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U.S. Consumer Moving / Relocation: Attitudes, Behaviors and Lifestyle Factors October 2010


Prepared for Relocation.com by Dr. A. Nigl Market Research Consultant

Background and Overview

  • Relocation.com, in its continuing effort to provide quality services to the U.S. Mover population, created a new web-based survey that was designed to provide information on life-style factors that drive moving and relocation decisions in the U.S.

  • A series of questions was developed that focused on what matters most to movers when it comes to selecting the right neighborhood, the right household amenities or features and the right size of house.

  • Questions regarding neighborhood safety were also included.

  • Another area of inquiry involved the importance of various factors in making a home-buying or home-renting decision including : proximity to schools, proximity to shopping malls, size of a backyard, proximity to family, similarity in age to that of neighbors and “green” or eco-friendly home building.

  • These questions were asked in the form of a 5-point Likert scale rating where 5 = Very Important and 1 = Not Important.

  • Consumers’ home amenity needs (including stainless steel appliances, granite countertops, custom landscaping among others) were also assessed.

  • Finally, moving consumers were asked what types of home improvement they were planning on completing in the next year.


Survey Sample and Statistics

Survey Samples

The current on-line survey was launched on October 13, 2010 and completed on October 18, 2010. In order to obtain a statistically relevant sample, e-mail invitations - to take the survey - were sent to approximately 149,000 Relocation subscribers (i.e., consumers who signed up to receive more information from Relocation.com).

E-mail invitations to take the survey were sent to two groups of subscribers: individuals that moved within the last 60 days and those whose move is scheduled for 90 days from now.

Links to the survey were also posted on Facebook.com and Twitter.

The average time to complete the survey was less than ten minutes.

A total of 2,218 people visited the survey web site or 1.5% of the total e-mails sent out.

Of this number, 1,492 people actually completed the survey for a survey completion rate of 67%, which is a very good result.

The final sample size of 1,492 is of sufficient size to insure statistical relevance of the obtained results with an average error tolerance that is no greater than +/- 1.7% at the 95% confidence level and a maximum error tolerance of less than +/- 2.6%.

The final sample consisted of 66% female respondents and 34% male respondents, this distribution is fairly typical for on-line surveys in general and is in line with the gender breakdown from previous relocation.com surveys.

Slightly more than half the respondents in the sample (51%) are under 50 years old; 21% are age 60 or older.

The sample was evenly split between respondent households with children under 18 (49%) and those with no children under 18 (51%)

Gender of Respondent?

Male
Female

There may be some bias in the overall survey responses given the fact that women outnumbered men by a 2:1 ratio. However, this bias favoring female respondents is fairly typical of on-line consumer surveys and is similar to what has been found in previous relocation.com surveys.

Age Range of Respondent?

18 - 29
30 - 39
40 - 49
50 - 59
60 or older

There does not appear to be a significant age range bias in this sample, there is a fairly even distribution from the younger ranges to the oldest range.

Respondent Households with Children under 18

No children older 18
one to two children
three to four cildren
five or more children

Top 5 Respondent States

Texas
California
Florida
Pennsylvania
New York

Texas, California and Florida are the three leading States by current residence of respondents. This is consistent with previous relocation.com surveys (Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia also found with 3% or more of all respondents). Since it is not possible to distinguish respondents who just moved from those planning to move, the States distribution results is not an indication of which states respondents moved to recently.


Neighborhood Attitudes and Preferences

Neighborhood Factors

  • The majority of this respondent sample indicated that they would prefer to relocate to a suburban neighborhood (54%); 24% indicated a preference for urban neighborhoods and 22% stated a preference for rural living.

  • 27% of the respondents indicated that they wanted to live less than 10 miles from their work place, while another 45% reported that they wanted to live within 11 to 30 miles of their workplace. Only 10% reported that they wanted to live more than 30 miles away from where they worked and 18% said that it did not matter, since they worked from their home and had no commute to worry about.

  • When asked how important a city or area’s cost of living was in making a relocation decision, 61% said it was somewhat important but not the most important factor; 29% said it was the most important factor while only 10% said it was not important.

