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Study: 2/3 Of UK Citizens On The Move Say They Want To Leave Town

What makes people move away from their city? Plenty of studies have found that the pandemic urged typical city-dwellers to reconsider a move to more rural areas. Read more.

Here are some highlights of our study:

  • Two-thirds of UK’s citizens on the move are looking to leave town. In other words, the majority of UK’s city-dwellers wanting to move are looking for a new home somewhere else.
  • London, Birmingham and Manchester contain the lowest percentage of people that want to leave town.
  • Edinburgh, Leeds and Plymouth are cities that contain the highest percentages of people wanting to move elsewhere.
  • People from Plymouth move away the furthest distance from their existing homes.
  • People from Wakefield stay closest to home, while also moving the biggest houses compared to any other UK citizen.
  • Londoners move the smallest houses of any UK citizen.
  • The pandemic had a lasting impact on the moving behaviour of Londoners.

Which UK citizens are most likely to leave town?

What makes people move away from their city?

Plenty of studies have found that the pandemic urged typical city-dwellers to reconsider a move to more rural areas. In August 2020, the London Assembly Housing Committee found that 46 per cent of those who want to move want the home to be out of London.

But what about the rest of the UK? The findings from the London Assembly Housing Committee were based on 450 survey responses and only focused on the capital. We analysed over 300,000 requests for removal quotations through our platform to look at the rest of the UK.

Our data suggests that the average UK citizens is even more likely looking to move away from their home city. We found that 66% of people looking to move were looking for an out-of-town move.

In other words, only one-third of people wanting to move are actually looking for a new home in their current city.

We compiled data from 25 UK cities and found some interesting outliers. Interestingly, we found that some of UK’s largest cities do a better job at retaining their citizens.

These cities have a lower percentage of people that want to leave town:

  • London: 45% 
  • Manchester: 48%
  • Birmingham: 56%
  • Average of UK’s 25 biggest cities: 66%

This shows that Londoners on the move are less likely to leave town compared to other UK cities.

On the other end of the spectrum, we found that some city-dwellers show a stronger desire to leave their town.

These cities had a particularly high percentage of people that wanted to make an out-of-town move:

  • Wolverhampton: 76%
  • Cardiff: 80%
  • Bristol: 85%
  • Edinburgh: 86%
  • Leeds: 87%
  • Plymouth: 92%

Commentary from the team

Allison Willis, Data Analyst at Getamover:

When the London data was first released by the Assembly, it was considered to be a sign of a potential upcoming exodus. However, the findings were only based on 450 survey responses, and we wanted to see how this correlated to other UK cities.

As we present in our findings, we were surprised to see that Londoners are some of the least likely citizens to actually leave town. People from other cities – such as Edinburgh or Plymouth – are much more likely to move elsewhere.

While COVID-19 has drastically impacted the way we live, we didn’t see a big change in the number of people wanting to move out of the cities. Salaries in the big cities (and London especially) are higher when compared to the rest of the UK. And even though housing prices continue to trend upwards, it can be argued that the cost of living vs salary still benefits the city life. This can explain why people are less likely to move away from the big cities, where job markets are the most active.

Average moving distance per city

How far would you move for your dream home? And how would that compare to the national average?

Our dataset contains over 300,000 moving requests, as filled out by UK citizens in our forms. Every request includes a “from” and “to” field, meaning that we’re able to calculate the distance of the requested move. We did so by calculating the driving distance in miles, using Google Maps’ API.

This provides us with an unique insight in how UK citizens move around the country.

We averaged the distance of each move per city, and found that people from Plymouth are most willing to go the distance. The average Plymovian wants to move 136 miles, compared to the national average of 81 miles.

Moving distances across UK - joy plot 5

The top 5 is completed by Edinburgh, Hull, Swansea and Leeds.

On the other hand, people from Wakefield are sticking close to home. Wakefielders move an average of 54 miles per move.

Plymouth vs Wakefield moving map 2

We visualised the difference between Plymouth and Wakefield in a map that shows all the removal requests in our databases:This big difference is explained by the simple fact that Plymouth is situated in the far south-east corner of the UK, whereas Wakefield is pretty much in the center.

(We’ve created maps of all 25 cities, you can find them here.)

Average house size of move

The average number of rooms for UK citizens on the move is 2.90, but this number varies wildly. This image shows a histogram of our data.

UK national average no of rooms per move 1

Most of the removal requests in our database came from 2-room or 3-room apartment moves.

When looking at the average house size per city, we found that people from Wakefield move the most rooms.

The top 5 cities are:

  1. Wakefield (3.12)
  2. Leicester (3.10)
  3. Stoke-on-Trent (3.08)
  4. Swansea (3.06)
  5. Bolton (3.06)

At the bottom of the list is London, with an average of 2.72 rooms per move.

This statistic is to be expected, since London is by far the most populated city in the UK. With the most expensive real estate market, it makes sense that Londoners get less room for their buck.

How the pandemic affected London movers

Londoners not only move the smallest houses, they are also impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic the most.

When analyzing our dataset, we found no real lasting impacts of the pandemic on the moving behaviour of UK citizens. However, one thing that stood out was a changing trend of Londoners in particular.

Ever since the pandemic started, Londoners have been looking to move away significantly further than before.

London increasing moving distance pandemic 1

This change can be explained by a multitude of reasons. One simple reason is that it’s – by far – the biggest city in the UK, with a population of 9 million. The second biggest city is Birmingham, with only 2.8 million habitants. With the pandemic, people may have experienced the many downsides of living in a crowded city, without being able to enjoy the benefits.

An article published by CNBC explores potential reasons why people are leaving London, and argues that COVID-19 has fundamentally changed the way we view cities. With the increasing adaptation of work-from-home, it makes even more sense. But then again, the relative amount of people wanting to move out of the cities has remained stable throughout the pandemic. We found that it only impacted the average distance of the move.

Here’s a map that shows where all these Londoners are looking to move to:

London Moving map

(Again, we’ve created maps of all 25 cities included in this study, you can find them here.)

Commentary from the team

Allison Willis, Data Analyst at Getamover:

When mapping each request, we found an interesting pattern. City-dwellers that moved out of the cities were gravitating to areas that were connected by UK’s major train lines. This is especially apparent in London’s map, but also when looking at the maps of other big cities.

This finding suggests that a lot of the city-leavers still prefer to stay within reach of the city. These people will still be able to enjoy the higher salaries that come from city offices, while not having to put up with the drawbacks

Ranking all cities

We ranked each city in our list based on the average scope of the requests, by considering the average moving distance and the number of rooms per request.

RankingCityAverage distanceAverage no. of rooms


We’ve compiled these statistics from our database of >300,000 domestic removal requests from the UK. This data is anonymised and does not contain any personal information. We calculated distances and coordinates for each removal request with the Google Maps Geocoding API, based on the “From” and “To” data fields. Average building height for the included cities was compiled from this site.

dropbox cover image

All images created as part of this study can be found and downloaded here.

Fair use and redistribution

Getamover grants you permission to reuse, host, or repost the graphics and images from this article. When doing so, we ask that you kindly attribute the authors by linking to Getamover or this page.

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