Americans Say They Can’t Afford to Move — And Can’t Afford to Stay

New survey on real estate from The Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice shows people considering drastic moves to solve housing market dilemma

Source: Harris Poll

– Americans want to be homeowners, but feel they can’t afford to buy — most agree “the American dream of owning a home is dead.” But they also feel that they can’t afford to stay where they are — and their solutions could change the country’s housing market, according to “The State of Real Estate,” the latest survey from The Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice, released today.

The survey, conducted online among a representative sample of 1,980 U.S. residents in November, provides a deep dive into how Americans — particularly young Americans — feel about all aspects of homeownership.

Most Americans dream of owning a home of their own, but feel that costs are making it impossible. Almost six out of 10 respondents (59%) are “worried I will never be able to own a home.” Most (61%) said they “feel priced out” of the current real estate market — a feeling even stronger among Millennials (69%). 

“People’s sense of safety has been shattered by the pandemic and what we call the stacked crisis — pandemic, war, inflation, climate disasters, and more,” said Libby Rodney, chief strategy officer and futurist at The Harris Poll. “Crucial to reestablishing our sense of safety is housing. As humans, we are wired to nest and ground ourselves during times of uncertainty and upheaval. This data shows that not only do people feel priced out of the market, but areas that people live, especially Millennials, are so expensive that they feel barely livable.” 

Notably, most respondents (62%) feel Wall Street investors are part of the reason costs are so high, a feeling even stronger among people living in cities (72%). 

However, Rodney noted a finding that, on the surface, seemed contradictory: One in five people (20%) have moved to a new home since the start of the pandemic, and a fifth of Gen Z-ers (19%) and 13% of Millennials were able to buy their first homes during the pandemic, often because mortgage rates fell sharply.

Most did so because of costs — more than 60 percent said they were seeking more affordable housing or a lower cost of living. (A similar percentage said they wanted more living space, and more than a third of movers said they moved for “political reasons.”)

A deeper look, though, shows that those who moved often have buyer’s regret. Almost six in 10 (59%) said their move was unplanned, and almost half (44%) say they wish they hadn’t. 

However, Americans still hope to move — almost four in 10 (39%) plan to move to a new home within three years — and they report a wide range of reasons for wanting to do so. 

Cost is the biggest concern: More than six out of 10 homeowners and renters say their housing costs have increased since the pandemic — and more than a quarter (28%) say those costs have increased tremendously. Almost half (47%) of respondents say their current area “has become so unaffordable it’s barely livable.” 

But costs cut both ways — seven in 10 (71%) are holding off because of concerns over economic uncertainty, like interest rates, inflation or a recession.

Americans are seeking broader pastures (away from the cities)

When they do move, though, Americans are poised to shift the population of the country. 

Working remotely has changed how people see the real estate market. Three-quarters (77%) of those who plan to move within three years say working remotely has expanded their options.

That has more people likely to consider suburbs (64%) and rural areas (57%) than big cities (44%) as their destination. Younger generations are more likely to make that move: More than half of Gen Z-ers and Millennials would move to suburbs and rural areas, compared to about 45% of Gen X-ers and a third of Boomers. 

In fact, the poll shows that Americans are re-examining their relationship with cities. 

Almost seven in 10 (69%) disagree with the statement that “you have to live in the city to be successful in life.” Almost two-thirds (64%) of those planning to move say it’s scary to live in a big city, because of threats like pandemics or war. 

Many Americans are willing to go even farther than the suburbs: Six out of 10 (60%) would consider moving to another state, and almost four in 10 (39%) would move to another country.

Their main reasons for moving closely resemble the thinking of those who moved during the pandemic: seeking more affordable housing (72%), lower cost of living (67%), safety (66%), and increased living space (66%). And again, 34% would move for “political reasons.” 

They’re also considering anything they can do to make housing affordable — more than half (55%) say they can’t afford to live without a roommate, and more than a quarter (28%) have considered renting out their homes temporarily to make money.

In all, Rodney said, The Harris Poll for Thought Leadership survey shows Americans struggling to resolve a housing dilemma. 

“One trend we are watching closely after looking through this data is how migration patterns in the U.S. will continue to play out as people prioritize suburban and rural living over cities,” she said. “Americans might be questioning if the cost of living in a city is worth it, especially when many have figured out how to create opportunities and success for themselves in the last two-and-a-half years virtually.”

The Harris Poll for Thought Leadership’s “State of Real Estate” survey is available at this link

 About The State of Real Estate Survey

This survey was conducted online within the U.S. by The Harris Poll from Nov. 11-13, 2022, among a nationally representative sample of 1,980 U.S. adults. This research includes 1,296 homeowners and 615 renters, as well as 194 Gen Z (ages 18-24), 613 Millennials (ages 25-40), 485 Gen X (ages 41-56), and 688 Boomers (ages 57 and older).

About Harris Poll Thought Leadership Practice

Building on 50+ years of experience pulsing societal opinion, we design research that is credible, creative, and culturally relevant. Our practice drives thought leadership and unearths trends for today’s biggest brands. We are focused on helping our clients get ahead of what’s next.

Article originally appeared on Globe Newswire.

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