Ready to Work Remote? Here Are the Home Office Essentials You Need

As work-from-home jobs become more ubiquitous, so do requirements for home offices.

We’ve noticed some trends in home-office requirements — some very reasonable and others… not so much. For example, some employers give thousands of dollars in stipends to deck out your home office while others require specific 17-inch dual-screen monitors without providing reimbursement.

Most remote jobs are somewhere in the middle, but it’s likely that you’ll need to invest a little in your home office before it’s work-from-home ready.

This list of home office essentials is based on common remote job requirements and advice from remote employees. It will give you an idea of what items your home office might need and how much it will cost to transition into a work-from-home career, particularly in the sales, customer service or IT fields.

Typical Office Requirements for Work-From-Home Jobs

Computer Setup

Portability is a large consideration for remote jobs. After all, half the fun of working at home is curling up in bed with your laptop on those lazy days. If that’s the case, a light laptop is your best option. But computer prices may make you feel a little queasy.

Work-from-home reporter James Duren agreed.

“Spending more than $1,000 on a MacBook, for example, isn’t always feasible, even if we write them off [on taxes],” Duren said.

He uses a $170 Chromebook.

“The most beneficial aspect of it is that everything is stored in the cloud,” Duren said. “So I’m never at risk of losing documents in the event my laptop dies.”

This is a double-edged feature, however. The biggest adjustment may be the availability of apps and programs. The Chromebook is its own operating system, which means some popular applications aren’t available to download.

For jobs that require specific sales or IT software, an inexpensive PC with the latest Windows operating system may be the best choice.

High-Speed Internet

Besides a computer, the most common requirement for a work-from-home job is a steady, hard-wired internet connection. That means your laptop or computer must directly connect to your modem with an ethernet cable — not through Wi-Fi.

Typically, employers will require minimum upload and download speeds. The sweet spot seems to be 10 Mbps download and 5 Mbps upload. Try Ookla’s internet speed test to see if your current connection meets that standard.

To find the best deal, there are many websites that compare internet providers based on speed, price and area of availability. According to an estimate by internet and phone service search engine WhistleOut, you will likely pay $30 to $50 a month to meet the minimum internet speed requirement for most work-from-home jobs. (WhistleOut is owned by Clearlink, which also owns The Penny Hoarder.)

But be sure to do some comparisons on your own to get a more accurate number, as your location may affect prices.

Landline and Phone

In the customer service and sales industries especially, a solid home-office phone is a godsend. You’ll typically need call forwarding, holding, conferencing and voicemail features in your day-to-day, which is pretty standard for most office phones. Amazon has a slew of models between $50 and $80. It’s probably overkill to spend more than that.

If you were hoping to skirt landline costs by using a Voice-over-IP (VoIP) service like Google Voice or your own cell phone, most employers in phone-reliant industries forbid it. They typically want a dedicated landline.

Landlines are becoming antiquated as VoIP services are taking over, but some large companies like AT&T provide plans for less than $25 a month when bundled with internet services. If you already have a landline service, adding an additional line or bundling it with your current internet or cable provider may save you some cash, too.

A woman takes a work from home call while wearing a headset at her home office.
Getty Images

Headset and Microphone

Headsets are frequently required, but even if the job listing doesn’t specify them, a noise-canceling headset can do wonders for productivity. And during meetings or phone calls, you’ll probably need your hands free for note taking.

“For telecommuting, the most important tool is a good headset that allows me to comfortably attend meetings without the noises of my neighborhood intruding,” remote content writer Arwen Brenneman said.

Several remote workers recommended their favorite pair of headphones and headsets to The Penny Hoarder. If you have the funds, software developer Austin Grandt recommends Bose QuietComfort headphones.

“The headphones are perfect for working at home or in a shared setting like a co-working space, as the noise-cancelling puts me into my own zone,” Grandt said. “The built-in microphone on the cable of the headphones also works great for when you have to have video chats or phone calls.”

The Bose headset can range anywhere from $200 to $400 on Amazon, depending on the model.

If you’re looking for a cheaper setup, Srhythm has a highly rated noise-reduction headset with a built-in microphone for around $50.


It would be pretty rare for a job listing to specifically require a desk. It’s kind of a given.

But desks are sometimes overlooked. Realistically, the standard cubicle-sized desk doesn’t work for apartments or home offices.

