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Moving Trends: Home Buyers Are Moving Farther Than Ever

Moving truck on road.
matsou / Getty

Home buyers moved a median distance of 50 miles from their previous residences in the year period ending in June 2022, according to a new survey from the National Association of Realtors. That’s the highest year on record in data going back 33 years — up from a previous high was just 15 miles.

This increase in moving distance was almost entirely driven by repeat buyers. First-time buyers moved a median of 15 miles away, while the median distance for repeat buyers jumped to a whopping 90 miles.

So why are Americans suddenly moving so far when they purchase a new home? A lot of the answer has to do with remote work, and companies solidifying their in-office requirements. 

Remote work becomes more permanent

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic launched the country into a mass work-from-home experiment. Researchers estimate that remote work accounted for about 5% of work hours before March 2020; the number jumped to 50% for the rest of the year. 

But it was an open question how remote work policies would adapt once pandemic restrictions eased. In 2022, companies started to clarify their new requirements. 

“For many, remote work decisions were formalized in the last year, providing clarity for employees to permanently move to more distant areas,” says Jessica Lautz, NAR’s vice president of demographics and behavioral insights.

For example, Amazon recently announced that it would allow employees to continue working remotely indefinitely, as long as they can “easily travel to the office for a meeting within a day’s notice.”

Housing costs on the rise

Between soaring interest rates and steep asking prices, home buyers have been forced to look further in their search for affordable housing. According to, home buyers are paying 77% more on their monthly loan than they would have a year ago. 

RealtyHop’s December 2022 Housing Affordability Index found that 75 of the largest 100 cities in the U.S. are not considered “affordable” — that is, requiring more than 30% of local median household income to pay the mortgage. That leaves many buyers looking to more remote areas for a house they can afford. 

“For buyers with flexibility, relocating to a lower-priced market could help offset higher mortgage costs,” says Danielle Hale, chief economist for “There’s also a takeaway for sellers in these areas: On a well-priced home, you could still see strong interest from these out-of-towners.”

In the third quarter of 2022, 61% of searches on were for homes outside of the buyer’s metro area, an increase from previous quarters. 

Many buyers opted for smaller communities

American moving patterns have followed a familiar path for decades: first-time home buyers typically look to the suburbs when they’re ready to buy. This year, buyers had to expand their search to more rural areas to find houses that would fit into their budget.

According to the NAR report, 48% of home purchases were in small towns and rural areas. That’s the highest percentage on record going back to 2003 and a sharp increase from the 32% in the previous year. 

While 51% of moves were to the suburbs last year, that number was down to just 39% in 2022. Moves to urban areas also decreased from 13% to 10%. 

New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. all had more people leave than move to their metro areas, although each of them lost fewer people than the previous year. Cities like Charlotte, Atlanta, Austin, and Las Vegas also saw positive population growth, but it slowed compared to the previous pandemic years.

Safety and family impacted moving decisions, too 

No matter where home buyers moved, the quality of the neighborhood was always listed as the top priority in the NAR survey, with nearly half of respondents saying it factored into their decision. After that, “convenient to family and friends” was most important, with 37% of movers listing it as a factor in their neighborhood choice.

“Family support systems still prevailed as a motivating factor when moving and in neighborhood choice,” Lautz says. 

Other top factors that buyers were weighing included affordability, convenience to job, and the availability of larger lots. 

The bottom line

Over the past year, a perfect storm of rising interest rates, low housing inventory, and more flexible work options have led buyers to move further than ever before to find a house that fits their budget. As we head into 2023, we’ll keep on eye on how these moving trends progress, and track any ripple effects from these new migration patterns. 

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