Forty-two per cent worry out-of-town moves could hinder their careers

When accountant Linda Roberts decided to sell her Etobicoke home and move to Cambridge, Ont., she prepared herself for the possibility that her employer would insist she return to her Toronto office after the pandemic.

Roberts was aware that her decision to move might leave her unemployed. But being home in the pandemic convinced her she needed a change of scenery.

Roberts has informed her employer of the move and her boss is amenable to the arrangement.

“They could easily have said, ‘No, we need you here every day once the pandemic is over,’ and I wouldn’t have any recourse,” she said.

A Maru/Blue online survey for Right at Home Realty released Wednesday, suggests that employees like Roberts are the minority. Despite the widespread pandemic narrative, only 18 per cent of Ontario homeowners surveyed said they would consider selling and moving to a smaller centre.

Although 44 per cent of those working from home during the pandemic have considered moving out of the city, most say the decision is tied to their work circumstances.

Sixty-three per cent said they would be less willing to move further from their jobs if their employer wanted them back in the office even one to three days a week. But if they were allowed to work from home permanently, 55 per cent said they would consider relocating.

Right at Home Realty president John Lusink said some who have made the move away from Toronto could face “a bit of a shock to the system” if their boss wants them back at work. Those who moved might find it difficult to reverse course as home prices have continued to escalate.

“They will have pulled themselves out of a market they can’t get back into,” he said.

Lusink wouldn’t speculate on what employers will expect but said, “We’ve got to see the year out before you can get a handle on what’s going to happen.”

Among homeowners who say they plan to sell in the next year, 25 per cent would consider moving to a different neighbourhood in their city.

But 42 per cent were concerned that moving outside a larger city would hurt their career prospects.

While the pandemic has caused people to reconsider their work life balance, the findings suggest that careers are still a priority among urban professionals, said Lusink.

Roberts said making a move has been more complicated and costly than she initially expected. Even though she got a good price for her Toronto house, prices also went up in Cambridge, where she also had to deal with Toronto-style competitive offer situations. It took her from October, when she sold her house, until March to buy another. But in the end, she chose a location with highway access that will make it easy for her to visit family and friends.

The Right at Home survey showed that 39 per cent of homeowners who plan to sell in the next two to three years expect to buy a bigger house. Only 33 per cent said they intend to downsize.

The pandemic has caused many homebuyers to reconsider their priorities, said Lusink.

The survey showed that 38 per cent of Ontarians want more access to nature; 33 per cent covet more privacy; and 30 per cent want to be closer to family and friends. Only 13 per cent of Ontario buyers considered public transit access a priority and only one-in-four respondents in the GTA considered it a key factor.

Lusink said he was disappointed to have his own concerns about declining optimism about home ownership confirmed. The survey found that 51 per cent of Ontarians don’t believe they will be able to afford a home in their current city or town. That jumped to 55 per cent in the GTA and 59 per cent in the 416 area code.

“I’m not sure how my own kids are going to buy,” he said. “I think it’s a sad statement. While I wasn’t surprised I find that unfortunate.”

Among respondents who rent or live with family, 23 per cent expect to purchase a home in the next two to three years. Only 13 per cent of current homeowners plan to sell in that period.

While 55 per cent of those planning to buy in the next two or three years expect to buy a detached house and 35 per cent anticipate purchasing a condo, that shifts in the GTA where 45 per cent said they were looking at a condo and only 52 per cent a house.

Right at Home has 12 Ontario offices, most in the Toronto area.

The Maru-Blue survey of 817 adults was conducted April 23 to 25. It is considered accurate to within 3.4 per cent 19 times out of 20.

Toronto Star

May 26, 2021

Tess Kalinowski