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Top U.S. Metros for Digital Nomads

With the Great Reshuffling underway and the prospect of permanent work-from-home arrangements becoming more likely, the popularity of a “digital nomadic lifestyle” is likely to trend upward. This new report from Zillow® and Yelp Inc. (NYSE: YELP) ranks the top U.S. destinations best suited for digital nomads.

Digital nomads are those able to move from location to location, staying connected to work and family digitally, while experiencing new adventures in unfamiliar destinations. Whether looking for a new city or town to experience for one month or six months, digital nomads may be exploring various locations in hopes of eventually making a permanent move.

“It is clear that this past year has caused many to reconsider their housing needs and wants — and sometimes that means not wanting to be tied to one spot for too long,” says Zillow economic data analyst Nicole Bachaud. “Amenity-rich places with a lot of affordable rental units with shorter leasing terms are appealing to many people who no longer have to punch in at the office. More than 1-in-10 Americans have already moved in the past year, but we think the Great Reshuffling is just getting started.”

Nearly 11 million American workers currently describe themselves as digital nomads, an increase of 49% from 2019, according to Independent talent provider MBO Partners’ 2020 State of Independence research study. In 2020, the number of traditional workers working as digital nomads grew 96%, from 3.2 million to 6.3 million, according to the study. 

With National Moving Month right around the corner, Zillow and Yelp analyzed each company’s rich datasets to create a “Digital Nomad Index,” which ranks the top U.S. metros most favorable to the lifestyle.

Each metro earned an index score based on how well it performed across various criteria. Jacksonville, Florida, ranked No. 1 in the U.S. for digital nomads, followed by Austin, Texas. Filling out the top five are Boise, Idaho; Nashville, Tennessee; and Charleston, South Carolina.

“These destinations boast a mix of outdoor adventure and city perks that are appealing to the many young professionals who have transitioned to the nomadic lifestyle due to their new-found ability to work from anywhere,” says Yelp Trend Expert Tara Lewis. “They’re great for digital nomads, and offer a variety of highly rated local businesses and activities these folks are looking for, like shared office spaces, furniture rental, hiking, RV repairs, paddle boarding and more.”

The metros were scored on availability and relative affordability of rental units listed on Zillow that offer lease terms of less than one year, merged with Yelp data measuring consumer demand and the share of particularly curated business categories like vacation rentals, furniture assembly, auto and RV repairs, nightlife, and outdoorsy activities, among others. Yelp identified the places that were strongest in business categories associated with large relative growth during the pandemic, and Zillow pageview data was incorporated to suggest demand for a particular metro.  

A recent Zillow survey finds more than 1 in 10 Americans (11%) say they have already moved in the past year. Yelp’s recent Economic Average report found that the pandemic housing frenzy has continued through the first quarter of 2021, with consumer interest in real estate agents up more than 90% from a year ago in every state. Consumer interest for junk removal services more than doubled in every state as people prepared to move or declutter.

Top 10 U.S Metros for Digital Nomads, According to Yelp and Zillow: 

1. Jacksonville, Florida
Typical rental rates: $960 per month1

Taking the top spot is the largest city (by land area) in the continental United States – Jacksonville. With the chance to work and play in the midst of a plethora of beautiful outdoor scenic views in every direction and year-round weather that make almost every day a beach day, Jacksonville could be one of the most popular destinations for digital nomads. Page views to Jacksonville rental listings increased 120% over the same time last year.

Jacksonville is the most affordable metro in Florida for the typical digital nomad.2 It’s also one of the top metros for consumer interest in business categories that a digital nomad might need or enjoy: Furniture assembly, shared office spaces, TV mounting, golf lessons, brewery tours, and more.

Local favorites include highly rated gems like Black Sheep Restaurant, Bold Bean Coffee Roasters and Secret Tiki Temple, and vacation getaways like Amelia Island, Ponte Vedra and Jacksonville Beach are a short drive away.

2. Austin, Texas
Typical rental rates: $1,323 per month

Austin is home to countless cultural, musical, and artistic amenities making it an ideal place for remote-work nomads looking for a wide variety of options for entertainment.

A panel of economists and real estate experts recently surveyed by Zillow expect Austin to be one of the nation’s hottest housing markets in 2021. Page views to rental listings in Austin are the second highest out of all metros analyzed, up 93% from the first quarter of last year.