  • 48% of the sample indicated that their ideal home would be between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet. However, 29% gave their ideal home size as being between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet. Only 2% reported that a home would have to be over 5,000 square feet to match their ideal residence.

  • Over half the sample (55%) rated the Safety of the neighborhood a 5 or Very Important, the Average or mean rating for this sample is 4.47 on the 5 point scale with a Median of 5 and a standard deviation of 0.673 which is a sign of very low intra-respondent variability on this rating question.

Determining Neighborhood Safety

The most important factor in determining a neighborhood’s safety, according to 75% of this sample, is the general appearance of the neighborhood , i.e., the up-keep of surrounding homes and front lawns.

Almost ¾ of this sample (74%) indicated that they would select a neighborhood based on “word of mouth” or its local reputation over any other factor.

Two-thirds of the sample reported that they would pay attention to local crime reports and crime statistics as reported in the local media to select a neighborhood based on its safety record.

The two least important factors in determining a neighborhood’s safety, according to this sample, are “a gated community with security patrols (24%) and “proximity to police or fire station (25%).

Neighborhood Location Preference

Suburban
Urban
Rural

Importance of Neighborhood Cost of Living

5 Very Important
4
3
2
1 Not Important

Ideal Size of Residence

Less than 1000 sq ft
1000 to 1999 sq ft
2000 to 2999 sq ft
3000 to 4999 sq ft
5000 sq ft or more

Neighborhood Safety Rating

5 Very Important
4
3
2
1 Not Important

Distance from Workplace

10 miles or less
11 to 30 miles
31 miles or more
Does not matter, don't commute to work

Which of the following are important factors in determining a neighborhood’s safety?

Safety Factor % of Sample Rank
Upkeep of homes and front lawns 75% 1
Word of mouth reputation 74% 2
Local crime reports and statistics 67% 3
An Active Neighborhood Watch program 38% 4
Newspaper and TV reports of crime 35% 5
Speed limit on streets 31% 6
Proximity to local police and fire stations 25% 7
Gated community with security patrols 24% 8

Home Amenities

  • The majority of this respondent sample (87%) indicated that having central air conditioning was the most desirable feature of a new residence.

  • Half of this sample (50%) indicated that having custom, walk-in closets was a desirable feature.

  • The third most desirable feature based on this sample’s responses (43%) is having at “top-of-the-line” dishwasher and/or refrigerator.

  • The least desirable feature is custom window coverings (18%) followed by an in-ground pool or spa (20%).

What amenities do you look for when renting or buying?

Amenities % of Sample Rank
Central Air Conditioning 87% 1
Custom Walk-in Closets 50% 2
Top of line dishwasher and/or refrigerator 43% 3
Stainless Steel Appliances 38% 4
Granite Countertops 37% 5
Top of Line Washer/Dryer 35% 6
Custom Landscaping 31% 7
Custom Flooring 30% 8
3 Car Garage 23% 9
In ground pool or spa 20% 10
Custom Window Coverings 18% 11

Home Improvement

Planned Home Improvement

  • The majority of this respondent sample (72%) indicated that they were planning to paint their new residence this year.

  • Slightly more than one in four respondents (26%) indicated that they were planning to install a home security system this year.

  • The third most popular Home Improvement project, based on this sample’s responses (22%) is installing new doors and/or windows.

  • The least popular home improvement project planned is building an in-ground pool or spa (4%), followed by installing a new roof (5%).

What Home Improvement Projects are you planning this year?

Amenities % of Sample Rank
Painting 72% 1
Installing Home Security System 26% 2
Installing new doors/windows 22% 3
Hiring a landscape architect or contractor 13% 4
Contracting for demolition/remodeling services 11% 5
Adding a new room or expanding existing room 10% 6
Hiring a home decorator 8% 7
Installing a new roof 5% 8
Building an in-ground pool or spa 4% 9

Importance Ratings

What Factors are Important in Selecting a New Home to Rent or Buy

  • As was discussed earlier, these respondents rated neighborhood safety very high as an important factor in deciding where to live (Mean or average importance rating = 4.47 on a 5-point scale and a standard deviation of 0.68).

