HEBER CITY, Utah (ABC4) – When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, many employees began working from home. Some companies – and employees – finding jobs could be done successfully from remote locations. A new study finds this has Americans moving from large cities to more rural communities, and one of those is in Utah.
Lisa Orme grew up in Wasatch County, her family some of the earliest settlers.
Throughout her life, she’s seen her community grow.
“Unfortunately, from somebody who grew up here my whole life and I love the small town, I love that feel, and it’s very sad in a lot of ways [to see growth],” she says. “On the flipside, as a realtor, business is really good, it’s booming.”
Heber City now ranks fifth in the nation for population growth in the last year; New York Times data suggests many people are on the move, as working from home offers a new way of living.
“The pandemic hit, and all of these companies now realize that people can work remotely and still function and they can still be productive, and their businesses can still thrive,” Orme says.
A Forbes article reports COVID-19 precautions gave more than half of employed Americans the opportunity to work remotely, noting a vast majority want to continue, at least occasionally.
Orme, an associate broker for Davis Coleman Realty, has clients moving from all around the country to Wasatch County.
“I have some clients from Kansas City, and they work remotely, and they wanted out of Kansas City,” Orme says. “[Others coming from] Indiana, a lot from California.”
Since the pandemic hit, she says the demand for housing has increased.
“We listed a home last weekend and we had 13 offers within 24 hours,” Orme says.
On average and year-to-date, home sale prices in Wasatch County increased almost $124,000 in the last year, according to the Utah Association of Realtors.
“Affordable housing is a huge crisis right now, and that’s what’s happening because of the huge growth,” she says. “Because people are coming from California and our prices are low [to them], but they’re not low for us.”
Because of how fast Wasatch County is growing, infrastructure remains a top issue as cities try to keep up with the demand.
“They [cities] have plans and they’re all working great,” she says. “Everybody’s being proactive. But there’s problems you don’t even know are problems until they come up, and I just watch as everybody works together.”
Post-pandemic, Orme believes the housing market will continue to boom as more businesses offer more flexible workplaces.
“I believe this is the new normal, that the days of office buildings that are full of 10-story businesses those are in the past. I think there will be some, but I don’t think we’ll ever go back to that normal,” she says.