So it’s good to consider your size and storage limitations when shopping around.

“I believe the best purchase I ever made was a stand-up desk,” said Matt Schmidt, a remote insurance adviser. “Being able to go from a sitting desk to standing desk throughout the day was a lifesaver.”

Schmidt recommended the xec-FIT desk, which runs for around $300, but you can find adjustable desks for half that price on Amazon.

What about portability?

“A $15 IKEA bed-tray is my go-to for working from the cozy comfort of my couch,” Brenneman said.

An office desk and chair are shown in this photo. Both a desk and office chair are essential items to purchase when working from home.
Getty Images

Office chair

If there is one home office essential to splurge on, it’s the office chair. Being uncomfortable is really distracting, and bad posture leads to a host of other long-term issues. Creature comforts are important when it comes to sitting for hours at a time.

“One of the most important items for me personally is a comfortable and posture-support chair,” said Nicholas Kinports, a remote business development executive.

His go-to chair is from Aeron. The model he suggested will cost you up to $500, but Kinports said it’s worth every penny.

For a more budget-friendly option, try the Alera Elusion Series Mesh Chair. According to ReviewGeek, it’s the best chair if you’re trying not to sell an arm and a leg to support your back.

“It’s the little things that can cause distractions and discomfort,” Kinports said. “Make sure you invest in exactly what you need to achieve your best focus everyday.”

Dual Monitors

Monitor specs are usually contained to the IT, sales or customer service industries. But as a writer, I find dual monitors extremely beneficial. They help me stay organized by separating tabs and tasks to certain screens.

“As a [software] developer, an extra screen is also a must,” said Grandt. “Something that is larger than the 13-inch laptop… keeps me productive.”

PC Magazine rated the best monitors of 2021, and Lenovo’s ThinkVision M14 received a great review. Its screen brightness and portability make it ideal for home-office use. And in most home offices, desk space is a luxury. Consider adding a monitor mount for an extra $30 or so.

The Little Extras

Although they may not be considered “essential,” making your home office comfortable enough to work in every day may require a few more touches of comfort. You may not need any of the following items to get started, but you’ll likely want to incorporate some of these extras into your home office eventually:

  • Office supplies. Think notepads, pens and paper clips.
  • Power strip. The more electronics you accumulate, the more you’ll appreciate extra outlets.
  • Good task lighting. Your eyes will thank you for it.
  • Shelving or an organizational system. Yes, you can be totally digital. But you still may want a place to store professional reference books or your coffee mug collection.

If you land a work-from-home gig that doesn’t cover home-office costs, be prepared to dish out $700 as a one-time investment to ensure your workspace is up to snuff. For the costlier options on the list, it could run you up to $2,500 — not including monthly internet, phone payments or pajamas.

And freelancers, be sure to write these expenses off as itemized deductions on your taxes.

Adam Hardy is former staff writer at The Penny Hoarder. 




Is Your Apartment Tax-Deductible When You WFH? | ApartmentSearch

Woman holding baby while sitting at desk on computerIf you’re someone who primarily works from the comfort of their home, you might find yourself wondering, “Can I write off my home office?” This is certainly a valid question and one that can possibly save you a lot of money when tax season rolls around. Learn what (if anything) is tax-deductible when your apartment doubles as your office space!

But before we begin, please know this post is not intended as legal or tax advice; rather, it’s simply meant to provide some helpful resources for your tax journey. If you need additional support or guidance as you’re filing, we encourage you to seek professional tax prep services.

Can I write off my home office?

With so many of us working from home these days, there’s a lot of curiosity around whether this situation can yield any tax breaks. Unfortunately, you won’t qualify for the home office tax deduction as a full-time remote employee in most cases.

In other words, if you work remotely — but you’re not an employer or business owner — you won’t be able to write off your home office. With that said, this might be available as a state tax deduction for *some* remote workers, so don’t give up all hope!

Anyone who’s self-employed or runs a business out of their home will likely have better luck with this write-off. According to the IRS, there are two basic requirements to qualify for a home office deduction: (1) regular and exclusive use and (2) principal place of your business.

The term ‘regular and exclusive use’ means you regularly use part of your house or apartment exclusively for conducting your business. The second criteria (principal place of business) implies your home office is either the primary location of your business or space where you frequently meet with customers or clients.

