Survey: One-third of homebuyers would relocate if remote work were permanent

Pandemic-driven relocation is likely to continue throughout 2021, especially if the remote working trend proves resilient, according to a new report from Redfin.

A survey commissioned by the national real estate brokerage found that 34% — just over one-third — of homebuyers have already moved to a different city or area since the beginning of the pandemic. Another 33% would consider moving to a different city or area given the opportunity to permanently work remotely.

“We haven’t seen the end of pandemic-driven relocation; there will be a second wave of migration this year as permanent remote workers are able to let lifestyle preferences and affordability rather than proximity to the office dictate where they live,” said Redfin chief economist Daryl Fairweather. “As homebuyers who want more space for their money continue to move into suburban and rural areas, local governments will need to allow more homes to be built to accommodate them.

“Remote workers will continue to leave New York and San Francisco, which means homes in those places may become a bit more affordable, a development that could eventually attract new residents or allow local renters to become homeowners.”

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Despite the apparent enthusiasm to move, homebuyers still appear keen on staying relatively close to their workplaces and former homes. Broken down by distance, 30% of respondents said that they have already moved less than 50 miles away from their previous residence, while just 4% said they have moved more than 50 miles away. Twenty-three percent said they would like to move less than 50 miles away, while another 10% expressed the desire to move more than 50 miles away.

Incomes also played a part in the survey’s results, a likely result of the ongoing K-shaped recovery from the COVID-19 crisis that has been more beneficial to wealthier households. Forty-four percent of people earning more than $150,000 per year have already moved to a different city or area, more than 10 percentage points more than any other income bracket. Just 24% of people earning $50,000 to $74,000, meanwhile, have already moved or would like to.

Meanwhile, an overwhelming majority of Americans expected remote work to continue even after the pandemic. Seventy-two percent of respondents to Redfin’s survey who were working remotely expected to continue doing so after the pandemic abates, compared to just 17% of respondents who believe they’ll be working back onsite.

“Although some people will return to offices this year as vaccines roll out, many more workers will remain remote,” Fairweather said. “We expect even more homebuyers to be moving out of town this year as they solidify their remote-work plans.”


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