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The impact of stay-at-home culture on real estate

Jamie QuadrosJanuary 21, 20219 min

“There’s no place like home”, although with the way things are going, perhaps “there’s no place but home” is more accurate. Shelter-in-place, stay-at-home, quarantining, self-isolation – however you want to slice it, we’re all stuck in our homes whether we like it or not. With COVID-19 case counts rising in some regions, that doesn’t appear to be something likely to change anytime soon, either.

But there are silver linings even to these dark, dark clouds. While the circumstances are far from ideal, there are plenty of people who are taking this time to make the most out of their living spaces, or to re-evaluate what they really want from them. In particular, there have been five aspects of our newly founded stay-at-home culture that have interesting implications for the real estate industry.

People are prioritizing space more

For folks in houses or in the suburbs, space may not necessarily have been a concern during the early days of lockdown. But for people in cities, it seems that many felt their compact living spaces too restrictive (and expensive) when they’re spending the majority of their time indoors. Apartments or townhouses with limited square footage proved inadequate as multi-use spaces for work, exercise, relaxing, and learning.

Normally, the premium prices paid for downtown living spaces are offset by the exciting variety of offerings from a city, as well as shorter commutes. Socializing would happen outside the home, so what did it matter if homes were on the smaller side? However, now that we live in a world of social bubbling and precious little by way of outdoor entertainment, that trade-off becomes much less appealing.

People are moving to the suburbs and holiday spots

It’s unsurprising that people have begun moving to the suburbs and cottage country, to correct the aforementioned space deficit. With working from home becoming an inextricable part of our lives for the foreseeable future, commutes have been eliminated entirely for people who don’t require any sort of physical proximity to their pre-COVID workplaces. Indeed, many companies are choosing not to renew leases at all, as the workforce adjusts to the possibility of more flexible workdays and locations.

That being the case, people have used stay-at-home requirements as an opportunity to pull the trigger on buying (or moving to) dream homes, even if they’re nowhere close to their workplaces. Housing prices in suburbs and holiday destinations have increased, as folks flock to more idyllic locations to make their sheltering-in-place much more palatable.

People are still willing to spend on renovations

Moving out isn’t the only way we’ve been making the best out of staying at home. As I mentioned before: now that homes need to serve as multi-use spaces, people are turning their lemons into lemonade by leaning into renovations. After all, re-doing a kitchen, sprucing up a home office, or adding more rooms to a house is more affordable (and potentially less disruptive) than moving to a new place altogether – especially if you’re already in your dream home! Even though some of these end up being DIY projects, professional renovations will still be in plenty of demand if this year is anything to go by.

Home offices, studios, and workspaces have never been more important

One of the biggest consequences of stay at home culture has been an emphasis on having a functional workplace at home. Even before the pandemic, people who needed to bring work home or use their living space for a second job or side projects found value in dedicated space for a home office or studio. Now that many of us might have to pursue self-employment (as a number of jobs lost or furloughed due to the pandemic might never return), properly setting up a home office (or ensuring there’s space for one) has become a priority when purchasing or renting a new place.

People value proximity to open/green spaces

Real estate that’s close to parks, the outdoors, or at the very least with sizeable back/front yards has also seen an uptick in demand. This is part of why people are shifting away from cities, but the outdoor space component is a major factor in decisions in broad terms as well. As we’ve increasingly used backyards and lawns as spaces to safely social distance while socializing (government restrictions permitting, of course), their value has never been more apparent. The attraction of being close to the outdoors, in general, is easy to see as well – it can be immensely relieving to get away from the anxiety and stressful conditions of being around other people all the time. Naturally, properties that can provide that kind of access or green space to prospective buyers or renters have appreciated in value.

Future outlook

Truthfully, there’s no certainty that these trends will continue – these are suppositions, at best. However barring another devastating development that completely upends our lives, they do appear to be fairly solid indicators of our changing tastes as we adapt to this new world. Even once the pandemic has passed, the societal shifts caused by it will linger on for a long while. As humans, it’s in our nature to be optimistic (though it can be hard right now); focusing on reinvigorating or changing our living spaces is simply a very practical expression of that optimism!

Has working from home impacted your real estate decisions? Let us know in the comments.

Jamie Quadros profile picture

Jamie Quadros

Freelance writer and communications professional at the University of Toronto. He’s an avid cinephile, voracious reader, and a terror at karaoke bars.

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