For instance, if you run a business out of your apartment, like an e-commerce store, you may be eligible for this deduction. Likewise, if you are “self-employed” as a freelancer, you may also meet this requirement.

How do I calculate my home office deduction?

If you meet the criteria stipulated by the IRS, you’ll want to know how to deduct a home office to net the most significant savings possible. There are two ways to go about this: (1) the regular method — keeping track of your expenses throughout the year and itemizing them on your tax forms, or (2) using the simplified option (if you’re eligible for it).

The regular method involves diligent record-keeping of your year-round expenses and honest reporting in your tax form. With this method, you can write off things like the cost to paint or repair your office space, which can add up pretty quickly!

The actual-expenses approach also allows you to deduct a portion of some indirect home expenses, based on the square feet you use as your office. What this means is, if your office is one-tenth of the total square footage in your house or apartment, you can deduct 10% of your mortgage interest or rent and even some of your utilities (like water and electric bills).

The simplified version of the home office deduction can be used if your office measures 300 square feet or less. For those who qualify, the IRS will give you a deduction of $5 per square foot of your home that’s used for business, up to $1,500 for a 300-square-foot-space.

If you’re unsure which choice is right for you, know that the simplified method can work well for single-room offices or smaller operations, while actual-expenses might work better if your business takes up a larger part of your home.

Additionally, the simplified route is typically easier to compute, resulting in a smaller tax break overall. The regular method requires more thorough recordkeeping (and more time to gather your receipts), but it could provide you with a larger deduction in the end.

Find a Place for Work and Life

Are you thinking of upgrading your apartment so you can have a dedicated home office? With the help of ApartmentSearch, you can easily explore two-bedroom apartments and live-work spaces for rent near you! This way, you’ll have an extra room you can use as your very own office, which is sure to help boost your morale and productivity.


How to Decide Where to Live If You Work Remotely From Home

When you no longer need to physically report to work, it detaches where you live from where you work. Suddenly you can live anywhere in the world, rather than being restricted to a single city.

It’s an incredibly freeing feeling. But it also leaves remote workers, freelancers, and other digital nomads with an overwhelming abundance of options. How do you choose a place to live when you can live anywhere on the planet?

As you review the following checklist, sort it by your priorities. For some, living near their parents or children is nonnegotiable. Others feel perfectly happy living in another state or even another country.

Most of all, look to design your perfect life starting from the ground up, in the most literal sense.

Choosing a Country & State

It never occurs to most Americans that they might enjoy living in another country. Most never even move to another state; North American Moving Services reports that 72% of Americans live in or near the town where they grew up.

Yet as an expat myself, I can tell you firsthand how many advantages you can find living in another country. I’ve also lived in multiple U.S. states, some of which I liked far more than my home state.

Consider the following as you choose a country and state to live in, and don’t get caught up in the details of “how” when you first consider places to live. Focus on the “why” first, and when you’ve chosen a country or state based on your ideal lifestyle, you can then figure out the “how.”

Time Zone

As an international school counselor, my wife gets job offers all the time in Asia and the Middle East. But my business is located in the U.S., and I refuse to do any more 3am conference calls.

Just because you can work remotely doesn’t mean you can necessarily set your own hours. And even when you can set your own hours, you still have to communicate and collaborate with others. That could mean coworkers and supervisors, or it could mean partners, suppliers, or clients. Sometimes you need to hop on a phone call with people in real time, and if they work in a time zone on the opposite side of the world, that means working inconvenient hours.

Know your work, and set your own limits on time zones.

Proximity to Family

If you can’t stand the idea of living more than an hour away from your family members, you have a clear radius you must live within. It makes your decision easier, if more limited.

But if you have a little more leeway, such as a living “within a few hours from family, it frees you up to explore travel by air and rail rather than just road travel.

For example, if you want to be able to reach your family within three hours, that gives you 150 to 200 miles of driving radius but over a thousand miles of flying radius. You can then start looking at cities with cheap direct flight routes (more on that shortly), rather than simply drawing a circle around the town where your family lives and shackling yourself to it.

Tax Policies

Different countries tax in vastly different ways. As a remote worker, you have the luxury of choosing a low-tax country or state.

My wife and I spent four years living in the United Arab Emirates, where they don’t charge income tax at all. That saved us tens of thousands of dollars in taxes every year, allowing us to save and invest that money to build wealth faster.

