Zillow Finds 2M Renters Can Afford to Buy Homes Thanks to Remote Work During COVID-19 Pandemic

African american female real estate agent in kitchen showing gay couple around new house.
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The rise in remote working during the COVID-19 pandemic might be a mixed blessing to both employees and companies, but it has had at least one positive outcome: It made home purchases affordable for nearly two million renters because they can now buy farther away from pricey metro areas.

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That’s one of the findings from an analysis by online real estate marketplace Zillow. Zillow economists paired the company’s own data with Census Bureau data to show the impact the pandemic has had on housing market trends.

As the Census Bureau noted on its website, 2020 was expected to be a big year for home sales because so many millennials were reaching the age when they could afford to plunk down money on a new house. More than 72 million had hit their 40s — the prime home-buying age.

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived during the spring of 2020, many of these same millennials were forced to work from home. And in many cases, working from home meant they could live in affordable locations rather than pricey areas in and near the cities where their jobs are located. As a result, a large number of renters became homebuyers.

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Two million renters reached the “tipping point,” according to Zillow, meaning that they earned enough to buy the typical U.S. starter home — as long as it’s in an affordable area.

A recent GOBankingRates evaluation found that some metro areas — particularly in Florida and Illinois — are seeing home prices dip, providing even more opportunities for buyers frozen out by skyrocketing prices earlier in the pandemic.

Meanwhile, remote working might become a permanent fixture. As GOBankingRates reported in August, some experts say hybrid and remote work could remain the norm for years to come. That’s because many Americans who work remotely have changed their routines and lifestyles during the pandemic and are in no hurry to return to the office.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte MagazineStreet & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, will be published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.

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