Pandemic pilgrims flee major cities for less crowded areas
Alyssa Duffy and her boyfriend had established a busy life in Worcester. But when the pandemic struck, they decided they would feel safer in a less crowded place, in part because Duffy’s boyfriend has a weakened immune system.
So they moved to a quiet corner of Plymouth, a short walk from the beach. And Duffy quickly found his new home to be a safe haven when infections peaked and people crouched down.
“During quarantine you had to bet on nature and be outside,” said Duffy, looking at the ocean through a recent overcast sky on Friday. “If I was in Worcester there wouldn’t be any beaches around me. It’s a town that has closed its doors.”
Over the past year, many people like Duffy have fled bustling urban areas and flocked to quieter and sometimes more affordable areas like Plymouth, according to WBUR analysis of change of address forms filed with the Postal Service. US from March 2020 to February 2021. The service released the data after WBUR and others filed public registration requests for the information.
Nadia Evangelou, senior economist and director of forecasting at the National Association of Realtors, said national data shows people are leaving “some of the most popular areas of the country and settling in the suburbs.”
Evangelou said the moves were likely motivated by the ability to work remotely and the desire for more space.
Postal service data shows that many Bay State communities that gained residents last year have been growing for some time, but the pace of growth has accelerated during the COVID era.
And no place in Massachusetts gained as many residents as Plymouth during the pandemic. More than 1,000 people moved to the city’s main postcode through the end of February, according to postal data.
Ralph Grassia, a real estate broker, couldn’t miss the irony. Plymouth has historically served as a pilgrim refuge over 400 years ago. Now, he said, this has provided a safe haven for a new wave of settlers during the COVID storm.
“There is a new wave of pilgrims who have come out of the towns and come to the Plymouth area,” said Grassia, branch manager for real estate firm Kinlin Grover.
The influx has been a boon for the sellers. Grassia, who has worked in the area’s real estate business since 1985, said he can’t remember a time when people were so aggressive in looking for homes. Redfin, a real estate brokerage firm, reported that the median home selling price in Plymouth topped $ 506,000 in May, up 19% from a year ago, with homes typically selling above of the list price.
“The officers were busy,” Grassia said. “Our website had a record number of visits last year around this time. “
Postal service data shows other postal codes with a large net increase in the number of people moving in the covered areas of Mashpee, Greater Barrington, Chatham, Westford and Provincetown. The full list includes a mix of outlying suburbs, where costs are cheaper, and popular vacation destinations.
WBUR used 12 months of data to reduce the effect of seasonal shifts, such as people who move to Cape Town each summer or people who travel to Florida each winter.
Unlike postcodes welcoming newcomers, thousands of people have left urban cities of Boston and the surrounding area as many businesses and universities have closed their offices and gone online. And no region has lost as many people as Brighton, according to postal data.
Two of the residents who left were Colette Reynolds and her roommate, who packed a U-Haul as soon as their apartment lease in Brighton expired last September. They moved to Waltham, where they found they could get more space for the money.
“I loved my apartment” in Brighton, said Reynolds, “but it was a small two bedroom apartment with no outside space, and I was losing my mind a bit, especially with another roommate.”
Although schools are reopening, it is not entirely clear if all residents will return. On a recent Saturday, real estate broker Neil Eustice was concerned that hardly anyone would show up to an open house.
“I doubt we have a lot of traffic today,” he said, noting the sunny weather and the fact that the unit had already been on the market for weeks.
Eustice said he had personally worked with many people moving to the suburbs to save money or get more space, including a couple who recently bought a house in Framingham for $ 530,000. He guessed that the same house would cost over 50% more in Brighton.
But Eustice is confident people will eventually return to Brighton as colleges and universities resume face-to-face classes in the fall. He noted that students often come for classes and then stay for a while after graduation.
“People will want to come back,” he said.
And then, almost at the right time, people walked into the doors of his open house.