Even within the U.S., some states charge vastly higher taxes than others. Look at total tax burden, combining income tax, property taxes, and sales and excise taxes to compare states and countries, and start with these states with the lowest tax burden.

The difference can easily amount to thousands of dollars a year — a sum that can dramatically change your quality of life and wealth over time.

Connectivity & Communication Infrastructure

Becoming a digital nomad requires a strong digital Wi-Fi connection. In today’s world, most cities around the globe offer reliable, fast Internet connectivity. But smaller towns in developing countries may not meet your needs.

Ask around among residents, especially knowledge workers and expats, before moving to a smaller city in a developing country. If the connectivity and communication infrastructure can’t meet your needs, look elsewhere.


Not everyone wants to spend half the year bundled up in coats and scarves to weather the frozen tundra. I certainly don’t.

Consider climate as you choose a country and state to live in. Whether you enjoy having four distinct seasons or would just as soon hike and swim all year round, find a place where you actually enjoy the weather most of the year.

Choosing a City

Many countries and even states are sprawling, with an enormous diversity of big cities, small towns, and everything in between.

As you consider the best cities for remote workers, keep the following factors in mind to choose the right fit.

Airport Routes

Not all airports are created equal. Depending on your penchant for travel, you may want easy access to a major international airport with hundreds of flight routes.

Smaller regional airports often only offer a few routes to nearby hubs. It adds hours to each trip, and usually costs more to boot.

If proximity to family matters to you, then air routes can play a major role in where you feel comfortable living. You can cross a thousand miles in two hours of direct flight time, or you can waste 10 hours on multiple flight legs, layovers, and driving gaps.

Natural Amenities

There’s an old trope that all people fall into one of two camps: seaside people or mountain people. Whether you buy into it or not, the fact remains that you can’t have every natural amenity you want, so you have to choose based on your priorities.

Few cities sit nestled between tropical beaches and mountains with pristine skiing. You can find cities with beautiful shorelines and beaches, cities up in the mountains near great hiking and skiing, cities near wine country, and everything in between, but it’s hard to find cities with everything. Prioritize what you want because it’s hard to get it all.

The few cities with easy access to many natural amenities — such as San Francisco and Santa Barbara — tend to come with outrageously high living expenses.

Cost of Living

The median home in San Francisco ($1,405,199) costs nearly 20 times the price of a median home in Cleveland ($73,686), according to Zillow. Twenty times!

Put another way, you could buy your own home in Cleveland plus 19 rental properties, all generating passive income, for the same price you’d spend on only your residence in San Francisco. The rental income from those 19 properties would likely cover your living expenses, allowing you to reach your financial goals faster.

Cost of living matters. It doesn’t just mean the difference between affording a three-bedroom and a four-bedroom house — it often means the difference between becoming wealthy and living a middle-class lifestyle. Between being able to pay for your kids’ college education or not. Between retiring at 45 and retiring at 70. Between an acceptable quality of life and a great one.

If you can earn a New York City salary without paying New York City rents, find somewhere fun and affordable to laugh all the way to the bank.

Keep in mind that cost of living doesn’t just include lower housing costs. Low cost of living can include low food and grocery costs, cheap restaurants and nightlife, low utility costs, affordable health care, and other discounts that help you save money across the board.

As a final thought, take a second look at living overseas. Start with these countries where you can live a luxurious lifestyle for $2,000 a month.

Cultural Amenities & Local Culture

For many people, the local culture matters, both in terms of amenities and the people themselves.

That could mean access to museums, sports teams, art galleries, and performing arts. Most smaller towns only offer these cultural amenities sparsely, although exceptions certainly exist. Larger cities tend to offer more of these amenities, though they still vary greatly.

Beyond amenities, most people also prefer to surround themselves with those culturally similar to them — politically, socioeconomically, and linguistically. If this kind of similarity is important to you, consider moving somewhere where you feel you’d fit right in and where the local values reflect your own.

Choosing a Neighborhood

As someone who hails from Baltimore, I can assure you that different neighborhoods within a city can feel like completely different cities. So choose your neighborhood with care.


When you can live anywhere, there’s no reason to live somewhere unsafe.

People feel comfortable with what they know, but you don’t have to play that game anymore. Choose a city and neighborhood with extremely low crime rates. With the world at your fingertips, you have infinite options.

