When Residential Real Estate Turned Commercial: Working from Home

From Conversable Economist:

“Everyone knows that lots of people have ended up working from home, either part-time or full-time, since the start of the pandemic. But I’m not sure many of us have appreciated how extraordinary that shift has been. In effect, an enormous amount of what economists would classify as “residential capital” was converted to commercial real estate almost overnight: that is, people used their places of residence along with capital that had often been installed at their place of residence mostly for other purposes (like entertainment) to do their work.

The size of the shift is remarkable. Janice C. Eberly, Jonathan Haskel and Paul Mizen discuss “Potential Capital: Working From Home, and Economic Resilience” (NBER Working Paper 29431, October 2021, subscription needed). They compare the drop in economic output from the workplace in the first two quarters of 2020 to the overall drop in economic output: in the US economy, for example, they find that output in the workplace fell by about 17%, but total economic output actually fell about 9%. Work done outside the conventional workplace made up the difference.

This built-in resilience of the economy may now seem pretty obvious, but it wasn’t obvious (at least to me) before the pandemic hit. The magnitudes here are enormous. According the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the value of residential real estate in 2020 was almost $25 trillion. Privately owned nonresidential structures were worth almost $16 trillion, while the equipment in those structures was another $7 trillion. In short, trillions of dollars of residential capital replaced trillions of dollars of nonresidential capital in a very short time. The transition was far from seamless or painless, of course, but the fact that it happened at all is worth a gasp.”

Continue reading here.

Posted by at 6:34 AM

Labels: Global Housing Watch


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