Is Your Housing Market Considered a ‘Zoom Town’?

September 16, 2020

A “zoom town” is a new nickname for a housing market that is suddenly booming as remote work takes off. NPR’s Planet Money. coined the term as more Americans, no longer bound by a commute during the pandemic, join the hunt for a new place to call home or for a second home. They’re fleeing crowded urban areas for more space to spread out in, and some are eyeing traditional vacation communities to make their permanent residences, housing analysts explain.

Shifting some of the housing demand from large cities to “zoom towns” could help relieve housing costs in some pricier areas. “Remote workers are craving more space, privacy and tranquility as well as convenient opportunities to spend time outdoors and get closer to nature,” writer Irene S. Levine notes in a recent article. “Although interest in zoom towns has been primarily fueled by millennials, the desire to move is also being felt acutely by families living in close quarters whose children are now learning remotely at home.”

Areas like Lake Tahoe, Nev., the Hamptons on Long Island, N.Y., and Bend, Ore., are pointed to as a few examples of “zoom towns,” which are seeing home prices escalate as new residents compete for a limited supply of homes for sale. The Hamptons have seen home prices increase by 25% compared to a year ago, while Lake Tahoe prices are up 50% from their lowest point this spring, Bloomberg reports.

As Bloomberg reports, beach and mountain towns often draw many tourists. But with limited job selection and availability, many people were unable to locate to these areas. However, as remote work grows in the pandemic, some Americans are realizing they can take their jobs with them to new places. This could potentially reshape some of these smaller towns.

“If virtual work holds the promise of a new wave of migration the way air conditioning allowed the Sun Belt to boom, a significant constraint is going to be how much these communities are willing and able to grow,” Bloomberg reports.

Topography and community resistance may be two factors that could stymie growth. Also, some housing analysts say the homebuying spree in these markets could be temporary. Home prices could climb over the next 12 to 24 months as pandemic buyers bid for limited housing supply, but those higher prices could eventually stifle demand. Also, the reopening of offices in traditional job hubs could make these moves temporary.

“These trends probably will become clearer in the next year or two,” writes Conor Sen for Bloomberg. “We have already seen cities such as Portland, Ore., Denver, Austin, Texas, and Nashville, Tenn., benefit from knowledge jobs being pushed out of costly coastal hubs. It now seems likely that there will be a new group of winners such as Truckee [in California] and Missoula [in Montana] amid the shift to virtual work, transforming their housing markets, and local economies forever.”