On one of yesterday’s Boston real estate blog posts, I wrote that I fear we might soon be seeing an exodus from downtown Boston to the suburbs. Today, I would like to elaborate a little more on this Boston real estate subject.
Where people choose to live has traditionally been tied to where they work, a dynamic that through the past decade spurred extreme Boston condo value growth and an affordability crisis in downtown Boston. But the post-pandemic recovery could mitigate or even produce the opposite effect and drive a boom in “outer” cities such as Arlington or Lexington, 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.
The Zillow report went on to state: 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 dedicated office space (31%), to live in a larger home (30%), and to live in a home with more rooms (29%).
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.
As a Beacon real estate broker I’m seeing the early beginnings of a shift. It’s not just happening in downtown Boston, but throughout the country. According to Zillow:
“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.”