Homebuying Trends: How COVID-19 Has Shaped the Search

In-person shopping has dropped drastically during the coronavirus pandemic. Yet while we can still pick up our groceries curbside and have the latest computer gadgets delivered to our door, buying a home is a different scenario. Still, COVID-19 has had its own impact on homebuying trends.

JMCo partner John VanDuzer recently tackled this topic with Lisa Fetrow, a realtor with M.M. Parrish Coldwell Banker, as they discussed the state of the residential real estate market. And they agreed that stay-at-home orders have been a real eye-opener for homeowners. The more time they spend at home, the more they realize what they might be missing.

“They’ve realized that, over the time of being quarantined in their home, it’s time to upgrade: ‘Oh my gosh, we really want a pool,’ or, ‘We need one more bedroom,’” said Fetrow. “People are realizing that they can put their current home on the market for a little bit more than they thought, and it will probably sell quickly, and then they can upgrade to the larger lot or adding that pool or whatever it is.”

Be it more privacy when working from home or a bigger outdoor space to enjoy, more features and amenities are popping up on buyers’ wish lists. Here are some of the most recent homebuying trends brought on by COVID-19.

Aesthetic and Functional Updates

This is especially true in the kitchen and bathroom, where new tile, upgraded fixtures and higher-end appliances make a huge difference. Under normal circumstances, many people would take care of this in their existing homes. While some have indeed tackled DIY projects during the pandemic, however, others have realized that such projects aren’t quite their thing.

“A lot of buyers right now are not looking for that diamond in the rough,” said Fetrow. “They’re looking for the house that somebody’s already given them the updated kitchen. They’ve already updated the bathrooms, they’ve already put new flooring throughout the home. Those things are important to a lot of buyers right now.”

Spacious Kitchens

Thanks to restaurant closures, we’ve seen countless videos of people learning to bake bread and families cooking together. And consumers are stockpiling food and paper products in case supplies run out or stores are shuttered.

These endeavors require room in your kitchen, from spacious counters and breakfast bars to extra cabinet and freezer space. Buyers want durable, high quality counters that withstand regular use (especially with kids involved). Pantries are also in high demand, as are top quality appliances.

Closed Rooms

Open floor plans have been in high demand for many years. But people working from home are discovering a big downside when trying to hold a video conference or avoid distractions. With the whole family sharing living space, job tasks are difficult at best when done in an open plan home.

It’s a quandary not limited to work. Keep any group of people in the same room long enough and it can be tough—no matter how much you love each other.

“I think being trapped in your home for a couple months lets you know, ‘Okay, I don’t have enough space here,’” said VanDuzer. “I have three small kids, and I feel very constrained with a toddler running around and everything else.”

As a result, traditional (or closed) floorplans are a big homebuying trend. An extra den or small bedroom is much easier to cordon off as “work only” space when needed. Closed floorplans also give everyone in the house more privacy options than simply retreating to a bedroom.

Energy Efficiency

More people at home means more energy used at home. And with roughly 50% of the American workforce still working remotely as summer sets in, energy bills are on the rise.

Buyers want house components that will help soften the blow of their electric bill. LED lights, Energy Star appliances and windows, insulation with ideal R-ranges and other efficiency features are key selling points.

Functional—and Private—Outdoor Space

In recent years, homebuyers have flocked to neighborhoods with shared amenities like pools, workout rooms, clubhouses and playgrounds. With many of these spaces now closed to contain virus spread, however, they often want these amenities at home.

As a result, agents are seeing higher demand for pools. Buyers also want yards big enough for swing sets, lawn games and getting exercise. They’re also rediscovering the backyard as extra living space for dining and relaxing—an antidote for being cooped up inside.

With interest rates and prices low, homebuyers are more likely to be able to afford what they want. With inventory also low, however, they should act fast. Multiple-offer situations are increasingly common despite the fear of COVID-19. By zeroing in on these homebuying trends, you can help your client find their new home more quickly—and give them the best possible chances of getting it.

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