People are moving to less dense cities

In the early days of the pandemic, headlines suggested modern cities would soon be a thing of the past.

We’ve already seen an exodus out of major cities like San Francisco and New York. But not all cities are experiencing the same outbound migration amid the pandemic.

After reviewing the last 5 months of data from our moving cost calculator, certain cities are actually becoming more popular than ever before.

Austin, Nashville, Portland, and Denver all top our list of the most popular places to move since the pandemic began. (Full list below)

Austin was already a hot market before the pandemic. But since mid-March, Austin has seen a 211% increase in people looking to move there compared to the same time period last year.

Nashville, Portland, and Denver have all also seen over 100% increases in relocation searches when compared to the same period last year. Even Los Angeles, a city that has been losing residents over the past couple of years recorded a 37% increase.

It’s hard to say exactly what’s driving the increase in popularity of some cities. But one characteristic the cities share; they tend to have lower population density.

In terms of people per square mile, Austin ranks 178th when compared to all other US cities. In fact, Los Angeles and Seattle are the only cities on the list that rank in the top 30 for population density.

This makes sense. Social distancing has us all a little wary about standing next to one another. The once adrenaline inducing streets of Manhattan now feel like an anxiety attack.

It’s not a huge surprise that cities with fewer people packed into every square mile might become more desirable amidst a pandemic.

Overcrowding was already an issue in many major cities before the pandemic. But people justified the hassle with the connections and culture a major city offers. Now with lockdown and social distancing, it seems only less dense cities are still worth the hassle.

Top cities to move to since the pandemic

Destination City % Change YoY Population Density Rank Green Space Per Capita Rank

Austin, TX +211% 178th 47th
Nashville, TN +157% 293rd 5th
Portland, OR +106% 78th 29th
Denver, CO +105% 88th 66th
San Diego, CA +45% 96th 64th
Atlanta, GA +21% 144th 42nd
Los Angeles, CA +37% 28th 59th
Houston, TX +31% 138th 10th
Seattle, WA +27% 29th 48th


All data is sourced from searches performed on the moving cost calculator on our website. Data was taken from March 15th through August 15th of this year. The year-over-year (YoY) comparison takes the number of searches from the same time period in 2019 and compares them to the number of searches in 2020 expressed as a percentage.

Population density data source: Wikipedia

Green space per capita data source: HumData

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