And bear in mind that your impressions of a place might not match the reality. I still laugh when I think of my friends’ and family’s reactions when I told them I was moving to Abu Dhabi: “What?! Is it safe?!” Not only is it one of the safest cities in the world, but I was moving there from one of the most dangerous of the U.S. cities. Yet my family in Baltimore couldn’t wrap their heads around that notion.

Try NeighborhoodScout or AreaVibes to research any city’s, zip code’s, or neighborhood’s crime statistics.

Quality of Public Schools

In some cities and neighborhoods, the public schools are so bad that middle-class parents are forced to budget the money to send their children to private schools. It severely restricts their budget and savings rate.

Again, when you can telecommute, you don’t have to play by those rules anymore. You can pick a school district with outstanding public schools and actually cash in on those tax dollars you have to pay regardless.

Alternatively, you could home-school your children. But that requires far more effort and time on your part, both in educating them and in making sure they get plenty of social interaction with other kids.

Try to look up school quality measures for any given district.


When my wife and I lived in the U.S., we each had a car, as many Americans do. Then we moved overseas, and our home sat in a somewhat walkable neighborhood. We shared one car there, which worked out well.

The next time we moved, we intentionally chose a city and neighborhood that was extremely walkable. It lay within walking distance of my wife’s work, a coworking space for me to work from, and dozens of restaurants, bars, retail stores, and other amenities. We no longer own a car at all, and I don’t miss it in the slightest.

When you can walk, bike, or Uber everywhere, it forces you to be more active. Physical activity aside, living without a car also saves you a phenomenal amount of money. The average American spends $9,282 per car every single year, according to AAA, between maintenance, repairs, gas, parking, insurance, and car payments.

Public Transportation

Similarly, an extensive public transportation system can also help you ditch your car while still letting you reach every amenity you need.

A city with excellent public transportation can reduce your transportation costs and save money far faster.

Choosing a Home

Found the perfect corner of the world to live in?

With the hard part behind you, you can focus on the easier business of finding a hospitable home.

Before even deciding whether to rent or buy a home, start by deciding how long you plan to live there. When you buy a home, you take an initial loss based on the closing costs, both those incurred to buy the home and the second round of closing costs you owe when selling it. It takes time to recover these expenses by building equity.

If you don’t know how long you plan to stay or plan on just a year or two, renting is definitely your best option. Beyond two years, sometimes it makes sense to buy. You have to calculate the costs both ways. Be sure to include all ownership costs, including maintenance, repairs, insurance, property taxes, and both rounds of closing costs. Far too many people just assume they should buy without actually running these numbers.

Bear in mind your changing needs in the years to come. For example, if you plan to have a family, you may need another bedroom or two soon. You may want to rent rather than buy if your needs may change shortly.

Many telecommuters prefer to work from home rather than from a coworking space or coffee shop. You can avoid distractions and boost productivity by choosing a home with a dedicated home office, rather than working from the sofa or dining room table.

Whether you have children or not, many people love having their own outdoor space. It proved a consistent trend during the COVID-19 pandemic. Suburban and rural areas saw a spike in demand as people clambered for outdoor space to call their own.

When you move to a new city, rent for a few months or a year before buying. It takes time to get to know a new city, and giving yourself the luxury of time helps you discover exactly what you want for the long term before you commit.

Visit Before Moving

Word to the wise: Don’t uproot yourself and move across the country or world without visiting your destination first.

It’s all too easy to fall in love with the idea of a place. But your vision of a city and the reality of living there will inevitably clash, so take the time to discover those differences firsthand before you move.

A long weekend spent visiting is better than nothing. A week gives you a better sense, and a month better still.

Walk the streets, talk to the locals, test the Internet speed. Get a sense of the local culture, eat the local food, attend the kind of social and cultural events you would if you lived there. You may find you love it just like you imagined — or you might discover it’s nothing like you envisioned.

Final Word

No one says you have to stay in the first place you move.

Remote work offers endless possibilities and lets you live anywhere in the world. I’ve lived in six U.S. states and five countries, some of which I enjoyed far more than others.

As you design your perfect life, bear in mind it will always be a work in progress. You don’t have to get it exactly right the first time around, and even if you do, your needs and wants will continue to evolve.

Stretch yourself and your comfort zone as you explore ideas for the ideal place to live. Otherwise, you’ll limit yourself to what you already know and remain one of the 72% of Americans who live where they grew up rather than choosing a home that fits the life they truly want.


