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What Will Exurb Buyers Do if Called Back to the Office?

Pandemic-era buyers moved farther out and to new cities, assuming they’d never have to return to the office. Now, if forced to choose, 25% would pick home over their job.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – COVID-19 drove working professionals out of the office and sparked a surge in home buying in the less-expensive outskirts of cities and even in small towns across the U.S.

But so far, only 48% of these workers have been told they can continue working remotely. An unknown number may soon be expected to commute to work if a return becomes mandatory, creating a conflict that pits their new house against their job.

According to a realtor.com study, almost 60% of new homeowners who purchased within the last 12 months work from home – and 62% prefer to be. However, less than half have been told that they can continue to do so. About 25% those surveyed have no definitive answer on whether they can remain fully remote indefinitely; another 25% already have plans to return.

“Throughout the last year we have seen homebuyers across the country, empowered by the newfound ability to work remotely, moving farther and farther from crowded urban downtowns in search of more space, a higher quality of life and a lower cost of living,” says 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.”

If companies start demanding that these workers return to the office, Ratiu says 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’s a large cohort of young professionals with growing families who … welcome the benefits of a technologically-enhanced employment landscape.”

Job versus home

When asked what they will do if their employer decides they must return to the jobsite, 48% would try to arrange a flexible schedule that allows for some in-office work and some remote work – but almost 25% said they’d find a new job. Only 30% said they’d willingly return to the office if asked, and only 8% would sell their pandemic-era home to be closer to work.

Going the distance

Despite the fact that 31% are less willing to commute farther for work, close to 40% would have to travel 30 minutes or more each way to the office if asked to return to the workplace, and 18% of new homeowners would have to commute more than 60-minutes each way – an unappealing prospect for many.

“As offices begin to reopen, those who are currently looking for a new home may have to start factoring commute time into their search. One way to find homes within your desired commute time is to use the Realtor.com commute time filter.,” says Lexie Holbert, home and living expert at Realtor.com.

© 2021 Florida Realtors®