Bitesize: How far do people move house?

Fergus Cumming and Alastair Firrell

When moving house, people often don’t move too far away. Many will be commuting to the same job or don’t want their kids to move school. But many people move long-distance when they sell one house and buy another.

Using transaction data on residential mortgages we estimated the distribution of house move distances for 2018. Although England and Wales have good Land Registry data, it is often difficult to understand the links in the chains. We find the distribution of
move-distances is remarkably spread out compared to other estimates. The median mortgagor move is 95km: that’s York-Sheffield, or London-Oxford. Nearly a quarter move over 200km.

Figure 1: Number of mortgaged moves in each 20km distance bucket

What’s driving this? The chart below shows that the highest-income households are likely to move shorter distances, perhaps because they are less financially constrained in their employment or spending choices. A regression of important characteristics suggests that for every £1,000 increase in annual household income, people tend to move about 750m less, all else equal.

Figure 2: Mortgagors with highest incomes move shorter distances more often and longer distances less

Even the poorest mortgagors tend to be less financially constrained than the population at large. But it’s not all about income, there are regional differences too.

This approach has limitations. We only capture mortgage-to-mortgage transactions, so no moves to or from rental, or cash buyers. Therefore we see less about young people (e.g. finding early-career jobs) and older people (e.g. retirement home choices). Our matching algorithm cannot always uniquely identify movers; we take the minimum distance of possible matches. Even so, there are a remarkably high number of
long-distance movers.

Fergus Cumming works in the Bank’s Monetary Policy Outlook Division and Alastair Firrell works in the Bank’s Advanced Analytics Division.

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