Though remote-work arrangements existed before the pandemic, over the past year, they've downright exploded. Countless people have been doing their jobs from home for about 15 months and counting -- a scenario that's making office REIT (real estate investment trust) investors increasingly nervous by the day.
While office building landlords may not be thrilled with the remote work situation, it does give people more freedom to pick up and move virtually anywhere. And a new program could inspire some of today's remote workers to make West Virginia their new home.
West Virginia has launched a program that will pay people from out of state $12,000 to move there. But that's not all -- participants will also receive year-long passes to partake in the numerous outdoor activities the state has to offer, from whitewater rafting to rock climbing to ziplining. In fact, when we factor in those perks, the full relocation package is valued at over $20,000.
West Virginia isn't the only state to launch a remote work program in the wake of the pandemic. Hawaii started something similar late last year. But whereas the cost of living in Hawaii can be somewhat prohibitive, West Virginia offers a cost of living that's well below the national average. And that could be enough to convince any outdoor enthusiast who will be working remotely for the foreseeable future to pack up and start calling it home.
West Virginia will start off by accepting relocation applicants who move to Morgantown, home to West Virginia University. The program is then expected to expand to other parts of the state -- Shepherdstown in the state's eastern panhandle and Lewisburg in its southeastern corner.
An opportunity for real estate investors
Though West Virginia is only offering a limited number of relocation packages to start with, in time, the program could expand. And that gives real estate investors a prime opportunity to capitalize.
Though West Virginia is a relatively affordable place to buy a home, right now, the housing market is extremely tight, and property values are inflated, putting otherwise affordable neighborhoods out of reach for a lot of people. Investors with the means to buy income properties in West Virginia could benefit from an influx of people.
The typical home value in West Virginia is $116,723, according to Zillow. Morgantown properties, however, are a bit pricier, coming in at $228,424 for the typical home. Morgantown home values have risen 10.6% over the past year, which is fairly consistent with how property values have spiked on a national level. That price point may be higher than what the typical West Virginia resident wants to pay, but for investors with access to capital, it may be more than doable.
Investors should also keep an eye out for comparable relocation programs in other states that could drive up local housing demand. Though many employers are expected to call workers back to the office in the coming months, a large number of working Americans will likely get to stay remote for the long haul. That offers them a chance to relocate to affordable corners of the country, and it pays for real estate investors to chase after them.