What’s turning homeowners into sellers? Getting back to the office

Real Estate News

A new Redfin survey found that a significant number of people who moved during the pandemic may need to move back, even if they lose money.

Key points:

  • With many companies implementing back-to-office plans this fall, some workers have to decide whether to sell their house or find a new job.
  • About 10% of potential sellers surveyed listed returning to work as a reason for moving, even though they might lose money on the sale.
  • Homeowners are also selling for a variety of other reasons — and not just the typical ones.

For homeowners considering a move, life events like marriage, divorce or a new job aren’t the only things driving their decision — in some cases, it’s about their current job.

A new Redfin survey of homeowners who said they’re likely to sell and move in the next year found that some of the reasons for moving are looking a little different these days. The typical motivators still top the list — wanting more space, being closer to family and living in a more affordable area — but a factor impacting about one in ten moves is the decision of many companies to bring employees back into the office.

Just over 10.1% of those surveyed said they needed to move due to their company’s return-to-work policy, a fairly significant number relative to the top reason (wanting more space), which was cited by 33.8% of respondents.

The survey was sent out in May and June, a time when major corporations like Amazon, Apple and JP Morgan Chase started asking workers to come back to the office at least part time. Even Redfin, which has offices in Seattle, San Francisco and Frisco, began asking employees to return to the office at least two days a week, although the company didn’t ask employees to relocate.

And it appears the trend will continue: About 1 million workers are facing orders to go back to the office level this fall, according to Fortune.

That’s led to some tough choices for those who moved at the beginning of the pandemic. In Boise, Redfin agent Shauna Pendleton had a pair of clients who had to sell because their Seattle-based employer required them to return to the office. She noted that they’ll have to take a $100,000 loss on their home, and “their new house in Seattle won’t be anything close to the size of their property in Boise, and their mortgage rate will be much higher.”

But not everyone is willing to give up their pandemic-era home in order to keep their job. A recent trends report from Realtor.com found that many people are more likely to search for a new job rather than a new home if they are forced back into their offices — especially given the strong job market and extremely tight for-sale inventory. 

“People will probably put up with a lot right now rather than have to move,” said Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale. “It’s not a friendly housing market for buyers.”

Other reasons for making the move

Many movers may not have the patience or the luxury to wait for more inventory or lower interest rates and have decided to sell for a variety of reasons.

That includes moving because they want to relocate to a place that better aligns with their views on social issues (19.3%) followed by a desire for lower taxes (19%) and concerns about crime (17.9%).

Discrimination (10.6%) and concerns about climate change (8.4%) were also listed as reasons for relocating.

“Real estate is all about priorities and compromise,” said Redfin Chief Economist Daryl Fairweather. “While a lot of homeowners are staying put, refusing to give up their rock-bottom mortgage rates, some are opting to trade their low rate for a safer neighborhood, lower taxes and/or neighbors with the same political views.”