Moving to a zoom town?

Even with global mobility hampered by the pandemic, there is a new and different kind of movement going on. Residents of certain cities are moving to more spacious communities nearby — some temporarily, some permanently. At the same time, specific towns and small cities are attracting newcomers who appreciate factors like low cost of living, larger homes, in-person schooling, and outdoor amenities.

With so many employees remote, and some companies not requiring proximity to the office, workers may pick up stakes and settle somewhere new. The term “zoom town” refers to locales that have seen increased populations since the COVID-19 shutdown and serve as remote working hubs.

Around the U.S., the west and south have welcomed many new residents, but so have the upscale Hamptons in New York; Aspen, Colorado; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; and Kingston, New York – a small, historic town about 145 km/90 mi north of New York City.

Worldwide, individuals and families are making decisions about where to live, assessing what the future might look like for them. And while this freedom of choice can be a wonderful thing during a time when so much is uncertain, there are some challenges. A few things to keep in mind:

-Before committing to a home lease – or especially purchase – employees should confirm that their presence will not be required at a distant office with any regularity. They should also ensure that the area and property have adequate infrastructure to support remote work and, possibly, schooling.

-Both employer and employee should be aware of any immigration issues that may arise from working in their chosen location. In today’s pandemic landscape, immigration regulations are changeable. New applications and extension requests may be delayed. Consult an immigration expert frequently to stay compliant.

– Likewise, determine the potential tax liability based on the worker’s and employer’s locations. Even intra-regional moves can raise complications. Don’t assume that a short move will grant you the same status as staying put. In fact, even continuing to work from your existing home can bring new tax exposure if things change. The U.S. states of Massachusetts and New Hampshire are embroiled in a dispute over that very issue right now, as Massachusetts attempts to tax New Hampshire residents who work remotely for a MA firm.

-The housing market has tightened up in many areas. With the majority of COVID-prompted movers seeking single-family homes, inventory is low and prices are up. It may take a while to find a property that suits an employee’s needs in terms of distance from neighbors, yard, and maybe a home office. The good news is that if a new home is found, the existing one will very likely sell quickly.

– Finally, the employee planning a permanent relocation to one of the up-and-coming zoom towns should research how well equipped and inclined they are to embrace population growth. Again, infrastructure is important, as is school quality and capacity, along with quality-of-life measures like fitness and cultural opportunities.

These are just a few of the considerations employers and employees should keep in mind in this new, complicated landscape of remote work. By all means, find a home environment that supports your well-being and productivity. Just keep tabs on these issues when you do.

Written by Ellen Harris, GMS, Product Manager, Content Group