The ‘Burbs

I fully agree with this, from Henry Ellenbogen in this weekend’s Barron’s Roundtable issue:

One of the most fundamental trends that will come out of 2020 is that America will spread out. The first suburbanization trend started in 1810. I would argue that we are now in the fifth phase, and it is going to be as powerful, if not more so, than the first four. Knowledge workers are going to be able to separate economic opportunity from where they live. A lot of tech companies now talk about being time-zone companies as opposed to geographically based. Working from home, even for people who have to go to the office two or three days a week, will allow people to move to the suburbs and more distant places, lowering their cost of living and enhancing their quality of life. The services that accompany these workers are also going to spread out. The productivity gains will be significant. Before Covid, 10% of Americans spent two hours a day commuting to work, and 40% spent an hour. You’re going to return this time to people in the form of enhanced productivity.

How can this not be true? What could possibly occur that would change it? The path of least resistance is toward knowledge economy workers (and those who cater to them) relocating to bigger homes further away from the major cities.

This is why city real estate isn’t an automatic buy post-vaccines while suburban homebuilders aren’t an automatic sell. Something has fundamentally changed.