Behavior

Remote Work Has Pushed Up House Prices

Slack, Citizens Bank, Penguin Random House, Verizon, 3M, Twitter – the list is long and growing of companies that have allowed employees to continue working remotely even though the pandemic seems to be easing.

The COVID-19 upheaval in lifestyles – the moving around to larger homes, to the countryside or to an affordable city – is pushing up house prices.

John Mondragon at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and Johannes Wieland at the University of California, San Diego, estimate that remote work fueled a 15 percent rise in house prices over the two-year period that ended in November 2021. That’s more than half of the total price increase for that period, which was a record, the researchers said.

A few different types of lifestyle changes drove the price hikes. But the bottom line is that remote work caused a frenzy of buying activity that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. The increase in demand sparked competitive bidding for properties – and prices shot up. And the parts of the country where remote work was more common had significantly larger price increases.

The price increases “reflected a change in fundamentals rather than a speculative bubble,” the researchers concluded.

Soon after the pandemic began, workers who were changing their living arrangements made the news. Renters left behind expensive apartments in New York or San Francisco to escape COVID’s dangers. Now working remotely, they used their newfound freedom to become first-time homeowners in an appealing suburb nearby or a rural area halfway across the country where they could afford to buy a house.

The need for larger homes also heated up market activity. Having more space was suddenly more valued by workers who required an additional bedroom to set up a home office or now had to accommodate both spouses working from home – and, early in the pandemic, children attending classes on Zoom.

The researchers stress that they measured only the price increases resulting from an increase in aggregate housing demand nationwide. In other words, people didn’t add to total demand if they simply moved from Chicago, where they sold a condominium, to Des Moines, Iowa, where they purchased a house of similar value.

“Moving from one place to another simply shifts housing demand,” Wieland explained in an email. “It is only the increase in aggregate demand for home space that raises house prices nationwide.”

The researchers wouldn’t predict what happens next. It depends on whether remote work in some form is here to stay or the trend reverses and companies call their workers back to the office. But it will be an important trend to watch.

Squared Away writer Kim Blanton invites you to follow us on Twitter @SquaredAwayBC. To stay current on our blog, please join our free email list. You’ll receive just one email each week – with links to the two new posts for that week – when you sign up here.  This blog is supported by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. 

4 Responses to Remote Work Has Pushed Up House Prices

  1. shivam says:

    Due to remote jobs, employers hired employees on contracts after COVID, war, and inflation. The new world is going to be remote, I guess.

  2. Catherine Cadoo says:

    While some employers are allowing employees to continue to work remotely, others are requiring work from home. My bedroom is also my office and will have to remain so unless I change employers, which is not an easy trick at 63.

  3. geoffrey hewitt says:

    The real question is will a study be done on the productivity of working at home versus working in the office. This will be
    difficult to analyze.

    • Brian says:

      I’ve spoken to some of the managers at the software development company I retired from. They track productivity by measuring the number of defects in the software delivered, i.e., the number of defects per thousand lines of code delivered on-time. They found an improvement in that productivity metric with working from home. They’re letting their employees continue to work remotely.

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