Nearly 20% of Seattle renters are looking in other metro areas. Here’s where they’re looking

Written by MLHA Team

April 27, 2021

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PORTLAND, OR – FEBRUARY 11: The downtown skyline and an Eastbank Esplanade walkway are viewed in the early morning on February 11, 2012, in Portland, Oregon.

Nearly 20% of Seattle renters were searching for apartments in different metro areas, according to a new study.

The study, from Apartment List, found in the first quarter of 2021, about 18% of renters in Seattle were looking elsewhere for apartments, compared to only 14% looking to leave the city at the same time last year. Seattle renters were looking at a number of areas, including Los Angeles and Phoenix, the study found.

But, Seattle still doesn’t appear to be seeing a mass exodus out of the city, as some experts predicted early on in the pandemic.

About 17% of renters in suburbs near Seattle are looking for apartments in the city, an increase over last year. And renters in other cities, including Los Angeles and Portland, have also been eyeing Seattle apartments, according to search data.

“Over the past year, there has been significant speculation about what the pandemic would mean for the future of cities,” the report said.

“Predictions of urban exodus felt intuitive, given that social distancing requirements put a pause on many of the activities that make city life vibrant, while at the same time, remote work had freed many Americans from needing to live close to their jobs. Despite this narrative, our search data show that big, dense cities are maintaining their allure even as some residents move away.”

Throughout the pandemic, many larger more expensive cities saw rent prices drop as people sought out more affordable cities and suburbs. But, in recent months, rent prices have started to tick up once again as vaccinations ramp up and states begin to lift many of the restrictions that put much of traditional life in cities on hold.

And even though people moved out of cities over the past year, the vacancies they created invited others to move in, the study said.

“Those vacancies presented opportunities to new renters, and they are the reason the pandemic will not mark the end of this chapter of urbanization,” the report said.

“When urban vacancies pile up the markets respond accordingly with lower prices, which in turn generate interest among newcomers who previously may have been priced out. 2020 was less a story about urban exodus and more of an urban shuffle, whereby the people who left cities will be quickly replaced by the next generation of newcomers.”

The report used data from search activity, so it does not show people moving in or out of cities.

“But we see clear evidence that interest in big cities has not waned,” the report said. “While it is true that plummeting rents in some expensive cities have signaled shifting demand for these locations over the past year, these price corrections seem to be succeeding in drawing new interest, such that these cities are not hollowing out.”

LOS ANGELES, CA – APRIL 14: Snow is seen on the San Gabriel Mountains beyond downtown Los Angeles under a clear sky after weeks of storms and reduced traffic as coronavirus infections accelerate in the region on April 14, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Southern California is experiencing improved air quality recently but its not yet clear to what extent it is because of reduced traffic due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order, or other factors such as the recent series of storms cleansing the sky and todays Santa Ana Wind conditions, according to the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD). (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

Los Angeles was the top place Seattle renters were looking.

Phoenix Skyline Sunset

Phoenix ranked second for places Seattle renters were searching for apartments.

Olympia ranked third for places Seattle renters were searching for apartments

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