With iconic food trucks and breakfast tacos, unique shops, boutiques, and live music, Austin scores the highest on the list for having the highest share of amenities likely sought-after by digital nomads. Local gems like Torchy’s Tacos, Allens Boots and the Elephant Room help make up the heart and soul of Austin, and are among the many highly-rated businesses on Yelp in the area.

In Austin, people can find Elite Austin a furniture rental service where Yelpers rave about the great customer service, and Createscape Coworking, a coworking space known for its abundance of meeting areas. Furniture rental and coworking spaces are key categories to help digital nomads maintain their lifestyles and Austin is among the nation’s top metros for both categories.

3. Boise, Idaho
Typical rental rates: $1,495 per month

With the Rocky Mountains and plenty of rivers, lakes, and trails nearby, the Boise area offers access to an abundance of scenic work-from-anywhere locales and plenty of easy-to-access outdoorsy activities like skiing and hiking for when it’s time to play.

After hiking through the Boise foothills, it’s an easy walk to Restaurant Row on 8th Street, where residents can find highly rated businesses on Yelp Like Diablo & Sons Saloon, Bitter Creek Alehouse, and Fork. Boise is among the nation’s top metros for categories like RV repair, parking, trailer and RV dealers, and digital nomads can find highly rated businesses like Wandervans and Leisureland RV Center to help them explore the great outdoors.

Boise ranks among the top 20 for the number of available rental units, providing a wide variety of options for nomads who want to jump right into the action. Locals may have recognized the desire of nomads to come to their city, as it also ranks second amongst the metros for the largest year-over-year increase in rental listings offering lease terms less than one year.

4. Nashville, Tennessee
Typical rental rates: $1,369 per month

Located on the Cumberland River in the north central part of the state, Nashville is a digital nomad destination that checks all the boxes. Known for country music, hot chicken and a great shopping scene, “Music City” is home to iconic businesses like Hattie B’s and Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, Robert’s Western World, and White’s Mercantile.

Page views to rental listings in the metro increased 18.6% compared to the same time last year, indicating continued demand to this popular destination.

5. Charleston, South Carolina
Typical rental rates: $1,645 per month

Charleston landed in the top 5 in large part because of the immense amount of available rentals, scoring higher than the other six South Carolina metropolitan areas analyzed, which means increased chances of finding a place that fits the digital nomad lifestyle.

Here, people can visit nearby Sullivan’s Island and Folly Beach for some sun and sand, and find amazing restaurants like Leon’s Fine Poultry and Oysters, Husk and Xiao Biscuit.

6. San Jose, California
Typical rental rates: $2,511 per month

Known as the Silicon Valley hub of technology companies, San Jose also offers digital nomads a bustling international food scene featuring authentic cuisine from India, Ethiopia, Vietnam, and beyond. And it doesn’t hurt having the beach only a short drive away.

San Jose is the most expensive metro on this list, but also features the third-highest inventory levels for rental units offering lease terms less than one year.

7. Fort Collins, Colorado
Typical rental rates: $1,795 per month

Situated beside the Cache la Poudre River at the base of the Rocky Mountains, Fort Collins boasts a fantastic array of craft breweries, a vibrant biking culture, and access to beautiful natural areas. Most notably home to New Belgium Brewing Company, Horsetooth Reservoir, and Noosa Yoghurt, attractions that are just the tip of the iceberg of what this city has to offer.

“Colorado’s craft beer Capital” offers plenty of great vibes in the area packed with outdoor recreational opportunities and sunshine most of the year — the perfect combination for the digital nomad.

8. Asheville, North Carolina
Typical rental rates: $1,782 per month

“Tucked peacefully in the Appalachian mountains, Asheville is truly a hidden gem. From live bluegrass at the Orange Peel to culinary masterpieces at Tupelo Honey, and adventures along the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s easy to see why people are drawn to this destination,” says Lewis.

The median list price for relevant rentals in Asheville rose 8% year-over-year, signaling increasing demand in the area.

