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What Are Zoom Towns? (Guide to the Best Zoom Towns by Category)

Last updated 07/26/2023 by

David Hodges

Edited by

Fact checked by

Changes in industry have always resulted in people moving around. The latest boom drawing people to certain cities and towns around America is the remote work revolution. Work-form-home opportunities are more plentiful now than ever before, and people are taking advantage of them. One result: Zoom towns. Localities that have made themselves appealing to remote workers are seeing welcome growth in their populations and economies. Remote workers, meanwhile, are finding they can better achieve the work-life balance they seek and the lifestyle they desire in Zoom towns. Could Zoom-town living be for you?
Remember when you could run errands on a weekday and find the streets and stores virtually empty? Or, at least, not too crowded? Well, those days are no more. It seems that large numbers of people — that’s people with jobs and incomes, not unemployed people struggling on the edge of homelessness — are freer now than ever to make their own schedules and run errands when they need to. Why is that?
A big part of the reason is that a lot more people than ever before are working remotely. The closest some people get to commuting to work is walking into their home office in the morning to turn on their computer. Others go into a corporate office now and then. This new dynamic, which seems to be here to stay, has produced another phenomenon: Zoom towns. These are towns now booming because remote workers love them. Are you a remote worker or thinking of becoming one? Could Zoom-town living be right for you?
To help you decide, let’s learn a little more about remote-work trends and the Zoom towns they’ve produced.

Pandemic hard times make stronger businesses

Efforts to slow or “stop the spread” of COVID-19, in case you’ve blanked it out of memory, wreaked havoc on normal commercial operations of businesses almost everywhere starting in 2019. While few looking back think this was a good thing, businesses’ adaptive responses to the disruption have resulted in some net-positive changes for both companies and workers.
McKinsey & Company’s 2020 McKinsey Global Survey of executives found that the changes were profound and likely to endure:
“...companies have accelerated the digitization of their customer and supply-chain interactions and of their internal operations by three to four years. And the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by a shocking seven years....What’s more, respondents expect most of these changes to be long lasting and are already making the kinds of investments that all but ensure they will stick.”Click to Tweet

Remote work rising

According to the June 2023 update of WFH (Work from Home) Research’s Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes, 12.0% of people employed full-time are still working remotely and 29.3% continue “hybrid” work that is partly in-office and partly remote. Taken in isolation, these numbers may not mean much to you. So here’s some history, also based on the WFS Research survey.
From 1965 to the start of the pandemic disruptions in 2019, the percentage of full-time workers’ time spent working at home rose from 0.4% to 4.7%. That’s less than a 0.1% increase per year. By the height of COVID restrictions in 2020–21, the work-from-home percentage had risen to 61.5%. As restrictions were lifted, this dropped steeply into the 30s. But then the descent slowed. The latest data (June 2023) shows the percentage of full workdays completed at home leveling off below 30% but above 25%. That’s five-plus times the pre-pandemic level.

Remote workers: here to stay

In the initial work that began the WFH Research project, a working paper completed under the auspices of the National Bureau of Economic Research, investigators Jose Maria Barrero, Nicholas Bloom, and Steven J. Davis described the situation and their data-based expectations in April 2021:
That initial 20% prediction might be conservative since the latest data show remote work leveling off above 25% (see preceding chart).

Welcome to Zoom town

Businesses adapting to market conditions, including conditions caused by efforts to fight a pandemic, can produce results no one predicted. The rapid rise in remote work just accelerated a change that many were expecting, though over a much longer period. But the phenomenon of Zoom towns, well, that’s another matter.
Zoom towns are named after the well-known video-conferencing platform, Zoom. The company behind the software, Zoom Video Communications, founded in 2011 and IPO’d in 2019, saw use of its product skyrocket as offices and conference halls emptied out for fear of COVID infection. As both old and young professionals found themselves able to work remotely from any location with reliable Internet access, it naturally occurred to some that they could reduce their cost of living, get out of the big city, and find someplace where they could live life at a slower pace, where they could “slow down to a walk” and live their lives “full measure,” like in Rod Serling’s Willoughby.
Did I say “some”? That’s an understatement. Various rural areas and small towns, as well as smaller cities and cities that, while not small, offer a lower cost of living than major cities’ urban centers have seen an influx of remote workers. When a city or town sees enough people working remotely join its population, it qualifies as a Zoom town.

