COVID-19 has changed just about every aspect of our lives, from the way we interact with others to our work environment. In the past four months, several companies have instituted work from home policies and have found that employees are not only still able to get their work done, but many of them enjoy working remotely. Working remote means that employees cut out their commute time, giving them more time to spend with their family. It also cuts down expenses for the company in utilities and rent on the office space they lease. Many companies are now considering keeping some of their workforce remote, even as restrictions ease. Aside from lowering their costs, they are also able to hire from a much broader pool of candidates by allowing employees to work virtually anywhere. So, if you don’t have to live close to where you work, what does this mean for the housing market?
In general, potential homebuyers are house hunting in the suburbs and more rural areas. Many of the attractive aspects of city life have been put on hold during the pandemic in the name of social distancing. Meanwhile, urbanites may feel cooped up in small apartments, apprehensive about sharing amenities and common spaces (elevators, laundry rooms, on-site gyms) with their neighbors.
A survey of 1,004 people by the International Council of Shopping Centers found that twenty-seven percent of adults in the U.S. are considering moving because of COVID-19, and many of them are looking to the suburbs or rural towns. Realtor.com surveyed 1,300 people over the first two weeks of April and found that 15.7% of homebuyers want more space in their next house and 13.6% want “more and better outdoor space.”
For many people, being able to work remotely means they can afford their dream home by moving away from the city, where the cost of living is often quite high. In fact, Vic Lederman of Stansberry Research makes the case that remote workers in the tech industry (like Facebook or Twitter) will make well above the U.S. median household income level and so if they settle in these more rural towns, the entire area will experience a rising-tide effect.
That said, working from home isn’t everyone’s ideal situation. Some employees are anxious to get back to the office, away from the distractions of home. While these employees may want to stay within driving distance of the office, we could see more offices move to the suburbs as they seek more affordable buildings with sprawling floors that are conducive for social distancing. Whether or not this trend will be short-lived or the new way of doing business, the need for social distancing has certainly created a desire for more space on both a personal and commercial level.