At least this was based on a survey, rather than ivory-tower speculation:
Where people choose to live has traditionally been tied to where they work, a dynamic that through the past decade spurred extreme home value growth and an affordability crisis in coastal job centers. But the post-pandemic recovery could mitigate or even produce the opposite effect and drive a boom in secondary cities and exurbs, prompted not by a fear of density but by a seismic shift toward remote work.
Now that more than half of employed Americans (56%) have had the opportunity to work from home, a vast majority want to continue, at least occasionally. A new survey from Zillow, conducted by The Harris Poll, finds 75 percent of Americans working from home due to COVID-19 say they would prefer to continue that at least half the time, if given the option, after the pandemic subsides.
Two-thirds of employees working from home due to COVID-19 (66%) would be at least somewhat likely to consider moving if they had the flexibility to work from home as often as they want. Only 24 percent of Americans overall say they thought about moving as a result of spending more time at home due to social distancing recommendations.
Many employed Americans are trying to square the desire to work remotely with the functionality and size of their existing homes. Among employees who would be likely to consider moving, If given the flexibility to work from home when they want, nearly one-third say they would consider moving in order to live in a home with a dedicated office space (31%), to live in a larger home (30%), and to live in a home with more rooms (29%).
A Zillow analysis finds 46 percent of current households have a spare bedroom that could be used as an office. But that percentage drops off by more than 10 points in dense, expensive metros such as Los Angeles, New York, San Jose, San Francisco and San Diego, where far fewer homes have spare rooms.
When it comes time to move, home shoppers who can work remotely may seek out more space — both indoor and outdoor — farther outside city limits, where they can find larger homes within their budget.
“Moving away from the central core has traditionally offered affordability at the cost of your time and gas money. Relaxing those costs by working remotely could mean more households choose those larger homes farther out, easing price pressure on urban and inner suburban areas,” said Zillow senior principal economist, Skylar Olsen. “However, that means they’d also be moving farther from a wider variety of restaurants, shops, yoga studios and art galleries. Given the value many place on access to such amenities, we’re not talking about the rise of the rural homesteader on a large scale. Future growth under broader remote work would still favor suburban communities or secondary cities that offer those amenities along with more spacious homes and larger lots.”
Zillow Premier Agents from Silicon Valley to Manhattan say anecdotally, they’re seeing the early beginnings of a shift.
“We are seeing more buyers looking to leave the city,” said Bic DeCaro, a member of Zillow’s Agent Advisory Board serving Washington, D.C., and Northern Virginia. “Buyers, who just a few months ago were looking for walkability, are now looking for extra land to go along with more square footage.”
Keith Taylor Andrews, a small business owner in Denver, started home shopping on Zillow the week Colorado issued a stay-home order. The first-time homebuyer is now under contract on a house in Fayetteville, Arkansas that he plans to use as his home office.
“We learned from COVID-19 that we could operate our business remotely,” said Andrews, who has 40 employees working from home. “Arkansas is a good place to move, it’s economical and there are far fewer people. It feels like a breath of fresh air to get out of the city.”