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These 10 small cities could become the next work-from-home destinations

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The past few months, like most summers, have been a busy season for moving. While reports differ on whether 2020 is seeing a mass exodus from major cities or simply the acceleration of an ongoing and predictable trend, the reality of the coronavirus pandemic's impact on migration patterns is likely somewhere in between.

With that said, recent home price gains suggest there may be more demand in relation to supply for lower-priced homes in affordable suburban and rural areas. For movers hoping to take advantage of an extended or permanent work-from-home arrangement, it may be helpful to know where their new neighbors have a history of succeeding and supporting their community while working remotely.

For example, 20.2% of residents in the Truckee-Grass Valley region of California regularly worked from home in 2018, according to a Bloomberg analysis of the U.S. Census Bureau's 2018 American Community Survey. By comparison, at a national level, just 5.3% of U.S. employees reportedly worked from home that year.

The analysis ranks the top metropolitan and micropolitan areas (ranging in population from 10,000 to 500,000 people) with the highest shares of people who regularly worked from home in 2018, doing so at two to four times the rate of the national average.

Other small cities with high shares of remote-working communities are scattered throughout Minnesota, southwestern Utah, northern Colorado and pockets of Florida. These smaller communities may offer residents the space and lower cost of living to invest in a home-office setup. A precedence of remote working communities could also indicate solid city-wide infrastructure to support teleworking, such as reliable internet connectivity or proximity to rising, mid-size cities that boast more job opportunities. Truckee-Grass Valley is about an hour's drive from Sacramento and three hours from San Francisco, for example.

Indeed, employers have been moving beyond major city limits for quite some time, says Mark Muro, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program.

"There have been instances of people and firms moving out [of big cities], but in aggregate we still see concentration," Muro tells CNBC Make It. Referring to the new realities of social distancing due to the coronavirus, he says, "will the next five  years be the period it reverses? Maybe so. It might be better for the country."

According to Muro's research, more than 90% of the country's growth in innovation jobs between 2005 and 2017 happened in just five cities: Boston, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and San Diego. This labor market growth, and resulting concentration, has contributed to rising costs of living in these areas, greater income inequality and homelessness, while also drawing resources and investments away from neighboring metros.

A greater embrace for remote work could help redistribute economic opportunity, Muro says, and it could spur better innovation in technology, research and development: "I think we're leaving behind a lot of people and missing out on great ideas," he says.

Here are the top 10 small cities with higher-than-average shares of residents who worked from home in 2018, along with cost of living and housing information based on most recent Census data.

1. Truckee-Grass Valley, California

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Share of people who work-from-home: 20.2%

Median household income: $66,299 per year

Median rent: $1,034 per month

Median home value: $456,000

Estimated population: 99,696 people

2. Faribault-Northfield, Minnesota

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Share of people who work-from-home: 14.7%

Median household income: $53,125 per year

Median rent: $813 per month

Median home value: $148,400

Estimated population: 66,523 people

3. St. George, Utah

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Share of people who work-from-home: 13.4%

Median household income: $55,061 per year

Median rent: $971 per month

Median home value: $261,800

Estimated population: 171,700 people

4. Boulder, Colorado

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Share of people who work-from-home: 12.3%

Median household income: $66,117 per year

Median rent: $1,466 per month

Median home value: $645,600

Estimated population: 326,078 people

5. The Villages, Florida

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Share of people who work-from-home: 11.7%

Median household income: $61,533 per year

Median rent: $1,752 per month

Median home value: $269,300

Estimated population: 128,754 people

6. Punta Gorda, Florida

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Share of people who work-from-home: 11.6%

Median household income: $61,598 per year

Median rent: $998 per month

Median home value: $313,200

Estimated population: 184,998 people

7. Bend-Redmond, Oregon

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Share of people who work-from-home: 11.5%

Median household income: $63,468 per year

Median rent: $1,185 per month

Median home value: $363,200

Estimated population: 191,996 people

8. Lawton, Oklahoma

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Share of people who work-from-home: 11.4%

Median household income: $47,262 per year

Median rent: $828 per month

Median home value: $113,900

Estimated population: 125,696 people

9. Kapaa, Hawaii

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Share of people who work-from-home: 10.7%

Median household income: $84,472 per year

Median rent: $1,360 per month

Median home value: $499,500

Estimated population: 72,133 people

10. Fort Collins, Colorado

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Share of people who work-from-home: 10.3%

Median household income: $62,132 per year

Median rent: $1,278 per month

Median home value: $338,100

Estimated population: 350,518 people

Check out: Americans spend over $5,000 a year on groceries—save hundreds at supermarkets with these cards

Don't miss: 13 ways the coronavirus pandemic could forever change the way we work

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