More and more technology companies are realizing that they're just as productive as a remote team, with lower overheads. Simultaneously, tech employees are realizing that they're better off in an environment where they don't need to commute, can eat their own food, and can spend more time with their families.
I agree. Even without a pandemic going on around me, I vastly prefer working remotely. I get more work done, spend dramatically less time in transit, eat far better, do more exercise, etc. At a time when my parents are in need of more support for health reasons, it's also allowed me to be there for them in a way that I couldn't have been if I was required to be present in an office every day.
Most people prefer their homes - and even the ones that don't are happier in coworking spaces than their own offices. What does that mean for the Bay Area?
So far, house prices have continued to rise. Here's a graph of median house sale prices in San Francisco vs last year:
And in Alameda County (which encompasses Oakland and Berkeley):
We'll see what happens - because house prices lag by at least a month, we may yet see a pandemic-related reduction - but it looks like house prices are continuing to rise.
At any rate, the median prices in April were $1.69M and $1.05M respectively. To get a mortgage on a million dollar home, you need to earn around $220,000 a year. While tech employees are disproportionately highly-paid, the average salary in the sector is $145,000 a year. Most tech workers can't afford to own their own homes. This might not be a factor for workers who are just out of college, but the vast majority of people want to own - particularly if they start a family.
So in a world where you can work remotely (or from a coworking space that you choose), why stay in the Bay Area, where you're disproportionately likely to be renting? Even the super-rich - those who can afford to buy a home for millions of dollars - would be better off fleeing north to Marin or wine country, where they'll get more for their money.
You don't have to move to the sticks to get a better life. Cities like Seattle, Portland, Austin, Madison, Boston, and Boulder are all liberal, highly educated, full of arts and culture, and cheaper than the Bay Area. Seattle and Portland are even on the same time zone and a short flight (or longer train journey) away.
The Bay Area isn't dead - far from it - but I think we'll see a tech migration away as remote work becomes more permanent. Eventually, that will depress prices. In an area of legendarily high income inequality, that's probably good for everyone.