Family moving into new home

Are Zoom Towns the New Boomtowns?

Thinking of packing suitcase, grabbing your laptop and setting up shop in a new locale? You’re in good company! One-fifth of adults in the U.S. moved during COVID-19 or know someone who did, says Pew Research, whether for health and safety reasons, or simply because the space demands of full-time work from home increased the urgency for more square footage.

Since the onset of the pandemic, countless office workers have fled crowded apartments in the urban core and are spreading out in more remote, spacious locations dubbed “Zoom towns.”

These hot spots have some things in common: roomy homes and yards, lower costs of living, and proximity to outdoor activities, like hiking trails or the waterfront. Ownerly published a list of top Zoom towns, and some cities are offering incentive programs to attract remote workers:

Tulsa Remote offers $10,000 to remote workers who relocate to the city, with the goal of “enhancing Tulsa’s talented and successful workforce community by bringing diverse, bright and driven individuals to the city for community building, collaboration and networking.”

The Savannah Technology Workforce Incentive reimburses relocation expenses for qualified technology workers relocating to Georgia’s Chatham County, including remote workers of technology firms located elsewhere or those relocating to take a position with a technology company in the region.

Choose Topeka is a public-private partnership that funds housing and relocation expenses for talented professionals relocating to the Shawnee County, Kansas, community. Tasty extra perk: Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches will add a $1,000 bonus for candidates who relocate into one of their three Topeka sandwich delivery zones.

Zoom towns come with their own sets of challenges, both for new residents and the longtime locals leery of the incoming city slickers. Beyond the human infrastructure are tougher pressures on the city’s resources, such as increased traffic, an influx of new students into the school systems, demands on broadband and internet connectivity, and expectations for creature comforts of city living, like same-day delivery for online orders and vast restaurant take-out options.

Among the biggest pressures in these locations is that of the housing market, with lower inventories, rising prices and higher demand. Motley Fool recommends that potential housing investors proceed with caution, warning that as “office buildings reopen and city nightlife resumes, people may seek to return to major metro areas, thereby lowering demand – and home values – in zoom towns that suddenly become too remote for comfort.”

How long office workers will be working remotely is anyone’s guess, with companies estimating returning large portions of their workforces to the office sometime between this summer and never. One thing is clear though: workers expect to maintain some level of remote work access, whether they’re living down the street or across the country from their employers.

A New York Times Out of Office: A Survey of our New Work Lives survey of remote office workers reveals that 86% said they were satisfied working from home, one in five said they wanted to go back to the office full-time, and one in three said they would move to a new city or state if remote work continued indefinitely.

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