Our work has always influenced the location of our homes. From where we buy to the kinds of property we look for, the influence of our working lives is indisputable. However, thanks to advancements in technology — combined with the impact of a global pandemic — the lines between our work and home lives have become increasingly blurred.
Working from home may have skyrocketed due to the pandemic, but it was already a growing trend. As it seems that many employers are going to maintain working from home, the way we look at property is changing — and for those looking to buy a new home, that means some big shifts about where and how we live.
More First Time Buyers
So far in 2022, there are more first time buyers than there have been in the last 19 years. There are a few reasons for this, such as the stamp duty holiday, lower spending, and lower borrowing rates. But it’s working from home that’s unlocking the possibilities for many first time buyers.
Living in areas that are population-dense and surrounded by convenient amenities is simply no longer necessary, so workers who once had little choice but to live in areas where the rents and the property prices are higher now have the option to relocate. As they no longer have to worry about commuting, they can look at properties that cost less, relocate to those homes, and remain in the same job.
With fewer constraints on where they live, first-time buyers have been presented with a whole new range of living options. Despite rising house prices, those workers can look at different locations and are certainly taking advantage of those areas where house costs aren’t quite so prohibitive.
The Home Office Space
It’s all well and good to work from anywhere, but those workers still need to work somewhere. That’s caused a seismic shift in the criteria people consider when buying a new home, with many now looking for property with a dedicated workspace.
For sellers, that’s a significant change worth taking into account. Many are converting bedrooms, attics, and garages into home offices and finding that they have more potential buyers as a result. With home workers spending considerably more time at home, what they want from a property is changing. They’re no longer looking for a home gym or cinema, which were always more of a luxury than a necessity.
Instead, buyers want professional workspaces at home, and they need excellent broadband and phone signals. Working from home requires seamless communication with work hubs, and the internet is critical for that. So buyers are looking less at nearby local amenities such as schools or traditional pubs (although those are still important) and more at online connectivity. The demand for homes with gardens has also grown, most likely due to the lockdown.
Property developers have been quick to adapt to the demands of buyers in post-lockdown Britain. With buyers looking for ways to limit the negative mental health aspects of working and living in the same space, developers are changing the way they think about spaces. Communal working spaces in housing complexes have become increasingly popular, as have dedicated communal areas for leisure and socialising.
Developers will likely continue this trend, and it’s not just the leisure spaces that are transforming. Some developers are making communal workspaces in apartments just as well equipped as the workplaces people are fleeing.
How We Buy Property
It’s not just the geography and the kinds of homes people are buying that are changing. How they’re buying is changing too, driven by a combination of work from home and advanced technology. When location is less of a priority, buyers can look much further afield for their dream home. The problem then is that it takes more time to plan viewings.
Fortunately for those remote buyers, the real estate sector was well ahead of the trend even before Covid and the rise of work from home. Online listings have become more detailed, with virtual viewings rapidly becoming a standard baseline for estate agents. And once a decision is made, the conveyancing process is more streamlined than ever before. Buyers no longer have to pop into the office of a conveyancing solicitor to hand over legal documents, as it can all be done online.
In fact, the entire house buying process can occur online. While it’s always smart to have a physical viewing when considering such a large investment, the fact that multiple initial viewings can be done online simply saves travel time. Buyers can then make a shortlist and organise those real-world viewings at more convenient times.
The Supply Crunch
Even though the shift to work from home has seen an accelerated interest in relocating, buyers are struggling to find their dream home. As property prices continue to skyrocket, those buyers have to spend more and move faster than ever. It’s created a buying frenzy and causing a lot of headaches.
Demand for homes is currently at an all-time high, but there is a worrying lack of supply. At the start of 2022, there were around 350,980 properties listed for sale — almost 40% fewer than at the beginning of 2020. With the announcement of the stamp duty holiday, buyers began to look for homes to buy that simply weren’t available.
This shortage hasn’t been helped by construction projects slowing down due to lockdowns and interrupted supply chains. So buyers are finding that when a new listing for a house appears on an estate agent’s website, that property is selling quickly. In 2020, around two-thirds of homes for sale stayed on the market for six months, and often more. So far, in 2022, half of all homes listed for sale sell within eight weeks. Many are selling in just four weeks.
Working from Home — Changing the Way We Live
The global pandemic has accelerated the already growing trend of home working. As workers continue to be reluctant to return to offices and other workplaces, brands in almost every sector have little choice but to adopt dramatic digital transformation.
It looks very likely that this trend is going nowhere. The benefits of working from home far outweigh the negatives, and employees are boosting productivity while enjoying less commuting. As our working environments change, how we view our living spaces is changing too. The property price explosion is likely to calm down in the next year. But it’s clear that working from home has meant a complete seismic shift in the kinds of homes we want, where we can live, and what we want from the houses we buy.