Most Affordable (and Warm) Places to WFH This Winter

Remember that warm-weather place you cherished as a winter getaway back in those hazy, crazy, pre-pandemic days of, say, 2019? What would it be like to live there year-round?

For more Americans, this alluring fantasy has become a reality, especially during this particularly bleak COVID-19 winter. As office and home, work and play blend together in this pandemic age, areas that once served as sunny vacation respites from chillier climes are emerging as desirable long-term locations for remote workers—and that’s been a game changer for real estate markets across the country.

“Traditionally, winter is a season when many residents of northern, colder states move south to enjoy the warmer weather in states nearer the Gulf Coast,” says George Ratiu, senior economist for®. “This year, the migration is compounded by the COVID pandemic, leading lots of residents from the Northeast and Midwest to seek not only a seasonal escape but a permanent home.”

One driving force: These are often much cheaper places to buy a home, in an era when working remotely is becoming a viable long-term option. While expensive cities have long held a monopoly on great jobs, it now turns out that you don’t actually have to pay for an overpriced, undersized urban apartment to make a great salary. And housing data shows that house hunters from snowy states have been bidding on homes in warmer and more affordable markets in Southern markets for a change of lifestyle, weather, and cost of living.

To find the most affordable warm-weather destinations where folks can ride out the rest of the pandemic—and well beyond—the data team scoured the United States for counties with high median temperatures for January and February, lower cost of living with median home prices below $350,000, actual inventory, access to cultural and outdoor amenities, and high-speed internet so it’s possible to get work done. We also factored in the number of vacation rentals in each county just in case there’s a need to rent the place out.

So why not escape that tiny, overpriced apartment amid the polar vortex gales to somewhere you can actually thaw out this winter—and possibly every winter? Spring and summer, too!  Let’s take a tour of your potential new WFH headquarters.

Infographic: Warm-weather escapes
Infographic: Warm-weather escapes

Tony Frenzel for

Median home price: $275,000

Tampa Bay residents are still celebrating their Super Bowl win, but the area has a lot more going for it than Tom Brady. The metro boasts 246 days of sunshine per year, average February temperatures in the 70s, and some of the softest sand in the continental U.S. along the Gulf Coast beaches in Pinellas County.

The county, which sits along the Gulf of Mexico, across the bay from Tampa, has seen an influx of home buyers from colder, more expensive places like Illinois, Minnesota, and even New York, who have been snatching up real estate.

“We are having New Yorkers come to the Gulf Coast,” says Terry Tillung, real estate agent with Coldwell Banker Realty. “There used to be separation where East Coast people would come to the east coast of Florida and Midwesterners would come here. We’re seeing a shift now.”

Those Northeasterners and others from cold climes have been trading out their cramped apartments for homes near the water, including this two-bedroom condo with killer views of Clearwater Beach listed for $250,000 and this two-bedroom house in St. Petersburg Beach on the market for $245,000.

Median listing price: $339,900

The Intracoastal Waterway as it bisects a residential neighborhood in the Pompano Beach area of South Florida just north of Fort Lauderdale.
The Intracoastal Waterway as it bisects a residential neighborhood in the Pompano Beach area of South Florida just north of Fort Lauderdale.

Getty Images

As winter approached, remote workers from New York City, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Chicago, and pricey California began flocking to Broward County’s beaches in droves. The area, home to Fort Lauderdale, is just north of Miami-Dade and all of its world-class cultural offerings, but boasts a more chill vibe.

Its beachfront strip, once infamous for spring break shenanigans, now boasts high-end restaurants. Walkable and sophisticated Las Olas Boulevard attracts visitors from across the region who want to eat, shop, and drink.

Plus, the area boasts a wide range of housing at a wide range of prices. For just $269,000, buyers can get into this two-bedroom condo right next to one of the nicest beaches in Fort Lauderdale. And those who want newer homes with more space and better public schools can drive 20 minutes west to find places like this three-bedroom townhouse in desirable Cooper City listed at $299,900. But these days, buyers need to move fast.

“It’s been a complete frenzy,” says Samantha DeBianchi, estate agent for DeBianchi Real Estate. “If I put a home on the market and it’s priced right, I’ll get five calls within the first 30 minutes.”

