Some moving companies measure where their customers are moving to and from in the U.S., and new Wilmington residents checked inbound boxes again in recent surveys.
The Wilmington Metropolitan Statistical Area ranked No. 3 for its percentage of 2021 inbound moves in an annual survey of United Van Lines customers, falling slightly from its No. 1 ranking in 2020, according to results released in January.
In addition to the state-by-state data, each year United Van Lines also conducts an accompanying survey to examine the influences on their customers’ interstate moves. The latest results indicated nearly 32% who moved did so to be closer to family. The survey also showed 32.5% moved for a new job or job transfer, a significant decrease from 2015, when more than 60% of Americans cited a job or transfer, according to United Van Lines.
“This new data from United Van Lines is indicative of COVID-19’s impact on domestic migration patterns, with 2021 bringing an acceleration of moves to smaller, mid-sized towns and cities,” said Michael Stoll, economist and professor in the Department of Public Policy at the University of California, Los Angeles, in a United Van Lines release. “We’re seeing this not only occur because of Americans’ desire to leave high-density areas due to risk of infection, but also due to the transformation of how we’re able to work, with more flexibility to work remotely.”
Medford-Ashland, Oregon, ranked No. 1 while Punta Gorda, Florida, took the second spot ahead of the Wilmington MSA, which includes New Hanover and Pender counties. But the United Van Lines rankings are based on percentages, so even though the Wilmington MSA had fewer United Van Lines shipments (494) than Sarasota-Bradenton in Florida (1,496), a higher percentage of Wilmington’s shipments (80%) were inbound than its outbound moves.
A U-Haul study ranked Wilmington the company’s No. 20 growth city in the U.S. based on U-Haul truck moves in 2021, according to data compiled for the annual U-Haul Growth Index.
“People coming to Wilmington in one-way U-Haul trucks rose nearly 26% year-over-year, while departures rose 23% from 2020,” a news release stated. “Arriving customers accounted for 51.3% of all one-way U-Haul traffic in Wilmington during 2021 to make it a leading city for netting do-it-yourself movers.”
Matthew McCoy, the president of the U-Haul Co. of Southern Atlantic Coast, noted in the release that the University of North Carolina Wilmington “brings in a significant population of students.”
According to the release, growth cities “are calculated by the net gain of one-way U-Haul trucks entering a city versus leaving that city in a calendar year. Migration trends data is compiled from more than 2 million one-way U-Haul truck customer transactions that occur annually. Neighboring cities in U-Haul markets are often packaged together for migration trends purposes.”
Overall in the U.S. in 2021, the mover rate dropped, according to Census data. Last year, 27.1 million Americans reported living at a different residence than a year earlier, compared to 29.8 million people in 2020.
A Census release stated, “This represents an 8.4% mover rate, the lowest documented rate in over 70 years.”
Still, moving company studies can be useful, said Wilmington-based Realtor Ryan Crecelius, as a “reasonable indicator of interest in our area.”
Crecelius, principal broker for the Wilmington office of Nest Realty, is among other local Realtors who have anecdotal evidence of an uptick in residents coming from other parts of the country, including western states.
“We’re still seeing the typical people moving from up North down here … from the Northeast in general,” he said. “But we’ve also seen so many people come in from out West, which is very untypical at least from what I’ve seen – California, Utah.”
Some buyers coming from California are tech industry professionals moving to Raleigh who scoop up a beach house in New Hanover County at the same time, Crecelius said.
He said a house at Wrightsville Beach, for example, is “substantially cheaper than what people were used to out in California.”
In general in the Cape Fear region, home sale indicators shattered records last year.
“Sales prices reached new heights, inventory remained at a record low, and homes sold in record time, often for well above asking price,” according to a Cape Fear Realtors news release this month.
December’s listings continued to shrink, with new listings in New Hanover, Brunswick and Pender counties nearly 20% lower than in the same month in 2020.
With fewer single-family homes, townhouses and condominiums on the market, prices were up, according to CFR statistics.
“Median sales price continued to increase in the double-digit territory … throughout the year, ending 2021 with another record-breaking high of $325,000, an increase of 14%,” the release continued.
Realtors said so far this year, home sales have hit the ground running.
“Obviously, listings are still hard to come by,” Crecelius said, “but the buyers are coming out of the woodwork like crazy.”
Correspondent Jenny Callison contributed to this report.