Pro tip

As you may have guessed, “Zoom town” plays upon the classic term “boomtown,” which Merriam-Webster describes as “a town enjoying a business and population boom.” A Zoom town is a boomtown. It’s a town whose local economy has surged thanks to population growth driven by productive remote workers who spend money (and pay taxes) in their new Zoom-town home.
Although, in theory, a city or town of any size could qualify as a Zoom town, Zoom-towners have tended to be people relocating to less densely populated areas. As Robin Koerner, Academic Dean of the John Locke Institute, observes in an article for the Brownstone Institute,

Choosing a Zoom town

Are you already a remote worker or believe you could make arrangements to become one? If so, you may be thinking that moving to a Zoom town could help you get your life back into balance, or just adjust your lifestyle to better suit your temperament. Perhaps you need more access to outdoor activities or family-friendly activities. Or maybe you just think it would be fun to live and work somewhere new for a while or even to join the ranks of permanent digital nomads.
Whatever your reasons for considering Zoom-town living, the first thing you’ll need to do is pick a town. The question is, how do you choose?
To help you decide which Zoom town might be right for you, the following sections look at the data to determine the top 10 Zoom towns according to three criteria: percentage of remote workers, housing affordability, and reliable power (shortest power outages).

“Best” Zoom towns in the United States

Zoom towns with the most remote workers

If you trust the “wisdom of the crowd” or just want to make sure you don’t end up too isolated when you adopt the remote-work lifestyle, you may want to emigrate to one of the Zoom towns attracting the most remote workers. Here are the top 10:
Notably, the top seven of these Zoom towns are in California and Washington. Since Western states tend to the “blue” side of the political spectrum and tended to impose the most thorough and lasting restrictions during COVID, perhaps the drive toward remote work was especially accelerated here. As well, technology-centered companies are fairly prevalent in these states, and tech jobs are often the easiest to take remote.
So, if your desire is to get into a local with a work-from-home culture that’s shared by lots of residents, these ten towns could be worth looking into. Following are some links to information about each community to get your where-should-I-move research off to a good start. When a page other than the town’s home page seemed most useful to (at least some) immigrating remote workers, we’ve linked directly to it.
  1. Redmond, WA
  2. Mountain View, CA
  3. Bellevue, WA
  4. Sunnyvale, CA
  5. Berkeley, CA
  6. Kirkland, WA
  7. Santa Monica, CA
  8. Cambridge, MA
  9. Cary, NC
  10. Newton, MA
Should you choose a Zoom town in the Golden State, this SuperMoney article on how to buy a house and California could be of interest.

Zoom towns with the most affordable housing

If your main concern is spending as little of what you earn on housing as possible, you may want to begin your search with the following Zoom towns. The study found that remote workers in these locations paid the smallest percentage of their income toward housing costs. While one would see this same result if the remote workers living in and relocating to these towns just happened to make more on average than other remote workers, that strikes us as an unlikely coincidence. Nevertheless, you’ll want to carefully investigate housing costs in your target town and decide if they work with what you can reliably bring in as a Zoom-town worker.
Once again, here are links to the websites for each of these localities. The number one entry, notably, is also the number nine entry on the preceding list. And the number 10 entry on this list is also number 10 on the preceding list. If you want to combine a thriving work-from-home community with affordable housing, it looks like Cary or Newton could be your Zoom town.
  1. Cary, NC
  2. Huntsville, AL
  3. Appleton, WI
  4. Springfield, IL
  5. Cheektowaga, NY
  6. Bloomington, IL
  7. Sioux Falls, SD
  8. Bismark, ND
  9. Eagan, MN
  10. Newton, MA

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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Zoom towns with the most reliable power

Should the thought of losing power during an important project keep you up at night, the following Zoom town list could be where to start your search. Note that three of the towns with the most reliable power (shortest blackouts) also rank in the most-affordable-housing list: Sioux Falls, Springfield, and Bloomington. Also note that, except for Sioux Falls in South Dakota, all the shortest-blackouts top ten are in Arizona or Illinois.
Below are links to further information on each location.
  1. Peoria, AZ
  2. Surprise, AZ
  3. Tempe, AZ
  4. Flagstaff, AZ
  5. Sioux Falls, SD
  6. Springfield, IL
  7. Bloomington, IL
  8. Naperville, IL
  9. Arlington Heights, IL
  10. Waukegan, IL

Pro tip

If you discover that none of these strikes your fancy, or if you just care more about factors in other lists, we have a suggestion. You could just buy a gas generator for backup then disregard reliable power when choosing your Zoom town. Even in towns on the above lists with the longest average blackouts, these averages are not too long for your home generator to cover.

Cities that pay remote workers to move there

Remote workers can be a great deal for cities (and states), so it’s no surprise some Zoom towns are willing to sweeten the deal to attract more of them. We’ve summarized some of the best offers below, but this article has more details.

1. Alabama (Shoals Area)

The Remote Shoals program in Alabama provides an incentive of $10,000 to remote workers who relocate to the Shoals area, which includes Florence, Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia. The payout is distributed over time to help support your move and settlement into the community.

2. Alaska

Alaska offers a unique incentive through the Department of Revenue’s Permanent Fund Dividend. Instead of paying you to move there, Alaska will pay you each year you live there. The dividend amount varies each year, but for reference, in 2022, each eligible Alaskan resident received $3,284.

