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Will Remote Work Spark a Migration to the Suburbs?

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Will Remote Work Spark a Migration to the Suburbs?


May 14, 2020
Sunset over suburb
By Mark

Living close to where you work has its perks, with shorter commute times and savings on transportation on the top of the list. The one caveat? Your job dictates where you can live, and with urban centers being business hubs, many choose to settle in the city. But now a remote work revolution may slash commute times and transportation costs to nearly zero while giving people more freedom to live further from where they work. Over half of employed Americans have had the opportunity to work from home during the pandemic, and 75 percent of those asked in a recent Zillow survey conducted by The Harris Poll said they would like to continue to work remotely at least part time. The survey also found that those who would be able to work remotely would consider moving further from their place of employment while searching for a home with more space for a home office. These factors combined could mean that former urbanites who work remotely will be tempted to move out to the more affordable and spacious suburbs.  

Where people choose to live has traditionally been closely tied to where they work, which has helped push home values up very strongly in fast-growing urban job centers — especially on the coasts — and has led to housing scarcity and affordability concerns in several cities. 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 significant 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, according to a recent Zillow survey conducted by The Harris Poll. Among Americans working from home because of the pandemic, 75 percent said they would prefer to continue to do so at least half the time, if given the option, after the pandemic subsides.

And two-thirds (66%) of those employees said they would be at least somewhat likely to consider moving if they had the flexibility to work from home as often as they want.  Recent Zillow research suggests more Americans are at least looking at their housing options. In mid-April, page views of for-sale listings on Zillow were 18 percent higher than in 2019.  

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