Permanent telecommuting could fuel increase in homeownership

Many companies have realized over the six months of the COVID-19 pandemic that their employees can be just as productive working from home as at the office. And for workers renting in expensive areas, such as D.C., homeownership may be within reach now that they don’t have to live where they work.

Online real estate database Zillow analyzed income, industry and employment to determine the probability that an employee would be able to telecommute. It found that 1.92 million renters, or 4.5% of renter households, could move out of big cities to places where they can buy a starter home. Half of them are millennials age 26 to 40.

The analysis found that almost 9%, or nearly 70,000, of renter households in D.C. could buy a typical starter home if they were to move to a more affordable area and could telecommute.

Zillow estimated the typical starter home nationwide at about $132,000, and that is much higher in 37 of the nation’s 50 largest metro areas, where the majority of the country’s jobs are.

The company determined that the cities where the most renters would gain the most power to buy a home if they moved included D.C., San Francisco, Seattle and Boston.

But just because some renters who are now permanent telecommuters might be able to move to a cheaper area and buy a house there, that doesn’t mean they will. They may not want to move to a sleepier, more rural area just because they can buy a home there.

Zillow said it might be difficult to completely uproot and move away from family and friends and the experiences that an area might offer, such as the pace of a big city, culture, sports teams, schools and museums.

Instead, telecommuters may opt to move from the city center to the suburbs, where costs might be lower, even if they may still not be able to afford a house.

A starter home is worth more in a metro area’s namesake city than in the metro as a whole in only 20 of the nation’s 50 largest metropolitan areas, Zillow found.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Chris Cruise

Christopher Cruise is a writer, reporter and anchor at WTOP. He has worked at The Voice of America, where he anchored newscasts for the Learning English branch. He is a backup host for Westwood’s morning radio news programs, “America in the Morning” and “First Light,” and contributes to them weekly.

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