The great pandemic migration has resulted in a lot of regrets and tears

2022 was a year that saw massive change. Americans spent two years wading, somewhat aimlessly, through pandemic lockdowns with no real idea of what life would look like on the other side. They responded en masse by changing major aspects of their lives, including how they work and where they live.

Millions of people packed up and left densely populated cities, or simply sought a change in scenery and lifestyle. And while many people didn’t move far75% of Americans have regrets about their move, according to a survey from real estate brokerage firm Home Bay. It polled 1,000 Americans about their experience moving within the past year.

While most Americans reported approaching their moves during the pandemic with positive emotions, more than 40% say they cried during the moving process. Two of the most common regrets people had were wishing they moved into a bigger home (20%) and simply missing their old home (20%). The hassle of moving and the cost of it were also both high up on the regret list.

The pandemic gave people more than enough time and reasons to analyze their priorities. Those who moved predominantly did so for a better quality of life—24%, Home Bay found. Lots of people also fled costly, heavily populated cities—23% of survey respondents moved for a lower cost of living and home prices.

A quarter of Americans in Home Bay’s survey reported leaving major cities for the suburbs. Upsizing was the next biggest reason people decided to move, followed by the flexibility remote work provided and being closer to friends and family.

The survey found, however, that despite where they moved, by and large Americans prefer to live in cities over suburbs and rural areas (40%). Only 29% of Americans stated they would choose to live in the suburbs, and 31% said they’d choose to live in a rural town if money were no object.

That, of course, is never the case. Roughly 43 million families across the country currently live in apartments—the highest level in half a century, according to a report from apartment search site RentCafe. Included in that historic number of renters is a record-high number of millionaire renter households: 3,381, a number that tripled from 2015 to 2020.

Record inflation has made both living in cities and owning homes more difficult. According to Home Bay, more than one-third of Americans who moved in the last year remained renters. And 51% of Americans said they don’t think it’s a good time to buy a home.

People have regrets about a lot of aspects when it comes to moving over the past year-plus, and considering a lot of people moved in reaction to pandemic ripple effects, it makes sense. As the cost of living stays high, and as some of the dust settles from the pandemic, the big question Home Bay posits is: How will Americans re-evaluate where and how they live in 2023?

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