Updated March 1, 2021 - 10:49 am
Aaron Franklin traded his cozy one-bedroom apartment in the tony community of Marina del Rey, California, for a Las Vegas home with a swimming pool and tennis court.
The California transplant never considered moving — let alone out of state —until he was forced to work from home like thousands of other workers last year amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“I was working out of a living room,” Franklin said. “I (now) have a dedicated room for doing all my meetings and videos, and my wife has her own room.”
The couple started looking for a home in Las Vegas last month and closed on their new property last week.
Real estate professionals say the shift to working from home has motivated many buyers to seek out properties that offer a space for a home office and for kids doing online schooling.
“Some of them are looking for that private workspace from home that provides them that privacy and seclusion,” said real estate broker and Las Vegas Realtors President Aldo Martinez. “I don’t think any of us have been on a call where you don’t hear kids in the background or the dogs barking.”
A Zillow survey found 75 percent of Americans working from home because of COVID-19 said they would prefer to stay remote for at least half the time, and of those employees, 66 percent would consider moving.
“Among employees who would be likely to consider moving if given the flexibility to work from home when they want, 31 percent said they would consider moving in order to live in a home with a dedicated office space, 30 percent said they would move to live in a larger home and 29 percent said they would move to live in a home with more rooms,” according to the survey.
Real estate broker Steve Howell finds the shift interesting because demand for a home office had been declining for several years.
“Hardly anyone has a full desktop (computer) in their home anymore, but now with COVID, definitely the trend has reversed,” he said, pointing out those with laptops also need desks.
Franklin serves as head of growth for digital marketing firm Ylopo. Because the company was a startup, it was important for him to live near its Venice, California, headquarters. His former apartment in Marina del Rey, known for its namesake harbor, borders Venice.
“It made sense being there, but since COVID’s happened, I don’t need to be there anymore,” he said. “I was paying essentially $3,000 a month in rent for a one-bedroom apartment there, and I just bought a house here (Las Vegas) that’s about $300 less a month.”
Franklin said the couple’s 3,000-square-foot home with four bedrooms is a “massive upgrade in space” and allows them to finally host guests and, more importantly, have a dedicated work space.
The hardest part was leaving his son, who lives in California, but because it’s only a one-hour flight to Las Vegas, Franklin said it isn’t too bad of a situation. Plus, his son can take advantage of the couple’s swimming pool and tennis court.
“He’s like, ‘Vegas looks cool, Dad, do it,” Franklin said. “I just think this is a really good time to find a place and start experiencing the Vegas lifestyle. There’s just so many activities you can do that’s outside of the Strip.”
Jason Demuth, PulteGroup’s vice president of operations, said its buyers are looking for room to accommodate a home office, gym and study spaces for kids. He said many of these features were already popular, but the pandemic added more awareness.
“We are also seeing an influx of out of market buyers, especially from California, who generally have more purchasing power here than where they are coming from,” he said.
Real estate broker Kirby Scofield, who represented Franklin, agreed, saying many buyers looking for larger spaces have come from other states and particularly from Southern California. He credits the plethora of tech firms that are allowing workers to stay at home.
“I have a friend who’s an engineer, and his new job is in San Diego, but they told him you can work wherever you want, so he’s been looking at (Las Vegas),” Scofield said. “He would still pay income tax because his job is in San Diego, but he could have the difference in price from the cost of living.”
Nearly a year into the pandemic, the work-from-home model has led many companies to rethink whether they will have their employees return to the office full-time. Facebook and Twitter said their employees can work remotely indefinitely, and Google announced last month it would test a hybrid model after a return to the office slated in September.
But Martinez said much of Las Vegas’ workforce is in the tourism and services sector, where a work-from-home model isn’t conducive, so much of the demand he has seen is largely coming from buyers outside of Nevada.
Still, homebuilders in Las Vegas such as KB Home have taken notice.
The company launched a new offering called KB Home Office across its properties in the Las Vegas Valley last year to meet buyer demand for a dedicated workspace.
Brian Kuenc, president of KB Home’s Las Vegas division, said that he couldn’t provide sales figures, but the rollout has been popular among buyers.
“KB Home worked quickly to kind of redesign our floor plans to meet the needs of what we see is a continued trend of working from home,” Kuenc said. “I think a lot of people are interested in making sure when they purchase their new home they have the right setup in that home office environment.”
He said the package includes a workstation with large counter space, cabinets, open shelving and upgraded electrical features such as a USB charging outlet. Add-ons include soundproofing, tailored lighting to help with presentations and even a beverage center, said Kuenc.
PulteGroup Chief Executive Ryan Marshall said during its earnings call two weeks ago that the pandemic is having a profound impact on buyers, while also suggesting buyers’ shift toward larger homes.
“We believe a remote-working dynamic expands the buyer pool because it can allow people to purchase more affordable homes in further out locations,” said Marshall. “At the same time, working from home has the potential to increase the intent to buy new homes, which offer floor plans and technology features that better meet the needs of today’s homebuyers.”