A recent survey we commissioned has found some optimism for the real estate and relocation biz: 50 percent of people who recently moved did so to improve their living situation, whether to move into a bigger home or move to a better neighborhood. It’s quite a change from a similar Relocation.com survey in March 2009, which found the recession played a much larger role in the relocation decision.
As the primary reason for moving , No. 1 on the list was to live in a bigger/better home (26 percent), followed by living in a better neighborhood or area (24 percent); to be closer to family/friends (12 percent); living in an area with a lower cost of living (9 percent); or a move that was sparked by a change in marital status (6 percent). Moving because of school, job loss, retirement or foreclosure each garnered 3 percent or less.
The change between the March and July surveys could indicate that consumer attitudes are shifting. With more people taking advantage of favorable real estate deals and falling rents, even as the recession continues to pinch most Americans, they suggest a boost in consumer confidence.
While finances still factor into relocation  decisions, the survey indicates that fewer people were feeling the need to move due to job losses, foreclosures or downsizing to cut costs. The people who looked to improve their living situation were a mix of those buying a home or renting that were seeking to take advantage of lower rents and home prices to move smart.
Government incentives to buy a home, coupled with market forces lowering housing prices, have helped boost home sales in recent months.
The overall slowing of demand for housing has also produced lower rents in many major metropolitan areas, benefitting renters. Of the people who indicated they were looking to improve their housing situation in the survey, 54 percent were renters who moved into a new rental.
Nearly 42 percent were people buying a home or planning buy one: either renters who became homeowners (15 percent), homeowners who moved to a new home (16 percent), or homeowners who moved into a temporary rental as they continued their search for a home to buy (11 percent).
A similar survey in March found that people were more likely to list symptoms of the economic downturn as reasons for their move: 41 percent said that the recession had a moderate to strong influence on their decision to relocate .
Family reasons also played a larger role in the earlier survey: 23 percent said their primary motivation was moving closer to family or friends, while 13 percent cited looking for work or starting a new job. Only 14 percent listed moving to a bigger home or moving to a better neighborhood  as a reason for their move.