Contact Us

More People Are Looking To Move To Houston Than To Leave It


Houston may be looking at continued net in-migration from renters, though as the local economy sours, that could change. 

More people were looking to move to Houston between Jan. 1 and April 15 than to leave, according to the latest renter migration report from Apartment List. The national report uses data from millions of user queries entered into Apartment List’s search platform. 

Apartment List Housing Economist Chris Salviati told Bisnow that 37.5% of users searching for an apartment in Houston during the first quarter were located outside of the metro area. That was the 17th-highest rate among the nation’s 50 metros.

At the same time, 20.1% of those living in Houston were looking to move elsewhere, which ranked as the fifth-lowest rate among the 50 metros.

“Searches to and from Houston are concentrated among the other major Texas markets, but we also see notable crossflows with other parts of the country as well. For renters looking to leave Houston, the most common destinations are Dallas, San Antonio and Houston,” Salviati said.

“On the inbound side, San Antonio is by far the most common source of renters looking to move to Houston from elsewhere, but it's followed by two farther-flung locations, New York City and Chicago.”

The combination of a low share of residents looking to leave and relatively high inbound interest is indicative of a local economy that has been thriving in recent years, Salviati said.

The World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus a pandemic on March 11. To examine the effects, Apartment List separated Q1 data into two periods: pre-March 11 and afterward. The company found largely consistent trends during both periods, both in the Houston area and nationally.

At this stage, it is difficult to measure what impact the coronavirus pandemic will have on renter mobility. The data only reflects searches, rather than completed moves. Although moving activity has been paused temporarily, search activity is continuing, and location preferences at the metro level do not appear to yet be significantly altered, Salviati said.

Houston may experience short-term economic instability, as coronavirus-related shutdowns and plummeting oil prices continue to deliver dual blows to the local economy. But with a limited time horizon of data, it may take longer for real trends to emerge.

“On one hand, a weak local economy could drive folks away from Houston, but on the other hand, if labor markets are tight around the country, it may be difficult for folks to find employment elsewhere that would motivate moves,” Salviati added.

Houston rents in May are up 1% from a year ago, with two-bedroom apartments averaging $1,035 a month, according to Apartment List's May rent report. That is about 13.5% lower than the national average of $1,196 per month.