Median listing price: $225,000

According to the San Diego Audubon Society, Corpus Christi is “America’s birdiest place.” The large, shallow bay on which it lies attracts diverse flocks of water birds, songbirds, and raptors that bring in avian aficionados from across the U.S. But it’s not just amateur ornithologists who have been migrating here.

The family-friendly metro is protected from the Gulf of Mexico by the gorgeous Padre and Mustang islands, which offer outdoor activities ranging from beach combing and watching sea turtles hatch to camping and paddling trails—along with plenty of tourists looking to rent vacation homes during season.

Those homes are a steal. Starting in the mid-$100,000 range, buyers can get into condos with a view, including this two-bedroom on the water listed at $144,500 or a single-family nearby for a couple of hundred thousand more, including this three-bedroom house listed for $279,900.

Median listing price: $175,000

Pelicans on Padre Island National Seashore
Pelicans on Padre Island National Seashore


One county south of Nueces, Cameron County, home to Padre Island National Seashore and Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge, has the same warm winter weather (average highs are in the 60s) with even more nature access and cheaper real estate. For $159,000, house hunters can get into this three-bedroom home in Laguna Vista, right near the waterfront and the wildlife refuge. Folks seeking a beach lifestyle can find a two-bedroom condo in the hub of South Padre Island for $172,500.

Median listing price: $179,800

Subdivision in Yuma, AZ
Subdivision in Yuma, AZ


There’s a reason Yuma County is called “America’s salad bowl.” The border region produces much of the lettuce, broccoli, and other leafy greens that Americans eat during the winter months. That’s because with highs in the mid-70s come February, plants can get all the sun they need to thrive when much of the rest of the country is frozen over.

The idyllic weather is reason enough to pack your bags and head south, but the landscape is just as impressive. It’s home to Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, a 665,400-acre preserve with one of the largest herds of desert bighorn sheep in the Southwest, deer, foxes, and a wide variety of plants, some found only in this small slice of the Grand Canyon state.

Yuma County has plenty of affordable options for those seeking to thaw out through the winter, from relaxing retreats in the desert, such as this two-bedroom on an acre of land in Wellton for $139,900, to nice spreads in town with a pool, like this three-bedroom listed at $174,900.

Median listing price: $179,000

Terrebonne Parish is known as a paradise for outdoor activities, where locals spend their free time hiking through nature preserves and hunting and fishing in the freshwater bayous and the Gulf of Mexico. Because everyone is outside so much anyway, the pandemic hasn’t changed that much in terms of everyday life.

“My house is on the water, so COVID times did not even affect me,” says Melanie Rogers Bruce, real estate agent with Keller Williams Bayou Partners. “I sit out on my little dock, and any stress I have goes away.”

While the area does boast multimillion-dollar waterfront homes, the $250,000 to $400,000 range gets the most action. At that price, buyers can get their own little “camp,” a waterfront house raised on stilts with a dock, including this cute three-bedroom with a boat lift for $259,900.

Median listing price: $175,000

One parish over from Terrebonne and just a hop, skip, and a jump from all the action and music of New Orleans, Lafourche Parish offers a similarly outdoorsy lifestyle to its outlying neighbor with the same mild winter climate. But the area also gives Nueces County (see above) a run for its money in birding.

From fall through spring, a diverse array of migratory birds including herons, egrets, and hummingbirds spends time in the county’s idyllic pockets of salt marsh, shallow bays, grassy meadows, and shady live oak forests.

“It is one of the biggest bird-watching communities in the nation, and there’s monarch butterfly migration,” says Rogers Bruce. “Really it’s great for any kind of outdoor animal watching.”

Nature lovers can get into their own base near Grand Isle at prices starting around $200,000, including this $225,000 four-bedroom.

Median listing price: $254,900

Savannah, GA
Savannah, GA


Savannah’s oak-covered squares and historic homes have been drawing new residents seeking a calmer (and warmer) pace of life for the past decade or so, but the city has offered yet another carrot to lure remote workers since COVID-19 roiled big tech centers: a $2,000 reimbursement for relocaters.

With its great restaurants, quaint streets, and gorgeous nearby beaches, it’s no surprise that this year has seen a massive influx of Northerners.

Buyers who want to be right near the historic core—and take advantage of the city’s moving incentive—can find small houses with compact yards starting in the $200,000s, including this two-bedroom cottage listed for $239,000.

