Families, businesses leaving cities for more space in pandemic, York County Realtors say

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Dallastown Intermediate School fourth-grader Ava Montour, 9, sits at her desk in the family dining room while remote learning with her class from her home in Springfield Township, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people live and work, prompting big moves for an increasing number of people, according to area real estate agents. 

The trend of families and businesses exiting large cities and settling into more rural regions — like York County — is one real estate professionals expect will carry into 2021, according to Tina Llorente, president of the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties.

"We've seen a lot of residential folks turning their dining rooms into offices because that seems to be the trend, and I'm not expecting us to go back to urban commutes and urban work environments," she said. "It's all about quality of life right now."

With more opportunities to do jobs remotely, workers are looking for homes with more elbow room, real estate agents are reporting.

More:Despite pandemic, 2020 a record year for York County's housing market

More:New small businesses crop up in York County in wake of pandemic

According to a Forbes report, a survey from Zillow found that 75% of Americans working from home would prefer to continue that routine if given the option after the pandemic.

The rise in "sophisticated technology" has enabled workers to create an environment at home that fosters productivity, according to the article.

Llorente added that if more companies allowed workers to remain at home, at least part time, the number of houses sold in suburban communities would skyrocket.

"As people within the pandemic are looking for a little more elbow room, they're starting to look a little further abroad, being able to work from home," she said. "If people don't have to sit on the Schuylkill Expressway for an hour, they'll choose not to."

Loganville Springfield Elementary third-grader Olivia Montour, 8, sits at her desk in the corner of her bedroom while remote learning with her class from her home in Springfield Township, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021. Montour's mother, Jessica Montour, not pictured, realized that her daughters needed individual learning space and moved her elder daughter, Ava, 9, to the dining room. Dawn J. Sagert photo

The regional shift is happening not only for families but for businesses too.

Heather Kreiger, an agent for ROCK Commercial Real Estate, said the effects of the pandemic will become clearer in the next year. But that doesn't mean some companies aren't already taking the leap.

Kreiger added that just recently she spoke with a business owner who moved their e-commerce company from New York City to Lancaster.

"Even though the region is a little bit of a 'sleepy area,' (companies) want to get out of the hustle and bustle of city life because of everything that's happened over the last 10 months," Kreiger said, adding that York County's low rates for office and retail space make it an appealing region.

She summed it up this way: Businesses from New York City, Baltimore and Philadelphia are relocating to regions like York County "because they can." 

In the next two years, approximately 534,000 square feet of office space in both York City and the county will be coming up for renewal.

Kreiger said it remains to be seen how companies will react to changing lifestyles brought on by the pandemic. But she doesn't expect an exodus. 

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.