Marianne Dawson’s connections in Tampa run deep. For years, she worked in hospitality in bustling Ybor City — a historic district known for its cigars, Cuban sandwiches and bars that line 7th Avenue, while living in a chic bungalow in Seminole Heights, a hotbed for artists, independently owned restaurants, breweries and bars. She couldn’t leave her house without bumping into someone she knew, prompting her husband to dub her “the Mayor of Tampa.”
She was happy where she was until she visited a friend in the country, about 30 miles north of Tampa.
“From the moment I got there, I felt a sense of freedom. There was so much space and no neighbors to judge you. You can literally walk outside in your underwear and it doesn’t matter,” Dawson says. “I couldn’t stop thinking about the country and how restricting city life can be. My husband said if I could find something we could afford, then he’d be open to moving. I ended up finding a place on a little more than an acre of land in Plant City. Within minutes of being there, we knew it was for us.”
Exiting urban areas for wide-open spaces
Dawson is not alone. Homebuyers across the nation are swapping city life for the great outdoors, as recent data shows.
Since COVID-19 struck, the number of people buying in less densely populated areas has risen. From May 18 through June 15, home purchase mortgage rate locks in non-urban areas increased 36 percent year over year, according to data from American Enterprise Institute’s latest Housing Market Nowcast.
The least-dense ZIP codes grew at almost twice the rate of the densest ones, with major metros like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., experiencing the same pattern of homebuyers moving to areas within the city that have fewer people.
“When you get in the big metros there are places that are very dense and there are also very rural areas. The least-dense ZIP codes are doing much better,” says Edward J. Pinto, director at the AEI Housing Center.
This trend also appears in the latest data from the National Association of Realtors weekly report, which shows that condo sales are down, signaling a trend away from urban areas where these dwellings are popular.
“Relatively better performance of single-family homes in relation to multifamily condominium properties clearly suggest migration from the city centers to the suburbs,” said Lawrence Yun, chief economist at NAR, in a statement. “After witnessing several consecutive years of urban revival, the new trend looks to be in the suburbs as more companies allow greater flexibility to work from home.”