Why the pandemic has Puget Sound residents leaving cities for the suburbs

Jan 23, 2021, 7:10 AM

Over the last year, COVID-19 has had a significant impact on the housing market, both in the Puget Sound region and across the country. One aspect of that is known as “pandemic relocation,” which has seen people working from home leaving city centers behind for the suburbs.

Buying Puget Sound home harder ‘than any time in past 40 years’

According to recently-released U.S. Postal Service data, over 15.9 million people moved between February and July 2020, a nearly 4% increase compared to the same period in 2019. That’s a trend that’s played out in the Puget Sound region as well.

“We’ve certainly already seen that migration away from King County into Snohomish County and also down into Pierce County,” Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner told KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross.

That said, it’s also “not black and white,” Gardner adds.

“It doesn’t mean that everyone is going to leave the city because, in my opinion, the work from home theory, it’s little bit overblown,” he clarified.

Seattle housing market sees ‘massive changes’ in pandemic landscape

By that, Gardner means people in the region aren’t, say, moving from King to Skagit County and extending potential commute times by hours. Rather, they’re more likely moving somewhere slightly further away from their workplaces, but still within a reasonable commuting distance.

“They’re going to stay relatively close, put up with a fairly lousy commute when they have to go into the office, but still move further out,” he described. “So we are seeing that relocation, but it’s not as extensive as some people like to think it is.”

Over time, Gardner expects this trend to lead to “less emphasis on our urban centers and more on the suburbs.”

“You do that, and that’s obviously going to invigorate those markets over time,” he predicted.

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Why the pandemic has Puget Sound residents leaving cities for the suburbs