Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, long commutes were business as usual for many professionals. But the epidemic has led to new work-from-home (WFH) policies, and now, many businesses say they will permanently allow WFH, either full-time or part-time, for their employees.
How might this change the face of the US residential landscape? The past few decades have seen a mass exodus from rural and suburban areas to in-town and exurban markets. Many ambitious creative and tech types felt they had to live in a major city to pursue their professional goals. Now, some of the country’s best and brightest will be able to work for their company of choice without regard to their zip code.
What type of market is right for you?
Why do you live where you live? Did you move there for a specific job or for proximity to a specialized industry? Do you live there because you want to be close to family? Are you in your neighborhood because of the great local schools or because of the year-round beautiful weather?
People choose different neighborhoods for a variety of reasons. If you could work from anywhere, and if your kids could go to a great school no matter where you live, which type of market would you choose?
Do you love the hustle and bustle of the city? Close proximity to top-notch medical care? Are you interested in the arts and culture? Do you want the opportunity to see your favorite sports teams in person? Any of these interests may make you a prime candidate for an in-town neighborhood.
Here, space is at a premium, so you will probably be looking at a condo, co-op, or townhome. Your living space will probably be quite small and scaling up or finding a home with outdoor space will be very expensive. Walkability is a major factor in the decision to live in a large metropolitan area, since traffic tends to be tight and parking is often pricey and hard to find.
Do you enjoy plenty of green space and a host of organized activities for kids? Are you looking for some of the amenities of the city without actually living there? A suburban area might be right for you.
Despite their cookie-cutter reputation, many suburban neighborhoods offer variety and diversity. Life tends to center around schools and kids sports, with high-performing school districts drawing plenty of wealthy local residents. Want to optimize the value of your home investment here? Buy the smallest home in the best neighborhood you can afford and watch your equity grow.
If you’re focused on affordability and bang for your buck, a home in a rural area may be just right for you and your family. Home prices here tend to be lower, while homes tend to be larger. In addition, many homes will come with large lots or even several acres of land.
Living outside of a rural town or smaller city will give you access to the basics—groceries, gas, and shopping and dining options. In addition, many small towns pride themselves on their history and culture, so you may be able to get involved with a local choir, theater group, museum, or historical society.
What your $150,000 buys
Home affordability, especially in metropolitan areas, has long been a struggle for US buyers, and the COVID-19 crisis (with its economic and employment implications) has only made this more pronounced. However, the option to WFH long-term may make more affordable housing a reality as lower-priced suburban and rural markets open up for well-paid professional workers who can now telecommute.
With a relatively low $150,000 budget, how much home can you afford? Surprisingly, you have a fair number of options in all three residential categories. As an example, here are three areas in and around Atlanta, a fast-growing metropolitan area in northern Georgia. Although these three spaces have similar fixtures and finishes, the difference lies in the space you’ll find both indoors and out.
Looking for in-town living in one Atlanta’s best neighborhoods? For $145,000 you can buy a sophisticated high-rise condo in Buckhead with 837 square feet of interior space. This one-bedroom home has light-filled rooms, hardwood floors, and granite countertops. The concierge building has a pool, dog park, and parking deck and is within walking distance to MARTA and great Atlanta shops and restaurants.
Priced at $150,000, the Atlanta suburb of Carrolton is about 45 miles west of Atlanta, where you can get a single-family-home home with three bedrooms and two baths in 2,092 square feet of living space featuring original hardwood floors, a living room with a fireplace, and a pretty 1-acre wooded lot.
Rural: Lavonia, GA
Located in Lavonia, Ga, less than a two-hour drive outside of Atlanta and priced at $150,000, you’ll find a three-bedroom home on 2 acres that has a big porch with a porch swing and a large back deck, both perfect for entertaining. The home’s interior has wood floors, a kitchen with lots of cabinet space, and a spacious living room.