woman texting on cell phone, surrounded by moving boxes

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Time to Get Moving

A resistance to change is keeping some consumers from finding homes they can afford.

March - April
2020

There’s no such thing as lifetime employment in America. People change jobs. Businesses are created and destroyed. New technology, more efficient ways of doing things, changes in consumer taste—these are the stuff of life.

Even with the current unemployment rate at 3.5%, a 50-year low, about 5.6 million workers stopped working for their latest employer last December alone. Some were fired or let go, while others left in the hope of moving on to something better. In fact, during the same month, 5.8 million workers started with a new employer. The 200,000 difference, in this example, is what’s reported as the headline for monthly net job creation. Miraculously, this thin margin between job gains and job losses has been consistently positive over the past decade, which is the reason for the cumulative gain of 20 million net new jobs since the Great Recession.

Despite the apparent dynamism in the job market, people are not likely to change their current residence. The mobility rate is at a historic low of 9.8% annually. By comparison, 20% of Americans moved to a different home in any given year throughout the 1950s and 1960s.

One reason people are staying put is the upsurge in two-earner households, which complicates relocations. Still, Americans should get moving again. Behavioral studies suggest that leaving one’s comfort zone may help people do better economically and enjoy life more fully. I’d like to see a boost in people’s standard of living not from a 3% pay raise but in a bigger way. If people move from expensive regions of the country to more affordable ones, their opportunity to own a home increases greatly.

Some consumers have gotten the message. That’s why metro areas like Austin, Denver, and Nashville have been booming as residents from higher-cost areas arrive. But these same cities are seeing slower job gains as they become less affordable. An adequate supply of new homes is needed to accommodate the new population. Clients looking for a bigger bang for their housing dollar should consider Charlotte, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; Columbus, Ohio; or Las Vegas. It’s time to end the inertia.

Lawrence Yun
Chief Economist and Senior Vice President of Research at the National Association of REALTORS®

Yun oversees and is responsible for a wide range of research activity for the association including NAR’s Existing Home Sales statistics, Affordability Index, and Home Buyers and Sellers Profile Report. He regularly provides commentary on real estate market trends for its 1.3 million REALTOR® members.

Dr. Yun creates NAR’s forecasts and participates in many economic forecasting panels, among them the Blue Chip Council and the Wall Street Journal Forecasting Survey. He also participates in the Industrial Economists Discussion Group at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University. He appears regularly on financial news outlets, is a frequent speaker at real estate conferences throughout the United States, and has testified before Congress. Dr. Yun has appeared as a guest on CSPAN’s Washington Journal and is a regular guest columnist on the Forbes website and The Hill, an “inside the beltway” publication on public affairs.

Dr. Yun received his undergraduate degree from Purdue University and earned his Ph.D. from the University of Maryland at College Park.

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