If the current working-from-home trends hold up as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, high-priced coastal cities like Seattle could see a mass departure of residents as they opt for more affordable surrounding areas, according to a recent Redfin report. Smaller Eastside cities, which previously posed long commutes for Seattle-area workers, may see an influx of remote workers if that barrier no longer exists.
According to the new survey of homebuyers and sellers featured in Redfin’s latest report, 1-in-4 newly remote workers expect to continue to work remotely once shutdowns end, and more than half of respondents said they would move if they never had to go into an office.
Even if remote work becomes only a part-time option, workers could still move to far-flung reaches of their existing metro areas to purchase a much larger home for the same price, while keeping their total weekly commute time steady, according to Redfin. For example, price per square foot in the Seattle area falls from $327 within a 30-minute round-trip commute of downtown to $120 for a 75-minute commute. Therefore, a commuter coming into the office two days a week would then still only be commuting for a total of 150 minutes per week.
“Redfin is preparing for a seismic demographic shift toward smaller cities,” stated Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman. “Prior to this pandemic, the housing affordability crisis was already driving people from large cities to small. Now, more permissive policies around remote work, and a rising wariness about close quarters, will likely accelerate that trend. … Some won’t commute at all, choosing instead to work completely virtually from a small town, perhaps where their parents still live. The whole narrative of the past 200 years, of the young person moving to the big city, may turn a little upside down in the years ahead.”