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Shifting Population Due to Working Remotely

June 22 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic could cause a major shift in where many people live. This week, I had a conversation with a friend who lives and works in the San Francisco Bay area. He is one of the estimated 400,000 high-tech workers living in the region. Our discussion turned to the idea of coming to Florida and working remotely and getting a three-hour head start on his coworkers due to the time zone change.

This made me to start thinking about possible opportunities. I have two family members that have worked from home since March. Both live in major metropolitan areas and have expensive commutes, and are also thinking of other opportunities. If I can live anywhere and work remotely, where do I want to live? Why wait until I retire to locate to my dream home?

I remembered that, years ago, my son was looking at moving from Washington D.C. to Tampa, Florida, I found, which has a "Cost of Living Calculator." Together, we looked at what he would need to make in Tampa to support the same standard of living as in a suburb of D.C. Tampa has a 37% lower cost of living. That means if you make $100,000 in D.C., in Tampa, $62,400 has the same buying power.

Back to my friend in San Francisco. He expects many tech companies will allow working remotely permanently in the near future. He also expects companies will adjust pay, which makes sense when workers don't need to live in one of the most expensive areas of the country. Just for the fun of it, I compared cost of living in San Francisco to central Florida, my neighborhood. How about a 44% lower cost of living? Those making a $100,000 salary in San Francisco would only need to make $55,670 in the Orlando area for an equal standard of living.

I am not sure what this new business model will be called. Regardless of the name, regardless of what location-based income adjustments companies make, the real estate industry needs to get ready for dealing with buyers who have, in some cases, a very high level of technology knowledge and, sometimes, no patience for those that don't!

Let me help you with a word you should never speak again especially to these high-tech workers—fax! In my past, I have had consulting contracts with tech startup companies so I've been exposed to high-tech personalities. I'm not saying they're all the same, but many speak a different geek language and have different work habits, and no patience.

Back in the early 2000s, I read a survey that said that 70% of consumers working with real estate professionals believed the consumer had a higher level of technology knowledge than the real estate professional. Ouch! I believe we have been playing catch-up for almost two decades. Now, young homebuyers have an above average income and very high tech skills, so here we go again! I plan on helping by highlighting ways Realtors can communicate with this group of average 29-year-olds making $250,000 a year at leading social media platforms.

Dick Betts is a REALTOR® in The Villages, Fla. for Touchstone Real Estate in Mount Dora. He's also a national speaker, trainer and consultant. Learn more at