Zoom (NASDAQ: ZM) towns are the new boomtowns, as the pandemic prompts white-collar workers in search of space and safety to move further from the central cities into suburbs and beyond.
"Zoom towns," of course, is a reference to the ubiquitous face-sharing program that makes collaborating while working from home look like the opening shot of The Brady Bunch. That's the Zoom part. The town part is where people who have a choice are choosing to live.
"The defining characteristic of this new version of the creative class may not be where it lives, but its ability to live anywhere it wants," The New York Times says in a Jan. 4 article about how this shift is affecting office space.
You gotta be somewhere…
But "anywhere" isn't "everywhere." An analysis of cities of populations of 100,000 or above by RetailMeNot finds the most popular areas for this kind of growth -- the Zoom towns with boom, as it were -- tend to be suburbs in major metro areas, which "offer easier access to big-city amenities and appeal to a wider range of workers."
The new report, titled "The Best Cities to Work From Home," also says to be prepared to pay for the privilege: "While much of the U.S. is experiencing rising home values during the pandemic as a result of low inventory, areas experiencing the largest booms are these Zoom towns, which are increasingly attracting well-educated laptop workers with lower living costs, access to outdoor recreation, and strong (albeit less dense) communities."
From Phoenix, Arizona, all the way to Tacoma (or Bellevue, anyway)
The report's authors used multiple government sources to assess factors in the following buckets: community and safety, housing and living costs, and health and weather. Then they named the 15 top Zoom towns, led by Gilbert, Arizona, part of the Phoenix metro area.
Following in order from No. 2 to 15 are the following:
- Cary, North Carolina
- Frisco, Texas
- Bellevue, Washington
- Fremont, California
- Carmel, Indiana
- Thousand Oaks, California
- Centennial, Colorado
- Torrance, California
- Olathe, Kansas
- Henderson, Nevada
- Carlsbad, California
- Roseville, California
- League City, Texas
- Sandy Springs, Georgia
While those 15 cities are in but 10 states, there's still a lot of green pasture out there. The editors recommend that folks looking to be more remote look, for instance, to the mountain states of Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.
That probably won't put you in commuting distance of the office when the coast is again clear, but the scenery might just make up for it.
The Millionacres bottom line
From the investor viewpoint, a well-researched list like this can point to possible locations for investment or even relocation as these places grow in appeal and value. Then again, home is where the heart -- and the laptop -- is, and happiness can be found from the inner city to wide-open spaces, if you're doing work you enjoy in a setting that fits your household's lifestyle and finances.