Special Report: 'Zoom Towns' growing in popularity across US

Online shopping is not the only "boom" brought on by the pandemic. "Zoom Towns" are another.

Since the pandemic began, we have all become familiar with Zoom meetings. But do you know what a Zoom Town is?

"Zoom Town is one of the cities in which you can actually work remotely while you have a job in another town," said Joel Schaub, Vice President of Mortgage Lending at Guaranteed Rate, Inc.

For Dylan McDowell, that means trading in his Rogers Park condominium for a three-bedroom house in a small town just outside of Mattoon, Illinois.

"It’s cute and quaint," he said. "And relaxing."

"Easy access to the city or St. Louis or Indy," he added. "Or wherever my friends are coming up from."

As a Chicago realtor, his job offers him the flexibility to live and primarily work remotely from his hometown, which is about 200 miles south of the Windy City.

"Zoom Towns go both ways," Schaub said. "A lot of people are leaving the big cities to go to the suburbs or just outside of the suburbs."

"But we are seeing a lot of people relocate to Chicago," he added.

That includes Damir and John Donlon.

Last month, they moved to a condo in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood from a house in a spacious suburb near Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

"I work for this management consulting company out of DC," Damir said. "I’m fully remote. I can work anywhere."

Damir and John both work remotely while taking care of their 2-year-old twins. They chose Chicago as their Zoom Town for a couple of reasons.

"We wanted to sell our house and move back in to the city because we realized life in suburbia was not for us," Damir said.

"We wanted them to have other friends who have gay dads," John added. "Or moms, of course."

Overall, the main reason most people choose to move to a Zoom Town is this.

"It’s all about cost. A lot of people are leaving and going to a location where they know they can spend less money from where they were at currently," Schaub said.

So who is zooming off to a Zoom Town?

One expert that FOX 32 spoke to says the age range goes from high to low, with people getting ready to retire moving out of big cities while younger folks are moving in.


Now the question is are Zoom Towns here to stay?

"A lot of people thought this was going to be a fad," Schaub said. "This was something that was going to be heavy in the beginning of the pandemic but Zoom Towns are here to stay."

Laura Forlano agrees. She is a Social Scientist at IIT who studies the future of how we work and live.

"Overall, I think that people took the time during the pandemic to really reflect on their priorities," she said. "Many people have moved closer to family if they could."

Whether or not you can zoom off to your dream town depends on what type of job you have. Not all occupations allow employees to work remotely.

Forlano also says employers play a big role in whether or not you can make this decision.

"More recently, we’ve seen some discussion around things like the four-day work week. There are a few large employers who have decided to move to a four-day work week and that might make it more possible for certain workers," Forlano said.