Novel coronavirus has already changed the way Americans approach work, creating effects that may ripple outward and affect the way they live as well.
As workers adjust to home offices and telecommuting, and those out of work look for ways to save costs, millions of professionals may end up leaving cities and metropolitan areas permanently, settling in greener (and less expensive) pastures.
Such behavior has been the subject of numerous profiles across the media landscape over the past month, and is likely indicative of wider trends nationwide — in fact, a recent poll confirms that the current pandemic has led nearly 40 percent of adults to consider moving to less crowded areas, per a recent Harris Poll.
While many of these former city dwellers indicated their original intention was to leave temporarily, a tightening economy (which necessitates the need to save) paired with the ability to work remotely indefinitely will likely extend such migratory patterns well into the future.
Furthermore, experts tout that COVID-19’s effects on real estate will likely be felt in cities where the market is most expensive.
“I think a couple of the obvious losers in this are New York and San Francisco,” says Tim Milazzo, president of real estate finance platform StackSource.
“With the cost of living extremely high, and as more businesses contemplate [permitting employees to continue] working from home, these office-heavy cities will suffer as employees look for cheaper places to live,” Milazzo added.
Additionally, with many cities dealing with serious deficits in the wake of COVID-19 (New York alone has racked up a $9 billion bill in combating the virus), businesses are already wary of higher taxes in 2021 to make up for this loss, leading to more relocations outside city lines.
Where Are People Moving During Coronavirus?
As much of the country remains under some sort of partial lockdown, official statistics on how many individuals have fled large cities indefinitely (and to where) remain scarce.
Anecdotal evidence and expert predictions, however, point toward less-dense (and more affordable) metropolitan areas emerging as the “victors” of this wide-reaching transition.
“I think major metro areas with a more reasonable cost of living that retain some cultural draws will be big winners in the long run,” adds Milazzo, noting cities such as Dallas, Austin, TX, and Charlotte, NC, might see some growth.
Such predictions are echoed by chief executive officer Jonas Bordo, co-founder of rental listing service Dwellsy.
“I expect COVID-19 to benefit the most compelling low-cost cities in the medium- to longer-term,” Bordo says.
“This will include cities like Boise, ID, Pittsburgh, Denver, and Burlington, VT, that feature a high quality of urban life with a relatively lower cost of living,” he adds.
However, some real estate experts aren’t convinced that COVID-19 is the death knell for big cities that current trends make it out to be.
“I know a lot of people are calling for the end of cities but I don’t buy it,” says licensed real estate broker James McGrath, founder of New York–based rental listing website Yoreevo.
“These doom-and-gloom forecasts come at a time when it’s very easy to forget why people live in cities to begin with: It’s a lifestyle, not simply a way to be close to work,” he added.
McGrath went on to state that, in lieu of a wide-reaching exodus, a more realistic effect of novel coronavirus would likely come in the form of reduced rent.
“While remote work will certainly be more common post-COVID, city offices are still going to be filled,” he predicted. “Even if there is less demand, that will be reflected in lower rent, not higher vacancy.”
What You Should Do
If you can continue working remotely, or find yourself in a position where it’s necessary to slash the cost of housing, now may be the ideal time to shift locations — provided you can do so safely and swiftly.
Keep in mind that if you’re currently employed, moving to a new location may lead to a decrease in wages.
Many companies like Facebook are scaling salaries to match the cost-of-living in the employee’s new city, a practice that may become more commonplace as employers look to save costs.
Moreover, assess whether leaving your current city is a temporary fix to a temporary problem. If you think you’ll be missing city living once this pandemic blows over, and you can afford to continue renting, it may be best to just sit tight. Thankfully you can keep track of when everything might return to “normal” by following CentSai’s COVID-19 page.