Last week, Box, Inc., told their staff that they can work from home permanently. Box joins numerous companies who have told their employees that they have the option of working from home indefinitely.
We have gone past the phase where working from home was a Covid-19 forced anomaly to one that looks like it will be a permanent part of our business work style and culture.
Large businesses are adapting to this work-at-home style and redesigning their office complexes to accommodate staff who must be on the premises. So office desks are now at least 6-feet apart. No more open spaces where people sit side by side to work. They are also creating dedicated areas for larger meetings and video conferencing rooms that will accommodate social distancing.
The work from home trend is having a dramatic impact on the way we work, eat, learn and even recreate. And the idea of working from home on a more permanent or semi-permanent basis is having a significant impact on the real estate market and future home designs.
The biggest impact we are seeing from our research on this subject comes from when people look to buy pre-existing homes. In the past, the number of bedrooms was on the priorities list. While bedrooms still matter, buyers now are looking at homes with an extra bedroom or an area that can be turned into a home office.
For example, if a person or family is looking to buy a two-bedroom home, they are now looking for a three-bedroom home and want to designate that third bedroom as a home office space.
They want to have a home with a dedicated room or area that they can work in and have room for privacy, a noiseless environment that is big enough to have room for larger monitors, stand-alone printers and optimized as a Zoom room.
I have three real estate agent friends who are neighbors, and I recently asked them what other trends they are seeing in the new or existing homes they are selling these days.
1-With the mandates to work from home, buyers are looking for location independence away from business’ offices and look to move out of cities and into the suburbs, country or to second home destinations. They want larger homes with more bedrooms.
2-People want to make their homes more multi-purpose and interesting. They want more space for home gyms, and dedicated offices with good lighting and provides a good backdrop for Zoom calls.
3-While the home office is now a larger priority, it needs to be functional, not just attractive. These rooms might also need to be multifunctional as learning-from-home continues to be apart of school interaction for kids. And as a sign for our times, there is also interest in designing an area for package deliveries and drop-off that is more secure.
4- Interest in buying a second home is higher, too. The idea that a person can work from anywhere suggests that while they may not want to move to Hawaii or the Bahamas for work, they do want to move to areas with great scenery and open spaces.
In Northern California, there is renewed interest in second homes in the Lake Tahoe Area. That is a big switch from just last year when many were selling their Lake Tahoe homes as they were too busy to make use of them. For those who already have second homes, they are now investing in expanded kitchens, bedroom extensions and even more dedicated storage space.
5-Being cooped up in a home by forced pandemic isolation has people wanting more outdoor space with their homes. In Silicon Valley, homes with large backyards are selling way above market rates and are hard to find. The need for workspaces, indoors and out, are driving innovative ideas.
In homes with barns, sheds and garages, many seek to convert them into dedicated offices or play areas for their children. These areas could also serve as spaces for kids who are forced to learn from home and parents want them to do it in a better environment than uttilizing their small bedrooms.
Additionally, I am told by my realtor friends that when buyers are selecting a location, the availability of high-speed networks is now a top priority. A side note to this is the potential of what is called Home 5G. All of the carriers who are deploying 5G networks are preparing to offer what would be a dedicated 5G system that would connect to their wide-area 5G networks. This still depends on 5G networks being available in their locations, especially rural areas, but if 5G is deployed and available, the carriers would provide a special 5G receiving system. This is especially interesting where high-speed cable networks do not exist. This feature alone would alter, for the better, a work from home scenario.
An interesting tech twist is related to reimagining the home theater. When we moved from analog to digital TV and HD, many homes created what is known as home theaters. Some were very elaborate, and in very high-end homes, they were large dedicated rooms with Barca lounger seats and wall-sized screens. Now, many of these larger home theaters and even smaller ones are being converted into dedicated Zoom rooms and optimized for video conferencing. Productivity now trumps home theater entertainment.
People are re-imagining their lives in a post-pandemic world where so much has changed. They realize the future seems to point to both work and learn-at-home being with us well into the future. This has changed the dynamics of the home real estate market and is now determining what types of homes sell or what new designs will be imagined and built.