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Why and where Californians moved during the pandemic

California population
Posted at 8:24 AM, May 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-17 11:24:00-04

Millions of Americans moved in the last year including here in California. We are taking an in-depth look at some of the changes.

Data from the 2020 census showed population changes across the country. Texas tallied 4 million new residents. Florida saw another 2.7 million. Both will have more representatives in Congress and electoral college votes.

In contrast, California lost a congressional seat for the first time in history. I took a closer look at the numbers to see how things have changed here on the Central Coast and found out why and where Californians moved.

"March of 2020 was a scary time... We lost 30% of our business," says Dawn Ventura. Ventura is the Director of Communications for Meathead Movers. "Much to our surprise, in April things started going on the up and up and people started rescheduling..."

Ventura says Meathead Movers needed more employees to keep up with the surge in demand. They've even started offering more incentives and increased pay to hire more people. She attributes the spike in moves due in part to the pandemic. "People were taking leave. They need to take care of their grandparents at home... Maybe they were laid off and need to move to a smaller location or their company was going remote indefinitely and they can move to a cheaper place to live."

The real estate and investment firm CBRE analyzed change-of-address forms submitted to the U.S. Postal Service in 2019 and 2020. The data shows many people left high dense, urban areas. Most of the moves were short distance, often to nearby counties within the state. It's a pattern we're also seeing on the Central Coast.

"People who are moving to San Luis (Obispo) County are coming from Southern California," adds Ventura.

Laura Passmore is the president of the Santa Maria Association of Realtors. She told me, the influx of new residents coming from bigger cities has created a fierce competition for would-be home buyers."The Bay Area... lots of folks not just visiting (the Central Coast) but purchasing... People are offering 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars over the price or paying in cash."

Passmore says mortgage rates are at their lowest levels in years and that's also fueling the red-hot housing market. "In march of 2020 , we had an average of 28 listings within a certain time frame. This year, this time we only have 11."

When I spoke with Catherine Stone, owner and broker of Central Coast Real Estate in San Luis Obispo, she told me the pandemic accelerated a trend that began well before COVID-19 spread. People are drawn to the Central Coast because of the scenery and even the wealthy are looking for ways to stretch their dollars. "Here you might find a 4 or 5 million dollar oceanfront (home). If you're in Southern California or Northern California, that same property is going to be double digits and we're not there yet."

Those who cannot afford multi-million dollar homes are seeking the American Dream in more affordable states.

Numbers released by the California Department of Finance just last week show California's population fell in 2020 for the first time since population estimates started being recorded. Between January 2020 and January 2021, the state lost more than 182,000 residents. Contributing factors include fewer births, a drop in immigration, and a spike in deaths due to COVID-19.

Passmore adds, "There have more folks moving away not just out of town but out of the state, I've noticed."

While the Central Coast may be seeing new faces, California's latest demographic report shows the population of San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County actually dropped. A deeper dive into CBRE's data shows a majority of Central Coast residents who moved, relocated to other parts of California. Our San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara County neighbors who left the state mostly flocked to Arizona, Oregon, Nevada, Washington, Idaho, Colorado, and Texas.

If you plan on relocating soon, movers expect a busy summer season so be flexible with your dates and times. For those looking to buy a home in this seller's market, experts advise you talk to a reputable lender and realtor and do your research on new California laws that may help you get your dream home.