Remote work, once an occasional perk, has taken off in the last few years.
30% of employees are full-time remote workers. This number may continue to fluctuate as companies call their employees back into the office. But the staggering 400% increase of remote employees in three years indicates that while this segment of the workforce may shrink, it won’t completely go away.
Remote work has changed the workforce. And it’s changed how people shop for a home. After an employee untethers themselves from a location, they usually wonder, “Where can I move that gives me the best bang for my buck?”
Cities and states that want to attract residents have jumped on this trend to offer incentives that will entice new tax money to the local economy. For anyone with a full-time remote job ready to leave the big city behind, these relocation offers are like the icing on their moving van cake.
How to Find the Best Cities for Remote Work
Housing affordability, hands down, is one of the most popular reasons employees embrace working remotely. The chance to move from a high cost of living (HCOL) city to a low cost of living (LCOL) area seems too good to pass up.
But before you order the moving van, there are a few additional details you should know about remote working programs.
Crunch the numbers to see if you can maintain your current standard of living in the new city. Imagine how frustrating it can be to move to an area that has unanticipated expenses. $75,000 in Colorado Springs, Colorado feels like a bump in salary if you move to Decatur, Illinois, but will squeeze your lifestyle if you move to New York City. Local real estate agents can be an invaluable resource for this potential pitfall. Lean on them for expert advice of hidden costs that you may not anticipate.
Broadband and Internet Speed
Besides housing affordability, internet speed and reliability is a huge concern for remote workers. Without it, remote workers will need to head directly back to the big city. About 23% of urban Americans don’t have access to broadband, so this is a real concern if your paycheck is tied to the internet.
Luckily, many articles examining the best cities for remote workers understand this and rate the internet for you.
Not all of the cities offer the same remote work incentives. Depending on the kind of residents they’re trying to attract and their specific economy, they may opt for gift packages over cash. Most of them fall into one of these categories:
- Cash incentives for building a new home within city limits.
- Cash incentives for relocating to the area from outside the state.
- Discounted services, like internet, furniture, and even butcher shop items.
- Student loan repayment, up to a certain amount.
- Tax or cash incentives for starting a business that employs local residents.
Some of the programs have a limited number of applicants. Some have a strict list of requirements. Others freely welcome any remote full-time employee to their area. Read the program rules carefully before making a decision.
3 Best Cash Incentives for Remote Work
Hoping for straight up cash? As of July 2022, these three cities offer the best cash incentives to pull up roots and move.
- Tulsa, Oklahoma
$10,000 in cash, a living stipend, a free flexwork space, and plugging into a vibrant community. In return, you promise to move to Tulsa within 12 months. You have full-time remote employment or are self-employed outside of Oklahoma. Plus, you’re eligible to work in the U.S. and are at least 18 years old. Tulsa wants you to succeed, and entrepreneur programs are ready and waiting to help you plug into an innovative community.
- Shoals, Alabama
Shoals, Alabama is an area that includes the cities of Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia. If you make more than $52,000 a year, are willing to relocate to the area within six months, and you’re older than 18, you could get paid $10,000. This program offers 25% upfront to help you move, 25% after six months, and the remaining 50% after a year.
- West Virginia
You have your choice of cities in West Virginia. Move to anywhere in the state and qualify for the Ascend program. You’ll receive $10,000 in cash, and an additional $2,000 after your second year of residency. Like many of the remote working programs, Ascend also provides co-working spaces, community guides, and other amenities to ease your integration into your new home.
3 Best Remote Work Packages
Some remote working incentives opt instead to offer lucrative benefits designed perfectly for their target audiences. Housing affordability and student loans are two of the biggest issues facing college-educated millennials. Addressing these issues is an easy way to attract college-educated remote workers to a town.
- Topeka, Kansas
You can choose to work remotely or move to Topeka for a job, but both choices have incentives attached. On-site, or if you decide to work for a company inside Shawnee County, you can receive $10,000 toward your rent costs, and $15,000 if you choose to purchase a home instead. If you move to Shawnee County and you have a remote job outside of the county, you can receive up to $5,000 toward renting or $10,000 toward purchasing a home.
- Savannah, Georgia
This southern city offers incentives to not just remote employees, but entrepreneurs too. For tech employees, relocating to Georgia means they can apply for $2,000 in cash if they agree to live in the area for a year. However, the real benefits start accumulating if they start a business. Then they can earn up to $100,000 for creating high-value tech jobs.
- Portland, Maine
Although Maine’s remote worker package is one of the most complicated, it’s also one of the most generous. The state offers to pay up to $25,000 of an applicant’s student loans. However, the program is applied differently depending on the type of degree, when it was obtained, where it was received, and how long the resident has lived in Maine. If you have questions, you can call a real human at the Maine Revenue Services office.
4 Additional Cities to Consider for Remote Work
Smaller towns and rural areas that have felt the squeeze as residents move away for higher-paying jobs in bigger cities are taking advantage of the shift to remote work too. With packages designed to reverse their shrinking population, these programs aim to bring back high-paying jobs by making it easier for new residents to put down roots.
- Ontario, Oregon
Ontario, Oregon, with a population of 11,000, is trying to entice would-be homeowners to build in their city. Whether you think of it as a cash incentive or part of a down payment, Ontario offers $10,000 to anyone willing to build and live in a new single-family home within city limits, as long as the home is larger than 1,600 square feet, or at least 1,350 square feet with a two-car garage and two bathrooms.
- Hamilton, Ohio
This mid-sized town (pop. 63,000) provides a “reverse scholarship”. If you’ve graduated with a STEAM degree in the last 7 years, don’t currently live in the city of Hamilton but plan to move there, and have a current full-time remote job, the city’s foundation will pay part of your student loan debt. You could receive $300 a month, up to $10,000, for as long as you live in the Hamilton area.
- Newton, Iowa
Another small town, Newton, Iowa (pop. 15,000) is trying to revitalize its urban core. For brand-new single-family homes built within city limits, the city will pay the new homeowners $10,000 in cash. The homes must be worth more than $190,000, and they must be owner-occupied.
- Natchez, Mississippi
If old Victorian homes make you swoon with appreciation, you will love the chance to own a piece of history. Natchez, Mississippi boasts a cost of living 85% below the national average. Their Shift South program offers $2,500 to offset relocation costs for any remote worker that agrees to move to Natchez and purchase a home worth at least $150,000. For the first year, the city will continue to pay the new resident $300 a month to offset any additional costs incurred from moving.
The Bottom Line
States with the most available remote jobs might surprise you (West Virginia, really?), but they may not be the best state for relocation. If you’re searching for a new place to rest your head at night, and you’re open to anywhere in the country, why not embrace a remote-friendly city? Websites like Make My Move make it easy to see the different programs available all over the country.
As you get to know your new hometown, connecting with a knowledgeable local agent will not only smooth your transition but also give you the inside scoop on the neighborhoods with the best wi-fi. Are you ready to buy a new home today?