Pattie Lovett-Reid: Will a pandemic move outside urban centres still make sense in the long run?
TORONTO -- Dinner table conversations used to focus on, “where should we go on vacation?” Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the dialogue has shifted in a big way for some families. Now being discussed during supper: “Where do you really want to live?
We have all heard stories of families flocking out of urban centres to rural markets and cottage country. However, you have to wonder, will this move make sense in the long run?
Relocating is not just an idea being mildly flirted with. The red hot real estate market suggests many have gone from dreaming of a relocation to actually realizing that dream.
This is not a decision that is entirely about money. It is a highly emotional one. Sure, the pandemic has accelerated the process for some, while others have assumed the work from home environment is here to stay. The work from home verdict might be premature, however, as many employers still remain unwilling to commit to that sort of set up.
I reached out to Avery Shenfeld, chief economist for CIBC, for his thoughts. "Aristotle had it right when he wrote that man is by nature a social animal," he wrote to me in an email. "What’s missing when we’re working from home are those casual conversations that build interpersonal rapport, the mentoring of newer employees, the watercooler talk that generates business ideas, and in downtown cores, the ability to easily meet clients over coffee, lunch or in a boardroom."
You also have to wonder even if your current employer agrees to a work from home environment, will your future employer? And could a decision to move outside an urban centre compromise future opportunities? It remains to be seen.
Countries that are further ahead in the re-opening process, according to Avery, "like New Zealand that vanquished Covid much earlier, found that offices are very much back in fashion, with a bit of flexibility relative to pre-Covid days."
Another consideration might be those choosing to opt out of cities may be driven by demographics and a change in lifestyle. A desire to downsize, realize a profit and simply slow down.
I posed the question theoretically on Instagram to gauge the amount of interest in moving from an urban centre to a rural environment and the response was overwhelmingly yes, in a "heartbeat." That's not to say serious consideration to healthcare, salary, and socialization weren't key issues that kept popping up. It appears the slower pace forced upon us by COVID-19 has many questioning their previous lifestyle decisions.
It appears this mindset for many, but not all, takes into account that the vaccine takes hold and our economy re-opens.
Before a move of this nature, there are obvious questions:
- Can I afford it?
- Will I enjoy it?
- How close will I be to family and friends?
- How close are amenities such as a doctor's office, food and pharmacy facilities , exercise and even dining?
But there are now even bigger and harder questions:
- Will I be bored and miss the hustle and bustle?
- Will driving everywhere become a challenge?
- Will I be able to manage the upkeep, and do I even want to?
- Can I really find a balance, and what will the winters look like?
- Will I fit in, will I make new friends, will I experience a culture shock?
I was fascinated this seems to continue being a daily conversation despite how far along in this pandemic we are. No one seems to mind giving up on the congestion and noise, but the fear of the unknown is real.
However, for those who have made the leap, there appear to be few regrets.
Personally I loved this comment sent to me via Instagram, and sums up my position. The pros: getting away from the rat race.The cons: staying connected to the rat race.
For the record, I'm still on the fence, but I sure do find it an interesting time and fascinating conversation.