Movers and SHAKERS
Zoomtowns: Your Vacation Getaway May Become Your New Home
Are home offices moving to even more remote locations? Everyone is aware that the pandemic has changed the way people work and live. Workers spend less time commuting to a central work place, and video meetings, often Zoom meetings, have replaced conference room meetings. People who didn’t know what Zoom was in 2019 have now become proficient in its operations. It would be easy to think that the shift is temporary, and things will go back to normal once the pandemic passes. This may not be the case. Management of companies has learned that employees can be just as effective (in many cases more effective) working from home. While Zoom type meetings will never replace face-to-face meetings entirely, it’s very probable that many businesses will permanently become a combination of an in-office and work-from-home operation.
Employees have already begun adjusting to the change. If they are going to work from home, they want a high functioning home office setting. Working from the kitchen table may have been fine to finish up a late-night report, but it won’t work for an important teleconference meeting. People want offices with doors they can close to assure some level of privacy. The result has been a run on home office furniture and equipment. Forget paper towels. The new work-at-home employee wants a printer!
The new household are adding more entertainment options since restaurants, movies, theaters, and concerts are limited. It is easier to justify that extra cable or internet channel when less is being spent on other restorative activities. Games and puzzles have become popular again. The same can be said about exercise equipment. There are currently long wait times for trying to buy a treadmill to be delivered to their house. Bikes, roller skates and skateboards are in high demand. People are cooking more, shopping for specific pots and pans is uncovering shortages.
The pandemic is not only changing how people live within their home, it’s changing their home. People are adding additions, putting in swimming pools and spending money on landscaping. Existing and new home sales are soaring as people move to bigger, nicer homes. New homes are being built farther and farther away from urban centers as they commute less. Vacation homes are becoming more popular. People want to live in areas with nicer views. “Zoomtowns” near lakes and rivers or golf courses or mountains are exploding.
If you are not familiar with the term Zoomtown, be prepared to see it more often. NPR’s Planet Money defines Zoomtowns as housing markets that are booming as remote work takes off. Zoomtowns are spreading not only because of a decrease in commuting but also a decrease in entertainment venues associated with urban living. To quote Forbes, “your vacation getaway may be your next home.” People want more space because of the virus and that means getting away from crowded cities.
A paper published in the Journal of the American Planning Association shows that Zoomtown populations were already growing before COVID-19 hit. The study identified 1,522 small towns that were withing 10 miles of a national park, monument, forest, lake, or river, and at least 15 miles from a census-designated area. It then compared the growth rate of these towns versus the national average. The popularity of Zoomtowns most likely reflects an increase in disposable income for the wealthy following the rise in the market, a tax decrease and sustained low interest rates.
The sudden boom in zoomtowns comes with the usual growing pains. Healthcare options are ill equipped to handle a larger, older population. Restaurants become overrun and stores providing necessities are rare. Staff is limited and often migratory. There is a lack of inexpensive housing for workers. Jonathan Thompson, a contributor to Writers on the Range, refers to the wave of urban workers moving to Zoomtowns as COVID migrants. Costs are rising quickly. As the exodus to Zoomtowns spreads, the towns are becoming denser, threatening the very reason people moved to these locations in the first place. That will only raise the value of undeveloped areas near natural beauty that could become the next Zoomtown.
Investors can play the growing popularity of Zoomtowns in many ways. There will be increased need for cellular and internet services. Recreational equipment associated with water or golf courses will become more popular. General stores focused on rural areas should do well. Rural construction companies will see increased business. And of course, the Zoomtown could not exist without media companies like Zoom, Cisco Webex, GoToMeeting, Google Hangouts, etc.
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https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/smallbusiness/zoom-towns-are-exploding-in-the-west/ar-BB1a7IHq, Lilly Smith, Fast Company, October 17, 2020
https://health.clevelandclinic.org/heres-how-the-coronavirus-pandemic-has-changed-our-lives/, Cleveland Clinic, September 25, 2020
https://sonomasun.com/2020/04/08/four-ways-the-current-pandemic-has-changed-everyday-life/, Sonoma Valley Sun, April 8, 2020
https://www.forbes.com/sites/irenelevine/2020/09/15/zoom-towns-why-your-last-vacation-getaway-may-be-your-next-home/#7387273b3ad3, Irene S. Levine, Forbes, September 15, 2020
https://phys.org/news/2020-10-towns-rural-west.html, Lisa Potter, University of Utah, October 15, 2020
https://lasvegassun.com/news/2020/oct/14/zoom-towns-covid-19-shaping-population-trends/, Jonathan Thompson, Las Vegas Sun, October 14, 2020