellers is likely to continue through the fall. Oz Moving even introduced an absentee moving service where movers can pack up the goods when the residents are not in their apartments. This has become one of their most popular services.
Will life return to the cities again?
The heightened interest in swapping big city life for one in the suburbs has left many wondering about the future of big cities. Between the months of May and July, there was a 95% increase in the number of people who are interested in moving out Manhattan along with a 19% interest in states across the U.S.
However, it’s worth noting that the phenomenon of moving from the city to the suburbs is more concentrated among wealthy people. Research shows that a majority of the people who left NYC lived in the city’s richest zip codes like Manhattan. Experts believe that once life resumes in the city, these people are likely to make the move back home.
The notion that drones off people have made the permanent shift to less populated cities or counties may also be skewed. In some instances, the move to other states may be part of normal attrition. With high rents and small apartments, many people may choose to move to a different city for their family or career. The pandemic may have accelerated their timeline by a few months.
According to Lindsay Barton Barrett, a real estate broker at Douglas Elliman, people selling homes and leaving the city is a normal part of the real estate cycle. Moreover, home investments were on hold for a couple of months as in-person showings were temporarily suspended. Barnett also says that the outflux of residents is short-term and many have plans to return.
Moving companies can attest to this reasoning because while moving services saw a spike in demand, storage service requests increased as well. Hence, it’s safe to say that while life in big cities may be on hold for foreseeable future, in hindsight, it may not be like this forever. Once cases subside and the panic dies down, NYC will find its soul once again. After all the city was built on community and diversity.