3 Ways Remote Work is Changing the Way We Buy Homes

By Tanya Svoboda
March 2020

The way we work has always influenced where we live and what type of home we buy. For example, the post WW2 housing boom was driven by the need to build homes for a growing workforce as fast as possible. Rows of identical cape cod or bungalow style homes seemed to spring up overnight to meet that need.

Today, there is an increasing number of companies open to hiring people who work remotely. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that this past year, 24% of the workforce did their jobs from home, at least part of the time. That number went up to 42% for workers who hold advanced degrees.

Because of remote work we’re spending more time in our homes than ever before and it’s changing the way they look and the criteria we use when we shop for a new one.

We’re expanding the geography of our home search.

Because remote work allows us to do our jobs just about anywhere, it’s no longer as important to have a short commute. The New York Times article “Seven Ways Telecommuting Has Changed Real Estate” notes that homebuyers are more open to viewing houses that are further away from job dense areas like the city limits.

While buyers who work remotely may not need to be within the city limits, they also don’t want to feel too isolated. This means that suburbs with thriving town centers are moving to the top of the wish list. Busier suburbs are also more likely to offer alternate workspaces like updated public libraries and coffee shops.

Homebuyers with the ability to work from anywhere are also open to looking at out-of-state locations. Being untethered by geographic location means buyers no longer need to wait until retirement to move to states with their preferred climate. Families can also look for homes in areas with lower taxes and well-rated school systems.

Vermont launched the Remote Worker Grant Program to incentivize remote workers to shop for homes in their state.  The program’s motto is “Work Anywhere, Live in Vermont” and it offers select homebuyers $5,000 per year for up to two years to offset relocation costs. Similar programs are being run all over the country which are changing the desirability of previously overlooked locations. Michigan, Nebraska, and Connecticut, amongst others, are using similar programs to entice new residents.

We want homes that have dedicated office space.

There’s no contesting the advantages of an open floor plan – but it’s no longer at the top of the list for many homebuyers. Buyers want enclosed or flexible spaces within their home that can serve as a private home office. Homes that offer an additional bedroom or a finished basement or attic space are often in greater demand.

Since homebuyers are spending more time in their home during the workday, they’re also looking to spend less time there during evenings and weekends. This means they are willing to trade space previously allocated to a home gym or theater for a great home office. Sellers may find that investing in the creation of a private space will make their home more competitive.

We’re settling down for the long haul.

Working remotely means that homeowners don’t necessarily have to move if their company relocates, or they switch jobs. According to John Burns Real Estate Consulting, people are moving less,  “The average household moves every nine years, compared to every six years in the 1980s.” The consulting company shares that this is in part because their jobs no longer require them to, and in part because the size of starter homes being purchased in comparison to the number of inhabitants has increased – giving home buyers room to grow instead of the need to move.

It’s likely that companies will continue to offer flexible working arrangements, giving greater freedom to prospective home buyers. Sellers who modify their listings by adding a private home office may find themselves with a greater advantage as well.


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