Why Do People Move So Often?

I was listening to the radio today and a story came on about the housing market, and the reporter referred to people “moving up”.

I then became curious about how often people “moved up”, or more broadly, how often people changed houses.

So it was Google time when I got home, and what I found shocked me. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median tenure of a family in a home 1985-2008) was six years. Since 2008, it has risen to almost nine years, which still surprises me.

My wife and I bought our first house in 1986, and have lived there happily ever after, a total of 31 years so far. We had briefly looked into moving about 20 years ago, but decided to put on an addition instead.

Fortunately, many of our neighbors have lived here a long time as well, and it’s nice to see so many familiar faces as we walk through the neighborhood.

I can understand the desire to move into a particular neighborhood if you have young kids and want to be in a good school district. But once you do that, why would you want to move again?

I also understand that people may have to move because of a job situation, but such moves would not explain all of the moving that seems to be taking place.

With all turnover, it makes it harder to build a true community of neighbors,  of people who get to know each other, and watch out for each other.

And it seems to be an American thing.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the average person in the United States moves residences more than 11 times in his or her lifetime. Though hard data is difficult to come by, according to a survey conducted by the real-estate company Re/Max earlier this year, that figure across 16 European countries is roughly four.

Why is this? I know that owning a home is part of the American dream for many people, but is moving also part of the dream?

Is there a constant need to keep wanting something bigger and more expensive?

If so, why? Can’t we be satisfied with what we have?

I realize I am an outlier, not only in how few times I’ve moved, but in how long I’ve had one job (31 years and counting), and how many miles we have on our two cars (each over 180,000).  I’m guessing these facts say something about me, perhaps suggesting a desire for security as well as a fear of change.

But I’d call it a desire for stability and for putting down roots, and getting to know the people I work with and live with.

Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t think I’d want it any other way…

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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