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Measuring the Impact of Remote Work on Housing Decisions

Realtor.com recently examined trends in homebuying during the pandemic, as more and more Americans were driven out of the office, thus forcing a rise in home sales nationwide. The survey was conducted among 3,998 adults by HarrisX.

Nearly 60% of new homeowners who purchased within the last 12 months are working from home, and 62% prefer to be. Despite it being the clear preference, just 48% of that total have been told by their employer they can continue to work remotely. One in four of those surveyed still have no definitive answer on whether or not they can remain fully remote indefinitely, and another quarter already have plans to return.

"Throughout the last year, we have seen homebuyers across the country, empowered by the new found ability to work remotely, moving farther and farther from crowded urban downtowns in search of more space, higher quality of life, and a lower cost of living," said George Ratiu Sr., Economist for Realtor.com. "Our survey data shows that people are really enjoying their new communities and larger homes, and aren't willing to give them up anytime soon. Looking forward, if companies return to more conservative policies on working from home, we could see an influx of new homeowners in the job market. For companies willing to stay more flexible with either hybrid or entirely remote opportunities, there is a large cohort of young professionals with growing families who value homeownership and affordability, and welcome the benefits of a technologically-enhanced employment landscape."

The report found that Gen Z homebuyers reported the largest share of remote workers, followed by millennials, and then Gen X. Regionally, the share of remote workers was highest in the Northeast and West, mirroring the concentration of technology and information services companies in coastal metro areas.

Those surveyed this spring showed an even stronger shift toward remote work, with 62% of recent homebuyers indicating they favor it. Interestingly, the share of those who prefer remote work was the highest for Gen Z respondents, followed by millennials and Gen X.

When asked what they will do if their employer decides they must return to the office, while 48% said they'd try to arrange a flexible schedule that allows for some in-office work and some remote work, nearly 25% claimed they would seek new employment. Just 30% of those asked said they would willingly return to the office if asked, and only 8% say they would sell their pandemic-purchased home in favor of one closer to work.

The report also found that a greater share of recent homebuyers traded longer commutes in exchange for desirable homes and more affordable communities. Close to 40% of homebuyers reported one-way commute times from their new homes to workplaces that were over 30 minutes long. Forty-five percent of both Gen Z and millennial respondents said their one-way commutes were over 30 minutes. In comparison, only 29% of Gen Xers and 21% of Baby Boomers reported one-way commutes longer than 30 minutes. Regionally, buyers in the Northeast and West had larger shares of 30-minute or longer commutes, at 53% and 40%, respectively.

Click here to read more about realtor.com’s “Remote Work Is Highly Valued by 2021 Homebuyers” report.

About Author: Eric C. Peck

Eric C. Peck has 20-plus years’ experience covering the mortgage industry, he most recently served as Editor-in-Chief for The Mortgage Press and National Mortgage Professional Magazine. Peck graduated from the New York Institute of Technology where he received his B.A. in Communication Arts/Media. After graduating, he began his professional career with Videography Magazine before landing in the mortgage space. Peck has edited three published books and has served as Copy Editor for Entrepreneur.com.
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