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Moving out: More Americans looking to leave big cities

Posted at 5:23 PM, Jun 19, 2020

After living in California’s Bay Area for eight years, Andrew Sanchez moved his family to Hawaii’s countryside

“There are those obstacles,” he said of living in a metropolitan area. “There’s incredible amounts of traffic, pollution, crime. You know, serious things.”

Sanchez and his wife are both teachers and wanted to save money and live a slower pace of life with their children. They say those were big factors in moving out of the big city.

“We wanted to have an opportunity to spend more time with them and we wanted to make the right steps to watch them the best life they could,” Sanchez said.

Now more people are looking to do what the Sanchez family did -- leave the big city for a smaller suburb.

“It’s not surprising given the pandemic we are experiencing,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors.

He says due in part to the COVID-19 crisis and more companies allowing employees to work from home, there’s an exodus from downtown areas across the country.

“People will say, ‘Why am I living so close job center when I can have perhaps a better affordability -- housing affordability out in the suburbs,” Yun said.

According to a recent Harris Poll survey, nearly one-third of Americans are considering moving to a less densely populated area because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Yun says this could impact the real estate market.

“Before the pandemic, there was a housing shortage,” he said. “We knew that homebuilders needed to build significantly more to fully satisfy the demand.”

Looking to help to meet that demand is housing developer Brain Levitt.

“People are coming to Colorado because of lifestyle choice,” he said.

Levitt is the president of Nava Real Estate Development. His company recently finished a 196-unit development called Lakehouse area outside of downtown Denver.

He says a third of buyers are from out of the of area.

“What we are finding, just because the cost of living or maybe new job opportunities or even just the lifestyle -- getting out of the city and getting to a place where you can work and play, it just seems like it’s attracting a lot of people,” Levitt said.

That attraction of living away from a big city, however, does come at a cost.

“It really required me to check my entitlements,” Sanchez said.

Back in Hawaii, Sanchez said his family did have to give up several amenities when moving out of a big city.

In the end, however, it was well worth it.

“My kids are safe,” Sanchez said. “And you can’t put a price tag on that.”