9. Las Vegas, Nevada
Typical rental rates: $1,275 per month

Las Vegas boasts the second highest affordability index score out of all the other metros on our list. More than just the neon lights of the Strip, there is plenty to see and experience in Sin City. From hiking trails in Red Rock Canyon, to shopping at Downtown Summerlin to exploring the Arts District of Downtown Las Vegas.

10. Salt Lake City, Utah
Typical rental rates: $1,761 per month

Salt Lake City is most-popular for its accessibility to some of the world’s most-popular ski runs and other outdoor recreation activities, like hiking, biking, camping and fishing, all within 30 minutes of the city.

From bike trails in Millcreek Canyon, to four seasons of world-class outdoor adventures at highly rated destinations like Solitude; nomads have endless options to live life to the fullest, just outside their back door.

Methodology:
The Digital Nomad Index is designed to highlight cities best suited for the lifestyle based on a mix of factors pertinent to those in the community. The collection of Yelp indicators and Zillow variables were each given 50% of the overall weight for the final index. Scores reflect data from Q1 2020 to Q1 2021. The metro in each state that ranked highest in the index was considered for inclusion in the final list.

Zillow analyzed five main variables:

  • Year-over-year inventory of rentals with leasing terms less than 1 year
  • Year-over-year pageviews of rentals with leasing terms less than 1 year
  • Typical affordability of rentals with leasing terms less than 1 year
  • Typical inventory counts of rentals with leasing terms less than 1 year
  • Year-over-year price growth of rentals with leasing terms less than 1 year

Yelp started by finding U.S. metros that had the most positive change in consumer actions—page views, reviews, photos—in the 12-month period between March 2020 and February 2021, compared to the previous 12 months, to identify places that had experienced the biggest relative growth during the pandemic, including from digital nomads. Yelp then filtered out places that had already been on the upswing before the pandemic—namely, that had experienced the biggest increases in the prior 12-month period, March 2019 to February 2020, compared to March 2018 through February 2019.

Then we identified business categories that had grown the most in the cities with the biggest pandemic-era growth, and curated those categories most likely to be associated with digital nomads. We then ranked the 600 largest U.S. metro areas outside the 30 largest by the share of consumer actions and businesses that are in those business categories, reflecting metros with the most amenities sought after by digital nomads.

About Zillow Group:
Zillow Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: Z and ZG) is reimagining real estate to make it easier to unlock life’s next chapter.

As the most-visited real estate website in the United States, Zillow® and its affiliates offer customers an on-demand experience for selling, buying, renting or financing with transparency and nearly seamless end-to-end service. Zillow Offers® buys and sells homes directly in dozens of markets across the country, allowing sellers control over their timeline. Zillow Home Loans™, our affiliate lender, provides our customers with an easy option to get pre-approved and secure financing for their next home purchase. Zillow recently launched Zillow Homes, Inc., a licensed brokerage entity, to streamline Zillow Offers transactions.

Zillow Group’s brands, affiliates and subsidiaries include Zillow®; Zillow Offers®; Zillow Premier Agent®; Zillow Home Loans™; Zillow Closing Services™; Zillow Homes, Inc.; Trulia®; Out East®; StreetEasy® and HotPads®. Zillow Home Loans, LLC is an Equal Housing Lender, NMLS #10287 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org). 

About Yelp Inc.:

Yelp Inc. (www.yelp.com) connects people with great local businesses. With unmatched local business information, photos and review content, Yelp provides a one-stop local platform for consumers to discover, connect and transact with local businesses of all sizes by making it easy to request a quote, join a waitlist, and make a reservation, appointment or purchase. Yelp was founded in San Francisco in July 2004. Since then, Yelp has taken root in major metros in more than 30 countries.

1Reflects February 2021 ZORI for rentals with lease less than 1 year.
2This analysis assumes digital nomads make an annual household income of roughly $90,000, representing the median household income of those working jobs likely to be remotable.

S. Jack Heffernan Ph.Dhttps://www.shayneheffernan.com
S. Jack Heffernan Ph.D. Funds Manager at HEFFX holds a Ph.D. in Economics and brings with him over 25 years of trading experience in Asia and hands on experience in Venture Capital, he has been involved in several start ups that have seen market capitalization over $500m and 1 that reach a peak market cap of $15b. He has managed and overseen start ups in Mining, Shipping, Technology and Financial Services.

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