How will telecommuting impact realestate?

Expert Advice by Sam Saggers
Do you work from home? Do you want to work remotely at least part of the work week?
What does working remotely (aka telecommuting or working from home) have to do with property investing?
Interestingly enough, quite a lot.

For example, are you a full time property investor – or do you want to be one?
Then it’s probably a safe bet that you work from home – at least some of the time.
The question is whether this growing trend of telecommuting will alter our study of market drivers in the future.
Let’s take demographics. We know that a growing community with a slow growing housing supply leads to increased rental demand and subsequently, increased rents.

What fuels the population? Among other things, proximity to the workplace is a strong motivator for individuals to move to a certain location.
But what happens when you remove that motivation?
Will these same individuals choose to move anyway because of schools, shopping or entertainment venues? Or will they happily stay out in cheaper, regional areas?

Telecommuting research
Fortunately for us, numerous studies have been done to answer this and other questions about telecommuting. While much of it, quite honestly, makes for dry reading, there are some tid bits we can look at to get an idea for what may impact our property investing decisions in the future.
Did you know that the idea of working remotely from home using technology has been around since at least the 1970s? 
Anyway, the sampling of 580 Australians done for a recent survey is, in my opinion, not enough to say definitively what impact telecommuting will have on the Australian property market, but it does give us some insight on the topic.

The survey, done by McCrindle Research, reveals the following:
  • Over 50% of employed Australians would take a pay cut in order to work from home – 1 in 16 were even willing to sacrifice 20% of their salary!
  • 10% of Australians work remotely for more than 80% of their working time. This number is going to increase with the NBN and technological advances making an “office” no longer necessary.
  • Only 54% of Australians work in an office the whole time. The other 46% have several locations they work across and don’t need a central office in order to get their work done.
  • 70% of full-time workers and 81% of part-timers expressed an interest in spending at least some of their time working outside the office environment.

Quite interesting, isn’t it?
What stood out most to me was the large number of individuals who want to work from home at least part of the time.
(Granted as I noted before, this is just a small sampling, but I feel it’s representative of the way most Australians feel).
If given the option, 78% of Australians would like to work from home at least part of the time.
This is a pretty sizeable number.

What would happen if one day, magically, all of these individuals got their wish and worked 4 out of 5 days from home?
Would they decide that since they only have to drive to the office one day a week, why not move out the suburbs and buy a bigger house and yard.
Now granted, this won’t happen tomorrow. There are many issues at play here: broadband capacity, employer decisions, lifestyle and family concerns – just to skim the top of the list.

If you take the long-term view (and if you’re a property investor, its generally encouraged) it’s certainly possible that we could see this trend impact the decisions people make about where to live and ultimately, the property markets.
The trend is most certainly taking place, albeit more slowly than some might like. The concept is already on the minds of our government leaders. So much so that they’ve begun to initiate legislation to deal with the topic.

The Government has set a goal that 12% of all public servants regularly telecommute by 2020. If the private sector embraces a similar strategy we may see changes much sooner.

If this concept is adopted across the board both nationally and state by state - not to mention by the employers and employees it will impact - it will be fascinating to see what happens in the real estate market in both regional and city centre areas.
What do you think? Would you work remotely, and more importantly... would you change where you live if you could?

Sam Saggers is CEO of Positive Real Estate and Head of the buyers agency which annually negotiates $250 million-plus in property. Sam's advice is sought-after by thousands of investors including many on BRW’s Rich 200 list. Additionally Sam is a published author and has completed over 2000 property deals in the past 15 years plus helped mentor over 2200 Australian investors to real estate success!

Read more expert advice articles by Sam
Disclaimer: while due care is taken, the viewpoints expressed by contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Your Investment Property.

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