Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman is predicting a “seismic demographic shift towards smaller cities,” citing remote work trends as a result of COVID-19. More than 50 percent of people surveyed by Redfin in New York, Seattle, San Francisco and Boston said they’d move if their work-from-home job became permanent, according to a study, published Friday.

“Prior to this pandemic, the housing affordability crisis was already driving people from large cities to small,” Kelman said in a statement. “Now, more permissive policies around remote work, and a rising wariness about close quarters, will likely accelerate that trend.”

“We expect to see more people commuting once a week from Sacramento to San Francisco, from Tacoma to Seattle, from New Hampshire to Boston,” Kelman added. “Some won’t commute at all, choosing instead to work completely virtually from a small town, perhaps where their parents still live.”

Kelman believes the COVID-19 pandemic could change the whole narrative of a young person moving to the city upside down in the coming years. The survey mirrors the thoughts Kelman espoused upon during the company’s earnings call last week. 

Roughly 40 percent of respondents were not working remotely before the shutdowns but were able to, during the shelter-in-place orders. 28 percent of those respondents said they expect to continue to work remotely or have that option.

The share of workers who think they might continue to work remotely after the shutdown ends. | Photo credit: Redfin

It’s not clear if the massive increase in remote work will lead to people moving to entirely new cities or just further from the city core in the same metro area. But 60 percent of survey respondents from the New York City metro area said they would consider moving away if they could work remotely, while 50 percent of respondents in Boston, San Francisco and Seattle responded the same way.

Redfin’s own internal data backs up the anecdotal assertions from survey respondents. Roughly 36 percent of Redfin.com users in the New York City area are searching for homes in other cities, while 22 percent in San Francisco, 13 percent in Seattle and 12 percent in Boston are doing the same.

The share of workers who would move if they could work remotely in some of the country’s priciest cities. | Photo credit: Redfin

If these trends continue, Redfin expects price-pressure in cities to ease and gentrification to slow. The company also expects the once-centralized technology workforce to spread across the country.

The primary factor fueling the potential exodus is people looking for relief from high home costs, according to the survey.

Redfin isn’t the only real estate company predicting a massive egress from high-priced cities. Earlier this week, Zillow published a study predicting a post-COVID-19 suburban boom. 

Email Patrick Kearns

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