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Could remote work fuel housing demand for years to come?

by Liz Hughes

Last year’s en-masse move to remote work has driven what Zillow has dubbed the Great Reshuffling, as homeowners working from home have paused and reevaluated where and how they live. Now, as employers make decisions whether or not to reopen workplaces this fall, a new Zillow report suggests there’s more reshuffling to come. 

Zillow’s research found 39% of workers in the U.S. still don’t know if they will be going back into the office at all, remaining remote or in a hybrid situation. Thirty-five percent say that uncertainty is impacting life decisions, including moving. 

It’s no surprise after a year and a half of working from home that 84% of those surveyed said they would like to work remotely at least a few days each month. Forty-four percent want to work 100% from home. And who can blame them? Respondents noted working from home allowed them more control over their lives, their time and the freedom to live where they want. 

“Workers are clear in their desire for more flexibility,” Zillow Vice President of Organizational Operations Meghan Reibstein said in a release. “It’s no surprise employees are willing to change jobs to get to this more sustainable way of working, and employers risk losing people if they ignore employees’ preferences. If given the freedom to move, employees can work where they’re happiest and most productive, which is a win for them, their organizations and their communities.”

With supply and demand issues continuing to drive up housing prices, remote work “has the potential to bring the most significant expansion of economic opportunity and housing affordability witnessed in a generation or more,” the report states.

In July,  RE/MAX President Nick Bailey called the simultaneous increase in supply and demand a “unique case” and a welcome sign for buyers frustrated by the lack of homes on the market. “People are relocating as companies and individuals make long-term decisions about remote work and getting back to the office,” Bailey told Agent Publishing. 

Two months later and the trend has become even more pronounced, opening new housing opportunities nationwide  for first-time homebuyers and renters of color, according to Zillow’s data. 

The report found that in the most expensive metros, affordability is becoming more important than commute time for buyers, and areas within a 60- to 90-minute drive to a city center are experiencing the fastest growth in home prices. Moving data also shows homebuyers seeking larger and more affordable homes

“Lingering uncertainty over permanent flexible work policies suggests that we’re closer to the beginning of the Great Reshuffling than the end,” Chris Glynn, Zillow senior managing economist, said in the release. “As more people learn how often they’ll have to be at their workplace or make a job change to gain that flexibility, we expect to see more people move. Remote work will be a significant driver of housing demand for years to come, along with demographic trends.”

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