How COVID has affected home buyer needs
The pandemic has caused a shift in what home buyers are looking for. We’ve seen major changes in commuting requirements. We’ve witnessed the home having to do double and triple duty as school, office, gym, playground and entertainment hub. We’ve experienced house hunters completely redefining their criteria and scope of their home searches.
Wider search area
When commuting to a specific location in order to work is no longer necessary, the geographical boundaries of a home search disappear. In many cases, as long as there is an internet connection (and perhaps not too great a difference in time zone), people can work from literally anywhere. Consider the magnitude of increase in the options for purchasing a house! If you could live anywhere, the possibilities are nearly endless. Even school district might become less important if your children could participate in an on line school program.
Research and education
If, suddenly, the boundaries of a home search expand almost infinitely, it’s “a whole new world”. Buyers can now choose a location based on lifestyle and preferences. Do they like to ski? want to be somewhere warm? crave a rural setting? want to live near family or close friends? envision life in a college town? Now that all of these locales may be possible, buyers have created a job for themselves. They need to do their due diligence as far as educating themselves through research. All of those choices can be a double-edged sword in that making an informed decision requires much more time and effort.
Tasks the home needs to support
In this COVID world, and likely beyond, tasks that used to happen elsewhere are now taking place at home. Office space (with privacy for phone and video calls), school study space, indoor and outdoor exercise and recreation/entertainment space are all in demand. Finally, more buyers are considering having space for aging parents. If buyers are less likely to relocate (for work), future concerns play a bigger role in their home buying decisions. Not only have the parameters of where home is have changed, but what (activities) the home needs to support have changed, too.
Long term residency
Historically, people have accepted that they might need to move several times during their lives in response to job and other changes. For people who can work from home indefinitely, they are starting to think more long term. For example, there has been an increase in the number of people moving back to where their parents are. They’d like to be there for (and, possibly house) aging parents and ensure that the grandchildren know their grandparents. Again, if they are unlikely to have to move for their careers, they can make home buying decisions from a more long term perspective. The idea of putting down roots somewhere has become possible for more people. One result of this long term view is that people are more willing to stretch their budgets. Resale is less of an issue if the goal is to remain in the house for a longer period of time. Moving costs also disappear or are reduced.
When you combine the various roles a house has to play (office, school, gym) with the potential for it to be a long term home, one home feature becomes clear: it must have convertible space. An office that converts to a guest space, or a homework area that, once the kids are grown and gone, doubles as a work out area….buyers are going to be asking more from their homes. The layout must be conducive to serving different purposes as needs shift. Additionally, I expect to see more people finishing basements and enclosing porches and patios.
At the time of this writing, we are still in the middle of the pandemic. No one can accurately predict who/how many will return to a traditional “on site” work environment. Nor can anyone know whether on line school options (through public schools. These people will likely have a revised set of criteria for their home search as far as location and features. It will be interesting to see how home buying patterns shift and whether these shifts will be permanent or temporary, once the pandemic has passed.