Where does the 11 percent of the U.S. population that moves every year go? Moving app Updater reports that Houston was the seventh most popular destination in 2017 for those picking up stakes and heading out of town.
Updater issued its first list of top destinations Monday, although it’s been tracking the information since its inception in 2011.
The top moving destination is Washington D.C., followed by the Dallas-Fort Worth area, Los Angeles, New York City and Atlanta in the top five. Austin came in sixth, and Philadelphia, San Francisco and Chicago came in eighth through tenth, respectively. Rounding out the top 15 are Orlando, Seattle, Denver, Boston and Phoenix.
“These cities are some of the most attractive places to live. They’re huge markets with nice suburbs. You don’t have to live downtown to have a really great lifestyle,” said Jenna Weinerman, chief marketing officer for Updater. “Americans in general are migrating back to metro areas [and] suburban metros are on the rise, pushing the city limits further out.”
The real estate website Trulia reports that suburbs have been gaining population since the recession, albeit more slowly than in past decades. The last U.S. census in 2010 found that nearly 81 percent of Americans — more than 249 million people — live in urban areas.
Updater founder and CEO David Greenberg said the 2017 list represents one of the largest sample sizes of Americans who are actually moving, as opposed to real estate listings, housing trends or the lists compiled by individual moving companies. Updater’s data was collected from a subset of 1 million household goods relocations from Jan. 1 through the fourth quarter. The information is sent to Updater by real estate brokerages, property management companies, mortgage lenders and others, and the company’s software systems aggregate it.
“The list reveals that large cities are very attractive destinations for both consumers that move in and the corporations that attract them,” Greenberg said.
Weinerman said the key to Houston’s popularity is jobs. Up from 14th last year, the Houston metro area's population tops 6.7 million, with Conroe, which is 45 minutes north of Houston, the fastest growing city in the country. Average household income is $61,708 and the median price of a home is $280,000.
The region offers a plethora of jobs in oil, biotech, infotech and aerospace. It also has great museums and parks, she said.
So why did Washington, which also won the top spot last year, come in at No. 1? Chanda Washington of the capital’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development said in an email the city is undergoing “an incredible renaissance — the result of unprecedented investments in our social and public infrastructure and a dogged commitment to our D.C. values.”
She cited diverse neighborhoods, strong schools and access to jobs and cultural amenities as some of the major draws of Washington, D.C., which has a metro population topping 6 million, an average household income of $95,843 and a median home price of $397,000.
Weinerman said Washington also is attractive because “it’s pretty much recession-proof. The government isn’t moving anywhere anytime soon. … It’s a great place to get a job right out of college. There are incredible opportunities and starting salaries.”
Dallas, which Weinerman describes as a “really interesting market,” was ranked fourth last year. With a population of more than 7 million, an average household income of $63,812 and a median home price of $295,000, the Dallas-Fort Worth area is one of the fastest-growing regions in the U.S., according to the Census Bureau. The area also had the fastest rate of job growth so far this year, according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
What’s more, “it’s got really great colleges, great weather and a more calming lifestyle than New York or D.C.,” Weinerman said, adding that although Dallas is always growing, it’s still easier to get around via car than Los Angeles or New York. “Of the top five [cities on the list], it’s the best for driving.”
Mark McDonough, president of Dallas-area real estate agency Better Homes and Gardens Winans, said the Dallas–Fort Worth metro area has “consistently been named as one of the best places to live or move to by publications and media outlets for years now.”
He credited the area’s low cost of living and affordable housing, among other assets.
Los Angeles, which ranked second last year, has the glitz, the glamour and the weather, along with proximity to beaches, great restaurants and a lot of jobs. The metro area population is more than 13 million, average household income is $65,950 and the median price of a home is $463,600, although overall more than half the moves Updater tracked involving California were out of the state.
Evan Filter moved from Philadelphia to Long Beach, about 45 minutes south of Los Angeles, for a job “that I couldn’t refuse, so my wife and I packed up our apartment … and said goodbye to our careers of eight and five years.
“What made the decision easier for us was the fact we would be moving to Southern California,” Filter said. “I think if it were any other part of the country, we may not have done it.” Among the factors that drew Filter and his wife to Long Beach, rather than any of the other Los Angeles suburbs, were housing costs and the fact that Long Beach has “a city vibe to it.”
No. 4-ranked New York, which moved up one spot on the list, “has its own draw,” Weinerman said. “I moved to New York many years ago. I had lived in Philadelphia, Washington and New Jersey. What was left to do but New York? It’s an incredible place to grow and be in your own business. But it’s a tough place to live. It’s at the upper end of the [cost] spectrum.
“To buy a house is nearly impossible [in Manhattan],” Weinerman continued. “And rents are really expensive.”
The metro New York City population is greater than 20 million, household income averages $71,897 and the median home price is $425,000. The region has the biggest public-transportation system in the country, top educational institutions, Wall Street and culture and is a huge hub for big business and tech companies.
Atlanta, which moved from third last year to fifth this year, offers southern hospitality, something Weinerman said people find very attractive. Its job market is also hot: Among the 12 largest metropolitan areas in the U.S., Atlanta ranked second in job-growth rate and third in the number of jobs added so far this year, according to the latest available data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Greenberg, an attorney, developed Updater after discovering — during a particularly aggravating move — that no app existed to help him choose a moving company, change addresses on accounts and other records or arrange for cable, internet, electricity and other utilities. The company currently employs 72 people and said it helps 16 percent of those making a move in any given year with those details. Since the app came online in 2011, the company says it has saved 1 million users 4.7 million hours.