Record number of Washington residents are staying put
Despite the tendency to daydream about moving to a remote destination during the pandemic, new data reveals that a record percentage of Washington residents are choosing to stay where they are. This echoes a national trend, which indicates that between 2019 and 2022, the number of Americans who lived in the same house year over year increased by eight million.
This trend is more pronounced in Washington than in most states. In 2022, approximately 6.57 million Washingtonians – or 85% of the state’s population – lived in the same home that they occupied a year earlier. That’s up from a pre-pandemic rate of 83% staying in the same house between 2018 and 2019.
Moreover, the data shows that the number of people who made even a short-distance move (within the same county) dropped significantly. In 2019, approximately 750,000 Washington homeowners made a nearby move, whereas in 2022 that number fell by 24% to 605,000 homeowners deciding on a local change of address.
Why the tendency to stay put? The pandemic may have spurred the trend locally and nationally. As a point of reference, the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey in 2000 showed that only about 76% of Washington residents were living in the same house as the year prior.
Age may be a factor, as well. The tendency to move more often has historically been a younger-adult behavior. The median age in the US was up to 39 in 2022, as opposed to 35 in 2000, suggesting that an aging population is less inclined to go through the upheaval of a move. The current data showed that non-movers were higher in the 30-to-44 and 65-plus age groups. Yet, those same numbers revealed that even in the younger-adult population, the moving rate declined.
Again, a look at Census Bureau data may shed some light on the reasons people move – or stay put, as the case may be. According to the Current Population Survey, 40% of people move because they’d like to own rather than rent, would like to live in a better neighborhood, or would like more space or a nicer home. With the hot housing market experiencing soaring house prices during and coming out of the pandemic, these outcomes may now be harder to achieve.
While there are other factors at play – a decline in marriage and birth rates, for example, which are both life events that spur a move – it’s likely that the most significant catalysts to staying put are rising interest rates and Washington’s rising home prices.