How COVID-19 has re-shaped homebuyer trends

12 Nov 2020

COVID-19 has forever reshaped how Australians feel about their homes.

This shift in the way we have lived during lockdown, and our subsequent shift in attitude towards work-life balance, has affected everything from what house hunters have on their wish list to where they want to ultimately live.

Mid-pandemic, the Real Estate Buyers Agents Association (REBAA) surveyed buyer’s advocates from across the country about consumers’ changing wish lists. The results showed there is a move towards more flexible and functional homes that are suitable for work, rest and play.

The top 10 property features on buyer wish lists according to the survey were:

  1. Kitchen
  2. Outdoor entertaining area
  3. Home office
  4. Multiple living areas (minimum two)
  5. Bedrooms
  6. Flat level backyard
  7. Ensuite
  8. Natural light
  9. Views
  10. Large land footprint

While the old real estate adage “kitchens sell houses” still rings true, the home office has rocketed up the list to number three. According to REBAA, a similar study just two years ago showed home offices did not even make the top 10.

Melbourne-based buyer’s advocate and REBAA president, Cate Bakos, says demand for properties with workspaces had grown significantly since the onset of COVID-19 restrictions.

“Buyers are looking for a quiet space to work from home, specifically a space away from the family living area, whether this be a separate office or an extra bedroom,” Ms Bakos says.

“No longer is a study nook, or a small allocated space for a desk a suitable alternative for a professional and/or creative worker. We are now seeing a heightened demand for second study spaces, more generously proportioned co-working spaces in the home and a sharp focus on internet connectivity.”

Many Australians now want a dedicated home office space.

Ms Bakos says that changing trends were evident when it came to kitchens too.

“Kitchens have always been high on buyer wish lists but we’re definitely seeing a trend in demand for much larger kitchen spaces,” she says.

“A renewed interest in cooking, including a self-sufficient lifestyle for some, is stronger now than it has been in past years. You only need to look at photos on social media which are showcasing home-cooked meals from baked bread to impressive breakfasts and dinners to understand why there is increased demand.”

What homebuyers now want

COVID-19 has not only changed what buyers want, but where they want it.

Property portal realestate.com.au recently revealed in its search data that although activity had hit an all-time low for the site in April this year (just weeks after COVID-19 restrictions began) by September the overall volume of searches was up by 35 per cent year-on-year.

In his September REA Insights report, REA Group executive manager of economic research Cameron Kusher, said the spike in searches showed a noticeable change in where people are house hunting.
“With that increase in search activity comes a clear shift towards interest in regional areas as opposed to city suburbs,” he says.

“While suburb searches aren’t necessarily reflective of people moving to a particular area, this trend indicates that more Australians are considering making a lifestyle change post-lockdown.”

Nationally, the area with the largest increase in suburb searches since April 2020 was regional. According to data from realestate.com.au, search for properties for October, compared to April, is up by 57 per cent in Mount Macedon. In Romsey, that figure is up 61 per cent over the same period. In Kyneton it has risen 74 per cent and in Gisborne, it has moved up by 63 per cent. All four suburbs are described as ‘high demand markets’ by the listings platform. In Romsey and Gisborne each property listed is receiving twice the number of visits compared to the Victoria average.

Suitable bedrooms and abundant natural light are also high up on buyers’ wish lists.

In fact, all regions outside the city recorded an increase in suburb searches, with a jump of more than 300 per cent in Warrnambool and South West Victoria followed by a 260 per cent increase in North West Victoria.

All-in-all, this indicates that Australians are starting to look at their regional options.

“Overwhelmingly, those regional markets adjacent to capital cities have seen the largest volume of searches suggesting that while people may want to move outside of capital cities, they intend to remain relatively close to town,” Mr Kusher says.


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