Thinking of escaping the city during the pandemic? Consider these options

For the millions of people living in our nation’s larger cities, the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a very fundamental question: where should I live?

Whether due to safety fears about the virus itself, the emotional strain of social isolation or the economic challenges of being furloughed or laid off, the pandemic has seen huge numbers of residents flee their city-center apartments to move back in with empty-nester parents or seek sanctuary at vacation homes in less densely populated areas.

For many people, the situation may prove to be nothing more than a temporary solution. Yet, as we all become accustomed to the new normal, others may be inspired to make a more permanent change. If you or a loved one are planning to make the move out of the city, there are various options to consider that could align both financially and emotionally for you.

Set some ground rules

Working from home has some great benefits but it can also blur the boundaries between professional and personal life, particularly for millennials and their parents living together for the first time in years. This may be exacerbated as more family members relocate to a vacation home that’s become someone’s primary workplace since the start of the pandemic.

In this situation, it’s important to create separate spaces for everyone and agree to some clear ground rules for how the day works, including time together and time apart. Regular family meetings are also a great way to set expectations and work out any issues that are cropping up.

Above all, try to take the moment to reflect on the positives. Challenging as being thrust together unexpectedly can be, sharing a home can also help alleviate many of the mental challenges of social isolation. Besides, spending this time together also offers a chance to bond, learn from one another, and establish a more mature relationship between parents and grown-up children.

Explore the possibility of a second home

If you’re secure in your job and have the necessary funds available, now could be the time to explore the possibility of investing in a second home. While it’s not yet clear if property prices will go as low as during the housing crisis 10 years ago, the reality is many people may still need to walk away from their properties due to the economic challenges of keeping them. This could present a chance for investors to finance real estate purchases using historically low interest rates. If you are in a position to buy, a financial advisor can help you weigh the options according to your budget and risk appetite.

Likewise, if you own a vacation home but plan to stay where you are in the city or suburbs, give serious thought to renting it out. Many people are looking to spend time away from urban centers, meaning you may be able to attract better-than-normal rental fees on your real estate.

Negotiate with your landlord

If your lease is coming up but you intend to stay in your apartment long term, consider negotiating with your landlord. Renters currently have significant government protection when it comes to eviction and non-payment while, amidst so much economic uncertainty, many property owners are very keen to keep their tenants in place. After all, it makes far more financial sense for landlords to have you stay at a reduced rent than risk the apartment being vacant or potentially getting a new tenant at an even lower rate. This puts you in a strong bargaining position.

If you do plan to negotiate a change in your lease terms, the best approach is to keep things polite and leverage your track record as a good, reliable tenant. Be sure you know your rights, too — including getting professional legal advice if necessary. For example, if amenities like laundry facilities are currently disrupted due to the coronavirus, you may be eligible for some kind of credit or rent reduction. Likewise, if your landlord accepts payment beyond your lease term, you will, by default, become a month-to-month tenant. This gives you some flexibility and time to consider your options.

Share a solution

If you want to get out of the city but can’t afford to rent a vacation home on your own, you may find that many of your friends are in the same boat. It’s therefore a good idea to investigate the possibility of sharing a property and splitting the cost.

Of course, you should only choose people with whom you feel safe and comfortable and whom you trust to respect your views on social distancing. But if you can get a group of people together, it could provide the perfect way to mitigate any concerns you have about urban living during the pandemic while solving some of the emotional challenges of lockdown and social isolation, too.

For every individual and family, the question of where to live during and after this pandemic will come with its own unique considerations, challenges, and opportunities. By taking the time to think things through now and by taking the advice of the right team of financial and legal professionals, you can give yourself the best possible chance of making exactly the right move — in both the short term and beyond.

Equitable is the brand name of the retirement and protection subsidiaries of Equitable Holdings, Inc., including Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company (NY, NY), Equitable Financial Life Insurance Company of America, an AZ stock company with main administrative headquarters in Jersey City, NJ, and Equitable Distributors, LLC.  Equitable Advisors is the brand name of Equitable Advisors, LLC (member FINRA, SIPC) (Equitable Financial Advisors in MI and TN).
GE- 3175898 (07/2020) (Exp. 07/2022)