Telecommuting or remote working is already impacting people’s preferences in single-family homes and apartment design. With just under 25% of today’s work force telecommuting from home 1-4 days a week, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, and just 13% of the work force telecommuting full time, consumers want to know where they’ll work when they’re not “at the office.”

Let’s take a look at how those preferences are changing:

  1. In-home office space “…is beginning to rival the attention buyers give to kitchens. Knowing where they’ll work (at home) is on nearly every buyer’s mind,” said Robin Kencel, an associate broker with Compass in Greenwich CT. Additionally, “dedicated homework areas are very, very popular,” said Alison Bernstein, president of Suburban Jungle Real Estate in NYC.
  2. In-home media rooms, once a sizzling hot rage, are now considered to be past tense. “People who work a lot at home are usually dying to go out and meet/be with people,” said Robert Dietz, chief economist with the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).
  3. Developers are revising apartment layouts to accommodate consumer demand for home offices, “alcove bonus spaces” and “flex” rooms. Some consumers just want a space to pop open a laptop; some want a dedicated office space where they can have uninterrupted work time and complete privacy; some want a space that could be used for work and a music room and an art studio and a quiet homework space and…on and on.
  4. The trend towards co-living spaces is …very closely correlated with the rise in remote work,” said Susan Tjarksen, a managing director with Cushman and Wakefield. “It’s that desire for flexibility and to be able to move from job to job, city to city, without there being huge ramifications in getting out of leases.” Co-living spaces that offer private bedrooms in suite-like settings in conjunction with shared living spaces that can be used for both socializing and work are becoming increasingly popular. Such co-living spaces tend to be more affordable than shared rentals and often have more flexible lease terms so that people can come-and-go more easily without having to pay large sums for that flexibility.
  5. People are moving less than they used to. According to John Burns Real Estate Consulting, people are now moving every 9 years rather than every 6 years, as was the norm just 20-25 years ago. One of the reasons for that “staying in place longer” is the fact that today, “people…don’t have to move if their job moves…” said d Rick Palacios Jr., director of research at Burns Real Estate Consulting. Today, geography matters less than the ability to do quality work from anywhere thanks to telecommuting.
  6. Some suburbs, towns and cities are better than others for telecommuters. Remote workers look for suburbs, towns and cities that have coffee shops and cafes with free Wi-Fi, co-working spaces, places where they can find and become part of a community to mitigate the loneliness factor inherent to remote work. Alison Bernstein with Suburban Jungle Real Estate said, “Some towns are developing real personalities for this. In the New York region, Montclair New Jersey is a good example of a town essentially catering to remote workers. Others are Pleasantville and White Plains in New York and Greenwich and Westport in Connecticut.”
  7. Telecommuters no longer “Have To” live in major job centers. Remote workers are feeling increasingly free to move. Many who second homes as get-away’s from the big city are making those second homes their primary/only homes. And some states, such as Vermont, are offering incentives to relocate as ways to build up their population and tax bases. Nate Formalarie, director of Vermont’s Agency of Commerce and Community Development, said, “Most (of the remote workers taking advantage of the $10,000 incentive to relocate) are in their 30’s and are binging a spouse and/or children with them.” Many of these refuges come from Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, Boston and Denver.

One big question many in both the technology and real estate sectors have centers around the long-term impact and/or the potential threat remote workers have on big city office buildings, homes and apartments if remote workers exit big cities more for less expensive, small cities, towns, suburbs and/or more rural areas.

Thanks to the New York Times’ Lisa Prevost for source data.

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