Median listing price: $260,000

Tucson and greater Pima County have been growing steadily over the past decade. This Sun Belt city’s population has grown by a healthy 6.8% in the past decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Even more people have been coming in since COVID-19 hit. Remote workers from California, Nevada, and beyond have been snatching up fully contained spreads with room for entertaining (outdoors, obviously) and private pools, including this $260,000 four-bedroom and this $260,000 three-bedroom on an acre just outside Tucson Mountain Park.

“Everyone wants amenities now,” says Jen Anderson of the Jen Anderson Team, Long Realty.

Median listing price: $177,900

Biloxi beach in Harrison County, MS
Biloxi beach in Harrison County, MS


Want to know where you can buy a single-family house just steps from the beach for less than $200,000? Look to Mississippi, specifically Harrison County. The popular second-home and retirement area offers mild winter temperatures (highs in the 60s), a plethora of outdoor activities, frequent events (in normal times), and incredibly affordable housing, including this four-bedroom ranch right near the sand in Pass Christian listed for $185,000.

Mississippi’s beaches, which have been dubbed the Secret Coast, traditionally haven’t drawn as much attention as Florida, Alabama, and other coastal states, but that’s started to change as more buyers from cold places like Michigan and Colorado have been buying up homes and land.

“Many people don’t realize what a gem we have here, but I think the word is getting out,” says Wendy Hope Boyd, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Alfonso Realty.


The Outpost Economy: A New Trend

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many behavioral changes, not the least of which is the acceleration of the work-from-home trend. As the location of many workplaces remains flexible, there’s been a shift in the nature of work, its location and employment implications. Commercial real estate investment firm Graceada Partners has identified this trend and defined it, referring to it in a new report as the “outpost economy.”

The outpost economy is defined as the rise of a more dispersed economy and employment base away from major cities, to smaller cities with a high quality of life that draws workers who have become untethered from their offices in major cities. Clearly, this has implications for the real estate market – on both primary markets, as corporate headquarters become decentralized, and on secondary markets, as they evolve into “outpost economies.”

Takeaways from the Graceada report include:

  • Prior to COVID-19, many workers built their lives around the cities where they were employed. But, today, Millennials and younger workers are nesting, focusing on purchasing homes in smaller cities or suburbs and growing families there. The pandemic has enabled them to do this due to greater acceptance of remote working.
  • Still, the office is not dead. Many remote workers have already returned to the office, and offices are migration evolving as well. Employers may end up leasing smaller spaces in secondary markets to allow employees in those areas to work from those hubs.
  • Three outposts singled out in the report are Austin, Charlotte and Sacramento.
  • Despite the rise of many outposts, primary markets like New York and San Francisco have been economic hubs for major industries for many years and aren’t expected to go away overnight.


U.S. Sees Rise in Appetite for Single-Family Homes—Especially of the Luxury Variety

The appetite for high-end single-family homes is surging across the U.S., according to a report Thursday from real estate data provider HouseCanary.

Between the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March and the end of November, the number of single-family detached homes priced above $1 million to have entered contract jumped 28.8% compared to the same period last year.

The increasing popularity for luxury homes was followed closely by those priced between $600,000 and $1 million, which have seen their contract numbers increase 26.3% over the same time, the report said.

On the flip side, single-family homes priced below $200,000 have seen contracts fall by 13.7% compared to last year.

The data underlines the increasing desire for buyers to upgrade to larger homes with more amenities. Now spending more time at home and frequently working remotely, homeowners are realizing they’re in need of more square footage, home offices and outdoor space, features that often come with a steeper price tag.

Despite their surging popularity, $1 million-plus home sales only represent a fraction of the overall market, with most contracts being recorded on homes in the $200,000 to $400,000 range, according to the report.

“We anticipate that the housing market will maintain the status quo through year-end, but there is strong potential for a significant shift in the new year,” Jeremy Sicklick, co-founder and CEO of HouseCanary, said in the report, pointing toward the transition of White House leadership and Congressional appointment decisions.

“For now, outsized demand from home buyers is motivating sellers to maintain active listings and pushing prices on closed listings to record highs across the country,” he said. “Despite a turbulent election and a seasonal slowing of housing market activity, elevated demand levels continue to drive the housing market’s recovery and have largely offset the steep drop-off in new listings, contracts and closures observed recently.”