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In the big real estate game, there is a new king on the board. The suburbs aren’t just surviving, they’re thriving, and it’s all thanks to the game-changer of flexible work. Who needs a view of a skyscraper when the office becomes a living room and the way to work is just a walk from bed to desk?
“We expect that the ability to work from home will continue to be an incentive for young families to seek out more remote suburban and rural markets where housing may be more affordable,” Bank of America said recently report suggests. It’s like trading a sardine can city apartment for a comfortable, spacious home. This isn’t rocket science; It’s just the art of making work work to you.
Like the dodo, the five-day office week is on the verge of extinction. Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors, says, “A little commute isn’t a barrier” if you’re out of the office Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Not when you have the flexibility to choose where and when you work. Why endure the mundane city race when you can instead keep up with the occasional relaxed suburban pace?
Related Topics: A new trend towards remote working is helping employers retain talent despite the pressures of the job market
Millennials: Not so urban, after all
Remember when we thought millennials were city slickers with their Uber rides and brunch habits? It turns out they’re embracing the suburban dream as eagerly as a kid pouncing on the last slice of pizza.
Hyojung Lee, a professor of housing and real estate management at Virginia Tech, humorously observes, “We’ve always spoken of millennials as city folk… But it turns out they’re not that cool anymore.” According to a recent poll by the bank of America, about 45% of millennials are currently planning to buy homes in the suburbs. That’s up from 33% in 2015. Maybe it’s not about being “cool” anymore, it’s about being “smart.”
The Gourmet Exodus: A Suburban Culinary Revolution
This new suburban migration is not just about housing and jobs. It’s also changing the gastronomic landscape. According to the Wall Street Journal, urban retail vacancies surpassed suburban vacancies in 2022 for the first time since 2013. Like ants to a picnic, restaurants and retailers flock to these thriving city centers.
Consider the Sweetgreen salad chain. Once a staple of downtown, it now makes the suburbs its main stage, with 50% of its locations located there. And it’s not just about salad — even big-name chefs choose suburban towns for their next culinary adventures. It’s as if the suburbs have become the new Manhattan for the restaurant world.
The face of the suburbs is also changing. Suburbs, long associated with homogeneity, have now surpassed the national average for racial diversity, according to a Brookings Institution analysis. The stereotype of the white picket fence is slowly giving way to a vibrant mosaic of cultural diversity.
The city is still standing: a reality check
Despite this suburban boom, inner cities are not yet ready to throw in the towel. Yun reminds us that even in the age of hybrid work, people are returning to inner cities. And while the peri-urban suburbs are thriving, demand in the outlying suburbs has fallen significantly since the peak of the pandemic.
So this big real estate game isn’t about cities losing or suburbs winning. It is about recognizing that the competitive conditions are changing. As we take advantage of the flexibility that technology gives us, our living preferences are also evolving. As I tell my customers who I helped figure out what they are Return to the office and hybrid work schedulesyou need to go where your employees are, and not just try to impose a command and control structure on them from above — at least if you want to retain your top talent.
Related Topics: You should let your team decide on the approach to hybrid working. A behavioral economist explains why and how you should do it.
Cognitive biases: invisible forces that influence our decisions
As part of our decision-making processes cognitive bias often run the show. They are like puppeteers, subtly influencing our decisions and judgments. Two major biases that could affect this suburban migration are the status quo bias and the anchoring bias.
First, let’s look at the status quo bias. This is our tendency to prefer things to stay the same by doing nothing or sticking to our current or previous decision. With the onset of the pandemic, the status quo was disrupted and we had to adjust to a new “normal” – working from home.
For many, this temporary change has turned into a comfortable routine. Novelty has waned and has been replaced by the trend towards the status quo. We’ve grown accustomed to the convenience, freedom, and flexibility of working remotely. The prospect of going back to our earlier lifestyles – the daily commute, the strict office hours – seems more daunting than clinging to the new status quo.
Anchor bias, on the other hand, refers to our tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information we come across (the “anchor”) when making decisions. When the pandemic struck, the “anchor” for many was a vision of a lifestyle free of the daily commute and office constraints. This first impression had a strong influence on later decisions about working and living arrangements.
Moreover, those positive first impressions have only strengthened as we’ve witnessed the blossoming of suburban life — with expanding retail space, diverse communities, and the promise of a more balanced lifestyle. The anchor was dropped and it landed firmly in the suburban area.
By understanding these cognitive biases, we can make more informed decisions about our work and lifestyle choices. As we move through this era of change, it’s crucial to question our prejudices, question our assumptions, and stay open to all possibilities. Only then can we really make the best use of the opportunities that the future of work offers.
Whether it’s the siren call of the city or the sweet serenade of the suburbs that captures your heart, it’s clear that flexible working has changed the way we live forever. It has transformed not only our working lives but also our homes, our communities and our landscapes. The suburbs enjoy their time in the sun, not as a getaway from the city, but as a compelling alternative.