  • Second most important based on average ratings is proximity to decent shopping (Mean importance rating = 3.64, s.d.=0.8)

  • Third most important is having a large backyard (Mean importance rating = 3.19, s.d.=1.07)

  • The least important factor based on mean or average ratings is proximity to schools (Mean importance rating = 2.33, s.d.=1.2); followed by having neighbors close in age to you (Mean importance rating = 2.93, s.d. = 0.8)

Top 2* Importance Rating % Comparisons

Proximity to schools
Age to neighbors
Eco-firendly or Green Home
Proximity to family
Large backyard
Proximity to shopping
Neighborhood safety

Ratings of 4 or 5 on a 5 point Importance Scale

Proximity to Shopping Rating

5 Very Important
4
3
2
1 Not Important

Having a Large Backyard Rating

5 Very Important
4
3 Neutral
2
1 Not Important

Proximity to Family Rating

5 Very Important
4
3 Neutral
2
1 Not Important

Green or Eco-Friendly Home Rating

5 Very Important
4
3 Neutral
2
1 Not Important

Neighbors' Age Rating

5 Very Important
4
3 Neutral
2
1 Not Important

Proximity to School Rating

5 Very Important
4
3 Neutral
2
1 Not Important

Neighborhood Safety Rating

5 Very Important
4
3 Neutral
2
1 Not Important

Major Segment Differences

Major Differences Among Segments

  • Three major segments will be studied in this section: Gender, Respondent Age and Households with and without children under 18.

  • In the case of Home Amenity preferences, there is a remarkable similarity in the preferences expressed by men and women within this sample.

  • The Appendix provides detailed cross-tabulations of the % of men and women selecting each of the 11 amenities tested in this survey, in all but one case the percentage difference between men and women was less than 2 points.

  • The exception was for “Custom Walk-in Closets” where 50.7% of the females selected it compared to 47.8% of the males in the sample. This difference of 2.9 points was not found to be significant when the data was subjected to a Chi Square analysis.

  • Surprisingly, a similar level of consistency was found for the amenity preferences expressed by the five different age groups, none of the percentage differences was found to be significant based on Chi Square analyses of the responses. These results are also presented in the Appendix.

  • There were significant differences ,however, in the amenities preferred by respondents without children compared to those with at least one child under 18; the cross-tabulated responses are also shown in the Appendix.

  • For example, respondents without children preferred a 3-car garage significantly more than respondents with children (23.8% vs 19.5%; Chi Square p <. 04)

  • Interestingly, respondents without children were significantly more likely to show a preference for having top-of-the-line appliances compared to respondents with children (Dishwasher/Refrigerator 45.6% vs. 37.4% and Washer/Dryer 37.3% vs. 28.1% - both Chi Squares significant beyond the p < .01 levels)

  • Finally, respondents without children were significantly more likely to show a preference for having an in-ground pool or spa compared to respondents with children (21.2% vs. 15.8%, Chi Square p<.01).

Importance Rating - Differences

  • There were a number of statistically significant differences in Importance Ratings found between the male and female respondents based on Analysis of Variance methodology.

  • For example, female respondents rated the importance of neighborhood safety higher than male respondents (4.52 vs.4.36; F = 19.69, p <.000*).

  • However, male respondents rated the importance of a large backyard significantly higher than did female respondents (3.27 vs. 3.19; F = 4.68, p <.03*).

  • Not surprisingly, female respondents gave significantly higher importance ratings for proximity to decent shopping (3.67 vs 3.58; F=3.93, p <.048*) and for proximity to family (3.15 vs. 2.94; F =10.943,p <.001*)

  • With respect to statistically significant Importance Ratings among the five age group segments, the Analysis of Variance testing uncovered the fact that the youngest age group (18-29) rated neighborhood safety significantly lower than the other age groups (F =2.59, p <.035*)

  • The 40 to 49 age segment rated proximity to school significantly higher than the other four age groups, perhaps because this group is more likely to have high school age children in the household and the quality of the high school can have a strong impact on the future of college-bound students ( F = 53.21, p <.000). In larger cities with multiple high schools, it is not uncommon for parents to relocate within a community so their children can be in the most desirable high school district.