3. Iowa (Newton)

The Newton Housing Initiative in Iowa offers up to $10,000 for homebuyers, developers, and builders when they buy a home valued at $190,000 or more.

4. Kansas (Topeka)

The Choose Topeka program in Kansas offers $10,000 for renters and $15,000 for homebuyers moving to Shawnee County. There are also special provisions for “boomerang” workers and transitioning military service members.

5. Oklahoma (Tulsa)

Tulsa Remote in Oklahoma provides remote workers with $10,000 to move to Tulsa. The payment comes as a combination of relocation expenses and a monthly stipend.

6. Vermont

Vermont has two different programs that provide $7,500 to new residents, either for taking a full-time job in Vermont (New Relocating Worker) or for moving to the state while maintaining remote employment (New Remote Worker).

7. West Virginia

Ascend West Virginia offers $12,000 over two years for moving to the state, with a year of free outdoor recreation and other perks included.
Please remember to carefully read the qualifications of each program before you apply. These incentives may have specific requirements based on your income, employment status, and the location of your current employer. You can click on the appropriate links under each state above to learn more about each program.

The appeal of rural Zoom towns

One final item to cover is why you might (or, depending on your personality, might not) prefer a rural Zoom town. Some Zoom towns are less rural than others. Some, in fact, may seem positively urban. Why would someone choose the rural option?


Robin Koerner, quoted earlier, describes in his Brownstone article how living in either an urban or rural setting seems to influence one’s values. In particular, it can affect one’s politics. In a day when politics is a central obsession for many, some may prefer to relocate to where their political views better match the norm. For those who lean conservative and prefer smaller, less active government, that means rural areas.

Avoiding urban unpleasantness

An additional reason some may choose a rural Zoom town is to avoid unpleasant experiences like crime. Two sentences from Koerner’s paper highlight this urban-rural distinction:

Outdoor activities

Some happy individuals aren’t much afraid of urban unpleasantness and don’t care a whit about politics. Yet they do care about having easy access to the great outdoors, to places where they can hike, ride their mountain bikes, and even hunt or fish. Although an urban location might have an indoor “rock climbing” facility or other faux “outdoor” activities available, someone who really loves the outdoors finds better access to it in a rural Zoom town.

Getting to Zoom town: SuperMoney articles to help you along

When you relocate to a Zoom town, you’ll have a lot to take care of. First and foremost, you’ll need a place to live. Will you buy property and build your own home? Buy an existing home? Rent a house or apartment? Here are three sets of SuperMoney articles you should find helpful.

Reducing expenses and Renting

  • If reducing living expenses is your main concern, you’ll want to read our article about American cities with a low cost of living. Even if you know you prefer suburban or rural living, you’ll find this article useful because the least expensive non-urban areas tend to be those surrounding the least expensive urban areas.
  • Another article for those concerned with living expenses is this one discussing the value of your paycheck in specific cities.
  • If you are considering renting rather than buying or building a home, make sure that means spending less on rent than you’d spend for a house payment. Data indicate that some renters pay a big chunk of their income for that place to stay, which they’ll never own.

Buying a home

  • If, on the other hand, you’re committed to buying a home, and this will be your first home purchase, make sure you know about these 13 programs for first-time homebuyers
  • If you own a home where you currently live, you’ll want to know how long it will take to sell your house so you can plan your Zoom-town move accordingly.
  • Would you like to buy property and build your home but aren’t sure you could afford to do both? Perhaps the answer is to think smaller when planning your home build. Read our article on incredible micro homes.
  • On the subject of reducing home-build cost, have your considered a modular or manufactured home instead of a fresh build?

Other concerns

  • If none of the U.S. Zoom towns in the three ranked lists above suit you, you also have the option to do your remote work from abroad. Click the following link to learn what countries you can most easily move to from the U.S.A..
  • If your goal isn’t to get away from other people but to be in charge, and if you’ve saved up quite a bit of money, you may want to consider buying an entire town when you relocate. OK, this isn’t an entirely serious suggestion. It is, however, really possible to buy a town.
  • Believe it or not, some people think that a city no one will mistake for one with low living expenses is, in fact, the best city in America. Before you conclude these people are crazy, why not read our article on why Los Angeles is the best city in the U.S..

SuperMoney may receive compensation from some or all of the companies featured, and the order of results are influenced by advertising bids, with exception for mortgage and home lending related products. Learn more

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David Hodges

David loves learning, doing research, analyzing data, and assessing arguments. Though he has two advanced degrees and some background in psychology, and though he's learned a great deal in his work with SuperMoney, he considers himself an interpreter of experts, not an expert himself. He enjoys using what he's learned, and what he's still learning, to help readers make better saving, spending, and investing decisions.

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