New Buyers Challenge Yesterday’s Norms

Who the buyers are, where they are buying homes, and what they’re looking to find in their homes and are the real changes resulting from the fall-out of COVID-19 that will likely stand long after the day we’re all hoping for—when all this is a thing of the past.

The pandemic has been the tipping point prompting some first time buyers to make their move in purchasing new homes. Who wants to be stuck in an apartment a second time if there’s a relapse? Practicing social distancing every time you step out of your door is annoying and inconvenient. Robb Report reports that one-third of those who have purchased homes or plan to soon are ages 18 to 34. Homes.com attributes it to recently introduced 0 percent interest rates on federal student loan payments and the closure of schools and offices resulting in savings on recreation, childcare, commuting expenses and the like.

Location, Location, location, has been the selling point for decades—nearby retail and grocery stores, the school district, and proximity to highways and work centers are highlighted on every suburban developer’s sales literature. But could proximity to stores and malls no longer be a real estate priority in a society that has become accustomed to shopping online for groceries and everything else they need or desire? As home schooling and working from home become mainstream choices, could a particular neighborhood’s desirability have less to do with how easy it is to commute to and from and how the school district is rated?

Industry observers say that fresh air, backyards, home offices, a homeschooling area, space for pets and home gyms are indeed top priorities for home buyers. Compass Real Estate reports that searches on its website for houses with pools are up threefold. Location choices have to do with proximity to beaches, lakes, parks and bike paths as Americans rediscover that health and happiness are the important priorities. Yet there is no reason that they can’t have all that and still maintain their job title or hiring desirability.

Upgrades being made by those who choose to stay put in their current home indicate many of the same priorities. Remodelers are reporting they are even busier than prior to COVID-19 with decks, patios, porches, and kitchen and bathroom jobs being the top priorities for upgrades by existing homeowners.

Gone is the desire to make do with less space! How might you feel if you had spent the pandemic in a tiny home? With so many families spending more time in their homes, there’s never been more need for personal space. Some are even saying that the appeal of open floorplan is trending down in favor of more private spaces for school, work, hobbies and entertainment. Home offices for adults and students need to offer privacy, good lighting and be pre-wired for telecommuting. And with more meals being cooked at home, kitchens are a high priority, but some buyers are even re-thinking if an open kitchen means too much noise and mess!

Let’s hope that soon, we, rather than governing bodies, are the ones making the choices about our lives, our priorities and our health. But as an industry, it would be less than savvy not to be prepared to accommodate lasting changes with our geographic strategy and product design, as well as our marketing strategy and sales approach.

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