  • Proximity to decent shopping was significantly more important to the older age groups (30 to 60+) than it was for the youngest group (18-29) with an F = 3.17 (p < .013).

  • Being close to family was significantly more important for the respondents over 60 than it was for the four younger age groups ( F = 3.18, p <.014).

  • There were also a number of statistically significant differences in Importance Ratings found between the respondents with children living in the household under 18 years of age and those with no children under 18.

  • For example, respondents with children rated neighborhood safety significantly higher than respondents with no children (F = 12.98,p <.000).

  • Not surprisingly, respondents with children under age 18 rated the importance of a large backyard significantly greater than did respondents with no children (F =752.35; p <.000). The large F value shows that this result is representative of a very strong attitude difference on this factor between families with children and those without.

  • Another strong difference was found between these segments regarding living close to schools, the families with children rated the importance of proximity to school significantly higher than did the families without children ( F =71.09;p <.000).

  • None of the other rating differences among the various Age Group, Gender or Household Type segments was found to be statistically significant beyond the p <.05 level.

Probability values (values of p) less than 0.5 are considered statistically significant; the lower the p value, the greater the degree of statistical significance and the greater the predictive power of the test.

Executive Summary

Summary and Conclusions

  • Overall, one of the most surprising results of this survey was the very striking consistency found between males and females and across the various age groups from 18 to 60+ with respect to preferences for various home amenities. Although in other areas of life, there may be substantial differences in male and female preferences and attitudes, there seems to be very little gender effect with respect to amenity preferences for a new residence. The only exception (and the difference was not significant) may be with respect to preferences for custom walk-in closets where more females than males selected this option.

  • Amenity preference differences were much stronger between households with children under 18 and those with no children. For example, respondents without children preferred a 3-car garage significantly more than respondents with children (23.8% vs 19.5%; Chi Square p <. 04)

  • Interestingly, respondents without children were significantly more likely to show a preference for having top-of-the-line appliances compared to respondents with children (Dishwasher/Refrigerator 45.6% vs. 37.4% and Washer/Dryer 37.3% vs. 28.1% - both Chi Squares significant beyond the p < .01 levels)

  • Finally, respondents without children were significantly more likely to show a preference for having an in-ground pool or spa compared to respondents with children (21.2% vs. 15.8%, Chi Square p<.01).

  • Although preferences for Amenities were fairly consistent among the Gender and Age Group segments, statistically significant differences were found for the Importance Ratings with female respondents rating the importance of neighborhood safety higher than males and female respondents gave significantly higher importance ratings for proximity to decent shopping and for proximity to family.

  • However, male respondents rated the importance of a large backyard significantly higher than did female respondents.

  • Significant rating differences were also found between households with children and those with no children under age 18. For example, respondents with children rated neighborhood safety significantly higher than respondents with no children.

  • Not surprisingly, respondents with children under age 18 rated the importance of a large backyard significantly greater than did respondents with no children. Another strong difference was found between these segments regarding living close to schools, the families with children rated the importance of proximity to school significantly higher than did the families without children.

  • The fact that 51% of this sample had no children under 18 and 21% were age 60 or older may have had something to do with the fact that the largest proportional response (48%) for ideal size of residence was given for a relatively modest residence size of 1,000 to 1,999. Although it was not specifically addressed in this survey, it is a fact that renters usually outnumber home buyers by a 2:1 margin in these web-based surveys conducted on behalf of relocation.com; this may also account for the preference for a modest size residence (i.e., most apartments are under 2,000 sq. ft.).

  • Almost ¾ of the sample or 72% indicated that they preferred to live within 30 miles of their workplace. However it is important to note that 18% of the sample indicated they worked from home and had no commute to worry about.

  • Finally, a very important factor in making a new residence neighborhood location decision among this sample of consumers is the Safety of the Neighborhood. This factor received the highest overall average rating of all the factors tested in this survey.

  • And, in order to assess the overall safety of any neighborhood, this sample of consumers indicated that two things were most important: driving by to check out the upkeep of the houses and front lawns and the word-of-mouth reputation of a neighborhood.

  • Overall, the most treasured home amenity is central air conditioning, followed by custom walk-in closets; none of the other 9 amenities tested garnered over 50% of the sample responses.

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