Why do most people move? The main reason used to be for financial opportunities, i.e., jobs, during their working years, and financial savings, and other personal reasons when they retire.
But why wait? The advent of telecommuting — and its expansion as a result of the coronavirus — has changed that dynamic, so much so that it has given rise to a new term: “Zoom Towns.”
We’ll explain what that means, where these places are, and the many ways you can have the best of both worlds, including discounts on your car insurance when working from home.
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Welcome to “Zoom Towns”
Living and working how you want and where you want? Oh, yes, thanks to technology and, bittersweetly, the pandemic.
The massive shift to work from home because of the coronavirus saw 88 percent of organizations encouraging or requiring their employees to work remotely.
But even before the coronavirus, working remotely was becoming the new normal. Between 2005 and 2017, there was a 159 percent increase in remote work, according to an analysis of U.S. Census and Bureau of Labor Statistics data by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs.
In 2015, 3.9 million U.S. workers worked remotely. By February 2020, the number was 4.7 million. It’s predicted that by 2028, 73 percent of all teams will have remote workers.
My husband and I are part of the work-from-home explosion: We first moved from our native Pennsylvania to California for jobs, then to Massachusetts five years later. After 17 years of high-cost living, high taxes, and wild weather, we decided to move for a better and more affordable lifestyle. Greenville, South Carolina.
During Greenville’s downtown revitalization, the former textile hub won accolades left and right, from a Best Small City in the United States to a Clean Air Excellence Award.
The number of awards has been so high that it has become an in-joke of residents. But it has led to Greenville being a Zoom Town — a booming housing market as remote work takes off.
And like us, millions more can now define their own path, one of the revelations that lead to greater success.
Zoom Town List
Here’s the list of USA Today’s top 20 of America’s cheapest cities where everyone wants to live:
- Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL
- Salisbury, MD-DE
- Raleigh, NC
- Nashville-Davidson-Murfreesboro-Franklin, TN
- Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ
- Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach, SC-NC
- Charleston-North Charleston, SC
- Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
- Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC
- Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, FL
- Jacksonville, FL
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA
- San Antonio-New Braunfels, TX
- Albuquerque, NM
- Tucson, AZ
- Greensboro-High Point, NC
- Greenville-Anderson-Mauldin, SC
- New Orleans-Metairie, LA
- Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC
- Grand Rapids-Wyoming, MI
And, check out this study for the best Zoom Towns for Insurance savings.
Zoom Town Benefits for Housing
When you’re a telecommuter, you have a much better chance of finding the perfect home for you and your family. Since you’re not tied to a specific place, you have more freedom to pick a location best suited to your needs, factoring in schools, outdoor space, public transportation, safety, and home size.
Let’s dig into those cost benefits a bit.
Lowered Home Prices
As the USA Today article noted, many Americans are looking for somewhere they can stretch their savings. Depending on what state you’re moving from, the savings can be mind-boggling.
For example, the article notes the cost of living in Greenville as 9.6 percent less than the national average, with a median home value of $186,800. But when I researched the area, my cost of living difference was 40 percent lower.
The housing difference? That was 70 percent lower. I was able to afford a home for the first time in my life.
Lowered Homeowners Insurance
Many factors determine your homeowners’ insurance rate, including your deductible, coverage limits, and state requirements. As a telecommuter, you can keep an eye out for a few factors to help lower your rate.
- Safety: Rates can vary by city, neighborhood, and even street. Areas with a higher amount of crime translate to higher insurance rates since there is a higher possibility that the insurance company may eventually replace stolen home items increases when a home is where burglaries are common.
- Age: The newer the home, the less expensive the insurance: When a damage claim is filed for a historic or older home, the reconstruction cost to restore it is pricier. Insurance companies especially look at the age and condition of the roof. A newer roof properly designed to withstand local weather hazards is less likely to need expensive repairs after a bad storm. It’s also less likely to develop leaks that can lead to costly water damage.
- Location: Accessibility and proximity to basic services will get you a better rate, such as your home is close to a local fire department or fire hydrant.
Zoom Town Benefits for Driving
Telecommuting is a boon for you in so many ways. While we’ll go into the cost benefits, the mental and physical benefits to you are priceless: Being free of a commute not only saves you time, but that hour-a-day average you no longer have to spend behind the wheel reduces your stress, anxiety, cholesterol, blood sugar, and depression.
And you’re giving a reprieve to Mother Earth by no longer driving to and from work, helping to reduce the emission of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and improve the quality of the environment.
Lowered Car Expenses
You’ll be saving on average $2,000-$5,000 annually on fuel, auto maintenance, and parking by being commute-free.
And steering clear of rush-hour traffic can save you untold thousands on car repairs and possible auto insurance increases from claims — not to mention injury to yourself — especially if you’re in the ten worst cities for fatal rush-hour crashes: Seattle, Boise, Baton Rouge, New York City, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Riverside (C.A.), Portland (OR), San Jose, or Tampa.
Ask for a Low-Mileage Discount
If you have auto insurance with a major insurance company, you most likely received a partial refund last spring, an average of 15-20 percent for two months for driving less due to the quarantine shutdown clearing the highways.
Don’t leave it at that.
If you’re driving much less by working from home, ask your insurance company for a low-mileage discount.
When insurance companies determine your rate and adjust it for renewal, your commute is one of the factors they use. If you’re no longer driving a 25-mile commute or even a 10-mile commute, why keep paying like you are?
Virtually all of the major auto insurance companies offer a low-mileage discount, including:
- American Family
- Amica (a 10 percent discount)
- Country Financial
- Esurance (15 percent)
- Liberty Mutual
- Safeco (20 percent)
- State Farm (30 percent)
- The General (20 percent)
- The Hanover
- The Hartford
- Travelers (30 percent)
Try Pay-Per-Mile Insurance
The freedom from a commute could also translate to freedom from the standard auto insurance policy. Get a customized policy with pay-per-mile insurance. It’s usage-based insurance (UBI) based on a low base rate, plus pennies-per-mile for every mile you drive.
Depending on which UBI you use, a device embedded in your vehicle, once you plug it in, or a mobile app collects information on your mileage. If you don’t drive regularly, you could save up to 40 percent on your insurance rate.
The major insurance companies that offer mileage-tracking insurance include Allstate with Milewise, Liberty Mutual with ByMile, and Nationwide with SmartMiles.
Check with your insurance company on particulars. And don’t be shy to see if you can get a better rate by also looking into a few other auto insurance companies.
There’s also Metromile, which sells pay-per-mile insurance exclusively. They note if you drive only 6,000 miles a year, you can save over $700 on auto insurance. But right now, they’re available in only eight states.
Another online insurance company with a larger availability in 28 states is Root Insurance. Their pricing is on par with Metromile, but they only insure safe drivers. Hence, their tracking system also monitors your driving habits — another form of UBI that many of the major insurance carriers are offering.
We hope we’ve helped you narrow down, or even contemplate, a Zoom Town. Why not take the next step and plan a scouting trip?
Karen Condor is an insurance expert who writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, AutoInsurance.org.