Rocking the Suburbs: Will Remote Work Shift Post-COVID Home Buying?

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covid home buying

Today, there are millions of Americans who are moving into their third month of working from home, in what has been called the world’s largest work-from-home experiment. And now, business leaders are saying that remote work is here to stay — and likely for long after any concern of the coronavirus pandemic subsides. But, how will that impact post-COVID home buying?

Google has announced that any of its employees who don’t need to be on-site can work from home under their current arrangement until the end of 2020. Other companies, such as Facebook and Twitter, have taken this a step further, saying they are committed to allowing any employee who wants to work remotely the option to do so indefinitely. 

With more and more companies making moves such as these, employees are taking note. A recent survey showed that a growing number of those workers who have the option to work from work, say that they likely would work from home — and in a more affordable city or state. 

In other words, many of us are ready to not only explore the idea of permanently working from home but also completely changing what “home” looks like. Suddenly, with advancements in technology and security, geographic location becomes almost an afterthought, as more people can work remotely from anywhere. This is especially encouraging for people who are looking to get into specific industries, such as technology, but who aren’t able to live in some of the bigger tech hubs, such as San Francisco or Silicon Valley. 

The impact of COVID on the American workforce

COVID-19 will likely permanently shift working patterns among the American public, as more companies have been forced to embrace allowing their employees to work from home. And now, as most companies are realizing that they can be successful with a remote workforce, as many are seeing no decrease in productivity, they’re also finding out another surprising fact — many employees do not want to return to the office, even once any closures or restrictions have been lifted. 

This sudden rise in working from home has presented problems for some, but it has also created tremendous opportunities, as well. Some technology giants, such as Google and Microsoft, have begun to offer their services free of charge during the pandemic, in the hopes that these corporations and businesses will continue to use their services once things are back to normal (assuming they allow at least part of their workforce to continue to work from home, that is). 

On the flip side, other systems are already beginning to crack under the strain. Some corporate networks, not used to handling the bandwidth caused from an entirely remote employee base, have been experiencing quirks and lag times, and ISPs have been feeling the pressure to lift any bandwidth caps, so that employees don’t find themselves throttled or even cut off by the middle of the month. 

The sorts of investments that many corporations have made are leading many to wonder if they will continue to embrace remote work once a sense of normalcy returns. It will probably be hard to say no to an employee’s request to work from home — especially after he or she has proven to be productive when working remotely, and HR has already invested in a suite of work from home tools for employees. After all, it makes it easier to justify the investments made if they pay off for years, rather than just for weeks or for months. 

COVID home buying: a suburban boom? 

Traditionally, where people choose to live is influenced greatly by where they work, a trend that has spurred explosive growth and home value, and even an affordability crisis in major job hubs and centers. However, the post-COVID recovery could not only mitigate this crisis, it could even lead to the opposite effect, driving a housing boom in suburbs, secondary cities, and bedroom communities. This shift would not be driven by a newfound fear of population density, but rather by a seismic shift toward working remotely from home. 

But exactly how many potential new remote workers are we talking about, anyway? Thanks to COVID-19, more than half of all employed Americans (56 percent) have had the chance to work from home, according to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll. And the survey showed that among those who have been working from home, the majority (75 percent) would prefer to continue working remotely at least half of the time, if the option is made available to them, even after the pandemic has completely subsided. And, of these remote workers, 2 out of three would be at least likely to consider a move, if they had the option to work from home as they wanted. 

These workers would likely look for homes in more affordable areas, which could allow for a better quality of life and the ability to save more for the future. When it comes time to move, homebuyers who have the ability to work from home will likely seek out more space, whether indoors or outdoors, further outside city limits, where they can often find larger and nicer homes that still work within their budget. 

The COVID-19 legacy

For many in the American workforce, the workplace will likely never look the same after the coronavirus pandemic. A lasting legacy of the pandemic is likely to be a wider acceptance and utilization of remote work. As a result, the post-pandemic recovery period could very well drive a housing boom in more affordable cities and their surrounding suburbs. 

And where buyers go shopping or at home could also shift after the pandemic, according to industry experts. They also explain that the experience of being at home for long periods of time, with many people not even leaving their home for days or weeks at a time, has everyone really reexamining their priorities. People are really starting to realize that space is more important, so many people are choosing to look at more affordable areas and cities where they can have more space — at the same price. 

For many years, the sheer number of people choosing to live in urban areas has been tied to the availability of the most jobs, as well as the easiest access to public transportation. But as more employees begin to work remotely indefinitely, it is likely that we could see a shift in this dynamic. 

COVID-19 and its impact on the California housing market

Moving away from the core of these urban central areas has traditionally offered affordability, but at the expense of your time spent commuting to and from work, as well as money for gas and the general wear and tear on your car. But by relaxing the effects of these costs by allowing employees to work from home could mean that more households can choose larger homes that are farther out, easing price pressure and demand on urban cities and inner suburban markets. 

However, it is important to keep in mind that this often means that home buyers are also giving up their easy access to other amenities, such as restaurants, entertainment, museums, and more. Given how important these things are to most home buyers, it’s safe to say that we aren’t expecting a major rise in rural homesteaders setting up camp in the middle of nowhere. Rather, it is more likely that we’ll see suburban communities or smaller cities beginning to offer these types of amenities themselves, as most home buyers still place tremendous value on having access to amenities, along with their more spacious homes and larger lot sizes.  

Home buying in the COVID era

If you’re ready to search for houses to buy or have questions about how the pandemic is affecting the current real estate market, we’re here to help. At Reali, we offer superior service and local agents, combined with the latest in technology. Find an agent or contact us when you’re ready to get started!

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