One in four American workers expect that they will continue to have either partial or complete remote-work flexibility after the pandemic, and a majority believe that remote work flexibility will have an impact on their housing preferences and location, according to a report from Apartment List.
“In a survey of 5,000 employed adults across the U.S., we found that four-in-10 workers expect to have some form of continued remote-work flexibility post-pandemic. Nineteen percent expect to have a hybrid arrangement that allows for remote work multiple days per week, while 21 percent expect that they’ll have the ability to work exclusively remotely,” Apartment List said in the report.
Apartment List Housing Economist Chris Salviati said, “I would say that this report provides a lot of valuable new data to confirm trends that we’ve been hypothesizing about for a while. Namely, a broad embrace of remote work will be an ongoing long-term trend that will outlast the pandemic, and this newfound geographic flexibility will have a direct impact on where these remote workers choose to live” and housing after the pandemic.
“Forty-two percent of remote workers tell us that they’re planning to move in the next 12 months, compared to just 26 percent of on-site workers,” Salviati said. “Among those likely movers, 35 percent of remote workers say that they plan to relocate to a more affordable market, more than double the rate for on-site workers. The prevalence of housing affordability as a motivating factor in upcoming moves planned by remote workers indicates that we are likely to see a continued outflow of remote workers from the nation’s most expensive markets (e.g. San Francisco, NYC, Boston, D.C., and Seattle).
“As for where these folks will go, there are a wide range of preferences among remote workers. Many tell us that they value being close to family, and we observe a fairly even split between those who value urban amenities and those who value natural ones.
“In general, markets that offer a good mix of affordability and access to urban and/or natural amenities are good candidates to see an inflow of remote workers. Cities like Phoenix, Portland, Austin, and Nashville were quite hot even before the pandemic but still maintain an affordability advantage over the most expensive markets, and so likely still stand to gain. We are also likely to see other hubs emerge over time as this trend evolves,” Salviati said.
A few highlights from the report on remote work and housing:
- Remote work is already spurring increased moving activity; 19 percent of remote workers moved over the past 12 months, compared to 13 percent of workers whose jobs require them to be on-site. However, most of these additional moves were local — remote and on-site workers were equally likely to move to a new city or a new metro.
- Looking forward, 42 percent of remote workers say that they’re planning to move over the next 12 months, compared to 26 percent of on-site workers. Remote workers are more likely to be planning local moves as well as moves to a new city.
- Thirty-five percent of remote workers who are planning an upcoming move say that they plan to relocate to a more affordable market, more than double the rate for on-site workers, indicating that we may see an outflow of remote workers from the nation’s most expensive housing markets going forward. This finding also highlights the important equity implications of remote work — on-site jobs are lower paid, on average, but on-site workers have less flexibility to relocate in search of more affordable housing.
- Overall, remote workers told us that the most important factors in their decision of where to live over the next several years are “access to a housing market where I can afford homeownership” and “access to natural amenities.”
The unprecedented change in how workplaces are organized is weakening the link between job choice and housing choice, and remote workers are already taking advantage of this newfound freedom to move at higher rates, Apartment List says in the report.
Understanding the geographic preferences of this group is now more important than ever, as their migration trends will have the potential to disrupt housing markets across the country.
“Our survey sheds new light on the factors that are motivating moves among remote workers and the attributes they value when choosing where to live. We find that the considerations of remote workers differ from those of on-site workers in important ways. These preferences will drive how remote work will impact the housing market over the next several years,” Apartment List says in the report.