Could Virtual Working Be Good for Destination Real Estate?

"How will COVID-19 affect the way we work in the future?" This is certainly a question I have heard discussed often these days. The dream of being able to log into a computer rather than drive into the office every morning has become a reality for millions of Canadians over the last few weeks. Sure, virtual working isn't all glamour and freedom, especially if you are trying to work while homeschooling your kids or chasing your small toddler (as I have been doing) but it is a dream come true for many people. 

Just this week I read that Twitter is closing their offices indefinitely, and plans to allow employees to work from home even post-COVID. The CEO has been quoted saying 'employees can work from home forever'. Twitter is only one example of a large corporation making strategic decisions to let go of expensive commercial office space and cut down expenses by allowing employees to virtually commute to the office. The current pandemic has provided an experimental environment for companies to test remote work capabilities, and it appears many companies are considering allowing the remote working to continue post-global threat. 

This dramatic corporate shift has the possibility of turning our urban centres upside down! If you could truly work from anywhere that had reliable internet where would you live? The appeal of the suburban dream of the past 50 years may become irrelevant sooner than we think. Many have speculated that this corporate philosophical shift would mean a mass relocation of working-aged people to smaller, cheaper, and more desirable areas. Destination towns like Canmore may experience a surge of interested buyers who see the possibility of working remotely as their ticket to a mountain lifestyle! The same holds true for Vancouver Island. 

Even if this forced experiment in workplace productivity only results in minor lasting influence I wonder how it will affect destination towns like Canmore and Victoria? If I had to make I guess I would say that places like these will be protected from many of the economic consequences of the current recession. Traditionally the real estate markets in both destinations have been somewhat immune to the larger market upheavals. 

It's hard to know whether the 2008 economic recession is a good comparison to the current challenge, but for a reference point, let's consider what happened in both markets. Between 2008 - 2009 the average price of a Victoria detached house only fell by 0.5%. The prices recovered by 2010 and actually increased by 7.8% from the previous year. Canmore felt the recession in a deeper way seeing a price decrease for detached homes of 17% between 2008-2009 but by 2010 the prices had come back up 6.8%. 

I believe in the resilience of both markets. I also believe that both Canmore and Victoria may experience a 'virtual work bump' as Canadian's can choose their homes based on lifestyle rather than employment opportunities. This will be an interesting trend to watch! 

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