Real Talk: Home is where the heart is

Real Talk: Home is where the heart is
(File Photo)

By Diane G. Murphy

As the saying goes, “Home is where the heart is.” But in the last nine months, that definition of “home” has been expanded for most of us.

Now, home is where our workplace is; home is where our schooling takes place; home is where we worship; home is where we shop; home is where we feel the safest; home is where we Zoom, Skype and Facetime; home is where we exercise; the list goes on.

How have these new habits changed our life for the foreseeable future?

Real estate listing and sale statistics, changing marketing conditions and “wished for” and “absolutely needed” lists have changed drastically in the last nine months. This limited analysis will highlight major trends, although each city, jurisdiction and state differ.

First, people are recognizing new needs in their home environment. In most cases it is the need for larger and clearly defined spaces.

Open floor plans are not as popular as they once were, since homes with more than one occupant, and particularly homes where children are virtual learning, require separate workspaces. This requires dedicated individual spaces that fulfill different requirements, such as quiet study, large zoom meetings or private conversations. These activities can occur on laptops, desktops or iPads.

If one’s work involves specific tasks, such as building, cooking or putting together formal presentations with specific backgrounds and props, homeowners are transforming bedrooms, basements, garages and sheds to meet their needs.

Often, people are finding they need space that they don’t have in their current homes. Looking for more space without spending more money forces people out of the inner city because of higher square footage cost. Plus, the features that drew them there originally, like high walkability, cultural activities, shopping, dining and social interaction, are no longer as necessary or available as they once were.

In addition, health concerns have caused some movement away from denser spaces or living arrangements that require common entrances, elevator use or common hallways. Resort-like features in large complexes now have restricted use, and amenities do not offer the same intrinsic value they once did.

Homes in counties and neighborhoods that were once considered too far away from cities or too country-like are being purchased in record numbers. Waterfront property and communities that offer walking trails, dedicated park areas and outdoor activities such as golf or tennis provide safer ways to live a healthier lifestyle.

For those who can afford it, getaway or second homes are selling quickly, even if they require renovation, expansion or additions. Land size and acreage are key criteria in these choices. Low interest rates and the limited availability of new and resale inventory will likely continue in 2021.

Real estate marketing has also adjusted to these changing needs. Less printed matter and more professional photography and virtual tours can make the difference between whether someone decides to visit a property. Requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention restrict showing times and the number of buyers who can be in a home at the same time. Masks, sanitizer and foot coverings are commonplace as one enters a home for sale. Settlements are being conducted virtually or are under strict procedures to safeguard everyone’s health.

What does that mean for you, a buyer or a seller of a home or an investment? In my opinion, it demands a careful and thorough evaluation of one’s individual needs and wants for the foreseeable future. Sometimes, it requires several conversations before a marketing plan or purchase plan can be created.

I recommend being patient, listening carefully and relying on market knowledge, experience and research.

The writer is an associate broker with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.