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Resurgence in the suburbs

Nashville at night

The suburban population has been quietly growing, primarily driven by older millennials seeking additional space for their young families. Last year, 53% of homes purchased by those in their 30s were located in the suburbs, with a life change being the main reason for their move.1 The COVID-19 pandemic has supercharged this trend, as the work-from-home lifestyle means employees are less tied to cities.

In the Nashville metropolitan area, for example, the suburban net migration rate was two times that of the urban area in 2015. The suburbs more than doubled this relative outperformance in 2020, growing four times as fast as the urban area.2 The majority of those migrating to Nashville came from Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles.3

This migration trend goes beyond the nation’s fastest growing cities. In the Boston metropolitan area, the relative growth of the suburbs increased from one times that of the urban area in 2015 to two times last year. In fact, most metropolitan areas saw stronger net migration rates in the suburbs than in urban areas last year. We expect this trend to continue as millennials form households and employers embrace a more flexible approach to work.

Chart Net migration rates across the top 50 metro areas

This population shift has created a number of opportunities in the suburbs for real estate investors, especially in alternative housing and specialized retail, like grocery anchored shopping centers.

Ironically, opportunities are also developing in the major metro areas. As prices soften on class-A luxury apartments, valuations on those properties become more attractive. The potential dislocation in the luxury apartment market in high-demand cities like Los Angeles, New York, San Jose and San Francisco represents a cyclical, albeit short-lived, prospect for investors.

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1 National Association of Realtors: 2020 NAR Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends.
2 StratoDem Analytics, August 2021.
3 Placer.AI, September 2021.

The views and opinions expressed are for informational and educational purposes only as of the date of production/writing and may change without notice at any time based on numerous factors, such as market or other conditions, legal and regulatory developments, additional risks and uncertainties and may not come to pass. This material may contain “forward-looking” information that is not purely historical in nature.

Such information may include, among other things, projections, forecasts, estimates of market returns, and proposed or expected portfolio composition. Any changes to assumptions that may have been made in preparing this material could have a material impact on the information presented herein by way of example. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Investing involves risk; principal loss is possible.

All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. There is no representation or warranty as to the current accuracy, reliability or completeness of, nor liability for, decisions based on such information and it should not be relied on as such. For term definitions and index descriptions, please access the glossary on Please note, it is not possible to invest directly in an index.

A word on risk
Responsible investing incorporates Environmental Social Governance (ESG) factors that may affect exposure to issuers, sectors, industries, limiting the type and number of investment opportunities available, which could result in excluding investments that perform well. Real estate investments are subject to various risks, including fluctuations in property values, higher expenses or lower income than expected, and potential environmental problems and liability. Please consider all risks carefully prior to investing in any particular strategy. A portfolio’s concentration in the real estate sector makes it subject to greater risk and volatility than other portfolios that are more diversified and its value may be substantially affected by economic events in the real estate industry. International investing involves risks, including risks related to foreign currency, limited liquidity particularly where the underlying asset comprises real estate, less government regulation in some jurisdictions, and the possibility of substantial volatility due to adverse political, economic or other developments.

Nuveen provides investment advisory services through its investment specialists.

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