If you’re thinking about relocating in 2021, you may find it encouraging to know that your fellow homeowners kept moving at a steady pace throughout 2020 — a trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down as we head into spring. You might also be curious to know which cities they’re flocking to, as well as how and when they’re doing it.

While we don’t have a crystal ball, we can shine some light on relocation trends based on PODS customer moves in 2020 and so far this year. Here’s a look at the key takeaways, including the 20 top destination cities (hint: Boise, Idaho is having a moment), as well as how people are adapting to the uncertainty and social distancing that come with moving during a pandemic.

A flatbed truck transporting PODS moving containers.

Consumers seek more flexibility and contactless moving for peace of mind.  

More customers are opting for moving containers as a safe, budget-friendly, and flexible solution during challenging times, as PODS saw a significant increase in customers making long-distance moves in 2020 compared to 2019.

“After the initial COVID-19 lockdown slowed moving activity in March and April, customers really picked up the pace. There were so many more people moving throughout the year that it not only made up for the brief slowdown, 2020 actually exceeded our original expectations, which were set long before the pandemic reshaped our world,” said Riley Kahle, PODS Director of Long-Distance Moving. 

Amid the pandemic, relocations have surged as the result of historic factors in the housing market. Existing home sales in 2020 reached their highest point since the housing bubble in 2006, while mortgage rates fell to their lowest level ever, according to data from the National Association of Realtors and Freddie Mac.

A man moving in the snow, earlier in the year than is typical.

The busy moving season may be starting early this year. 

Like so many things, timing is another factor that’s changed, as fewer people seem to be waiting until the usual busy summer season to make their move. While moving activity was still very high during the summer months in 2020, PODS customers didn’t slow down their moving very much through the fall and end of the year, with more people moving during what is typically the low season for moving, due to the pandemic. Even in early 2021, PODS customer inquiries and container reservations were significantly ahead for February compared to the same month in 2020.

“We’re seeing major increases in customer moving volume, even though winter is normally a slow time for the moving industry overall,” said Kahle.

This change in seasonal demand suggests that people thinking about a move in 2021 should plan ahead, research moving options, and make their reservations as early as they can. That can be easier and less risky with a company that offers portable containers for moving rather than a traditional mover. Consumers should also look for a company that allows for flexible scheduling and rescheduling, another feature that is not common with conventional moving companies. With PODS, customers can reschedule their dates without needing to worry about extra fees and receive a full refund on any deposits if service is cancelled just 24 hours before the first container delivery. Full-service movers tend to stick to a more rigid schedule, making it harder to adjust when moving plans change.

Boise, ID
Boise, ID

Cities with more affordability, better weather, and less congestion  continue to attract the most growth.

In 2020, moving patterns continued to follow the already established trends that have seen more people relocating to smaller cities that offer lower costs of living, warmer temperatures, more space, and sometimes all three. If anything, the pandemic simply accelerated these trends, especially as more people are taking advantage of the shift to working remotely to relocate to more affordable cities and suburbs. To identify the highest growth cities, we calculated the net gain of PODS customers moving to a city versus those leaving that city in 2020.

Here are the highlights:

  • Boise, ID leads the U.S. in growth, with three times more people moving in than moving out. Where did most Boise newcomers come from? Mainly California, which is no surprise considering Boise is a much more affordable place to live. For example, housing costs are 72% less in Boise than in San Francisco. Here are the top five cities that supplied the most transplants to make Boise the #1 city in growth:
    • San Francisco and the Bay Area
    • Los Angeles
    • San Diego
    • Seattle
    • Santa Barbara
Chattanooga, TN
Chattanooga, TN
(Source: Kelly Lacy via Pexels)
  • Tennessee boasts three of the top five growth cities registering the highest net gain in residents, with Johnson City, Knoxville, and Chattanooga. More than twice as many people moved into each of these three cities as moved out, and they hailed from all over the country — the West Coast, Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, and other cities in the Volunteer State.
  • Many are flocking to the Sunshine State — Florida makes the list with six of the top 20 growth cities. In fact, the city of Sarasota appears in the top five. Here are Florida’s top growth cities:
    • Sarasota
    • Daytona
    • Ocala
    • Melbourne
    • Jacksonville
    • Pensacola
  • The Southeast continues to attract more growth than other regions. More than half of the top 20 growth cities are in the Southeast, with 13 destination cities. This continues an ongoing trend of people looking for warmer climates and more affordability.

Top 20 Growth Cities

RankCity
1Boise, ID
2Johnson City, TN
3Knoxville, TN
4Chattanooga, TN
5Sarasota, FL
6Asheville, NC
7Myrtle Beach, SC/Wilmington, NC
8Spokane, WA
9Portland, ME
10Daytona, FL
11Greenville/Spartanburg, SC
12Ocala, FL
13Fayetteville/Bentonville, AR
14Tyler, TX
15Huntsville, AL
16Melbourne, FL
17Jacksonville, FL
18Texarkana, TX
19Dover, DE
20Pensacola, FL

What does all this mean for you?

While it can be fun to look at moving trends, what really matters is what’s best for you and your needs when planning a relocation. If you’re one of many people leaving a big city to find more affordability and living space, get some of our best tips for conquering a big-city move

As mentioned above, if you’re planning a move in 2021, you may want to book your move early, especially if you happen to live in a place with a lot of outbound moving traffic. On the other hand, if you’re going against the major trends, say by moving into Los Angeles or moving north from Florida, you may be able to snag lower rates.

And as flexibility and safety are probably at the top of your mind right now, you’ll likely want to consider portable containers for your relocation. With so much moving activity occurring at a time when people have been dealing with more uncertainty and safety concerns, PODS presents a reassuring option by providing greater flexibility and contactless service. 

“With so much uncertainty, many people may need to move out before they’re sure where their next home will be. The idea that their belongings will be kept safely in their own storage container and delivered when they need, wherever they need, offers a lot of peace of mind,” said Kahle.

Here’s how two PODS customers described the experience in their own words:

“Your service was one of the only things that went as planned…even though I changed the plan several times.” — Nick N., Toronto, Ontario

PODS was the easiest and safest way to move my belongings during the COVID-19 crisis. I never had to touch a PODS employee or their equipment, and I could handle all of my belongings myself. Everything went perfectly.” — Sam C., Washington, D.C.

Ready to get started? To get a quote for long-distance moving and reserve your container, call PODS at (877) 350-7637. For local moves or storage, visit PODS for an online quote.


Liz Taylor is a freelance writer who keeps up with moving and storage trends while managing the PODS Containing the Chaos blog.