Bay Area Tech Workers Consider Moving to Greener Pastures

By David Lam
David Lam
David Lam
and David Zhang
David Zhang
David Zhang
July 24, 2020Updated: July 27, 2020

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—After months of work-from-home, tech companies are considering making that the norm. And it seems many employees don’t plan to stick around in the expensive Bay Area if they can work from another location. 

Ravi Hott, who works as a senior database administrator in Silicon Valley, can’t afford to buy a house in the area, so he rents an apartment. He told The Epoch Times that if his company allows continued remote work, he’ll probably move to Vermont, where “I can live like a king.” 

He said many of his friends in the tech industry feel the same. “Since the cost of living is so high here—if their companies allow them to work from home, they would also move to places that are much cheaper and have a better life.”

In May, Twitter announced it would extend remote work indefinitely. “The past few months have proven we can make that work. So if our employees are in a role and situation that enables them to work from home and they want to continue to do so forever, we will make that happen,” the company said on its blog. 

Square, under the same management, followed suit. Jack Dorsey is the CEO of both Twitter and Square. 

Epoch Times Photo
A sign is posted on the exterior of Twitter headquarters in San Francisco on July 26, 2018. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Mark Zuckerberg posted on Facebook in May, “I just spoke with our employees about what we’ve learned about remote working and how we’re planning to support it moving forward. I know many other organizations are thinking about this too.” 

He said that 50 percent of the company could go remote in the next 5 to 10 years. 

Scott Fuller runs a business called Leaving the Bay Area; he provides end-to-end relocation services, and he’s seen more people coming to him with plans to leave, tech company workers among them.

He thinks with announcements like those by Twitter and Facebook, other tech companies will have to offer similar benefits to attract top talent. 

Epoch Times Photo
Scott Fuller founded Leaving the Bay Area, a company that helps people relocate from the Bay Area to other locations in California as well as out of state. (Courtesy of Scott Fuller)

He told The Epoch Times about one of his clients who works for Facebook. That client’s relocation request was quickly approved by Facebook and he plans to move out of state. 

He’ll take a small pay cut because salaries for comparable skills in the area he’s moving to are lower, but Fuller said he’ll still be able to afford much more there than he could in the Bay Area.

Epoch Times Photo
Researcher Andre Souza works in Facebook’s “War Room,” which is focused on misinformation, during a media demonstration in Menlo Park, Calif., on October 17, 2018. (Noah Berger/AFP via Getty Images)

“People are looking for more space,” Fuller said—an acre of land or more in many cases. 

Bay Area realtor Olga Golovko told The Epoch Times that she’s seen increased demand for single-family homes, with buyers wanting access to outdoors and more space.

She said a lot of homes in the Bay Area have gone on the market from sellers who got the green-light to work from home indefinitely. “Working from home has created new forces of housing inventory … that just weren’t there before,” she said.

“[They may be] only a few years away from retirement, so they’re moving out of the Bay Area now while working for a company based in Silicon Valley,” Golovko said.

Real estate website reported in June a record number of users searching for homes outside their own city. Not all users who search are necessarily going to go ahead and move, but it indicates an unprecedented interest in relocating—particularly among users in the Bay Area.

Washington, D.C., and Seattle also had many Redfin users looking to relocate. Popular destinations included Sacramento, Las Vegas, and Nashville. 

About 27 percent of Redfin users in April and May searched for homes outside of their current city. That’s compared to only 1.8 percent during the same time period last year.

A survey published by Redfin on May 18 showed that more than 50 percent of people in San Francisco, New York, Seattle, and Boston, would move if work-from-home became permanent. 

Sam Wang, a Google engineer in Mountain View, told The Epoch Times he’s not sure whether Google will allow continued remote work. 

“Everyone is in wait-and-see mode,” he said. “I’ve been thinking about moving to the outskirts of the Bay Area.” 

If Wang has to go back to the office, he believes he could negotiate to work from home about three days a week.

Lucy Zhao, a software engineer in the Silicon Valley, was recently laid off by a Fortune 100 company. Her entire research team was disbanded amid widespread layoffs at the end of May.

A couple of her furloughed teammates on H-1B temporary work visas are looking for work sponsorships, otherwise they may have to return to their home countries in a few months.

“It is not easy to find jobs here in the Bay Area right now. Most HRs are either nowhere to be found or having a hiring freeze,” Zhao told The Epoch Times. 

“I am just grateful that I bought my home in West San Jose quite some years ago, and my husband is still working—plus the severance pay will last till October.”

She said she would stay in the Bay Area because she likes it, particularly the pleasant weather and the cultural diversity. 

Andy Ellsmore and Michelle Yang contributed to this article.