How COVID-19 has increased the demand for bigger properties

By Margot Mora 04 February 2021 | 1 minute read

Between property prices, high rents, minimalism and tiny home trends, many people have been content with smaller houses and apartments. However, that’s changing as people search for bigger properties in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

big suburban house spi

Australia isn’t the only country that has had a sharp rise in people who think bigger is better when it comes to real estate. In various parts of the world, an increasing number of people are looking for properties with what Michael Yardney, a director of Metropole Property Strategists, called “pandemic appeal”. Such homes allow people to better respond to the various lifestyle challenges posed by lockdown situations and potential future pandemics.

Properties for more time at home

According to economist Nerida Conisbee, keyword search data shows Australians are aware that they may need to spend more time at home in the future – and they want to prepare for that.

The website saw increases in several work-from-home-related keyword searches between April and June 2020. Among them was a 37% increase in broadband connection and home gym searches, a 36% increase in searches for balconies, a 31% increase in searches for studies and a 22% increase in searches for homes with gardens.

Conisbee explained that while outdoor space has long been a priority for buyers, it has increased as a result of COVID-19. Fine-tuning the reason for the increased interest, she said that living with children in an urban environment was a driving factor. “If you can go to the park it’s not too bad, but if you’re stuck in an apartment it’s quite challenging”, she said.

Sydney-based Trelease Associates’ keyword search data revealed similar trends. Daniel Trelease, a buyer’s advocate, said that within the apartment and townhouse segments, people were looking for more space, outdoor areas and a study in order to balance living and working at home.

Trelease said that parents hoped to find a property with a garden where their children could play safely. On the other hand, singles, couples and professionals wanted properties with balconies or outdoor entertainment areas where they could socialise safely with friends. He added that he’d also seen an increase in searches for properties with workout spaces or home gyms.

Decreased interest in studio apartments

Besides spotting an increase in some keyword search terms, Conisbee noticed a related trend in the decreased use of other keywords. One of the most startling though understandable changes was a 22% decrease in searches for studio apartments. Another national trend was a 2% decrease in searches for granny flats.

In addition to some tenants leaving studio apartments in favour of bigger properties after being stuck in cramped spaces during quarantine or lockdown, a lack of short-term holiday rentals may also be behind those decreases. According to Conisbee, “Studios and granny flats may be in less demand because people tend to let them out as short-term holiday rentals, [but] the coronavirus has put limitations on this”.

Landlords in Australia have already had a turbulent time during the pandemic, and a dip in demand for smaller properties could hurt the rental market long-term. If studio apartments or granny flats stay empty for an extended period of time, landlords lose out. While some banks are temporarily freezing mortgages and landlord insurance companies are offering help where necessary, there are still costs to cover. And, with a dip in demand for small properties, prices will decrease and they’ll lose investment value.

COVID-19 changing property in UK

The BBC’s Jonty Bloom reported on a similar trend that emerged in the UK last year. According to the British broadcaster, property website Rightmove said it had seen a significant increase in the number of people searching for out-of-town properties with space for a home office and larger gardens. In turn, this could leave smaller apartments in the city empty and landlords out of pocket.

Bloom explained that the shift, even if not permanent, is evidence that the pandemic is “making many people think about how and where they work and live”.

Americans want gigger lot sizes

According to MarketWatch, Americans are looking for bigger properties and more acreage. The site quoted Re/Max Associates real estate agent Alan Paul, who explained that the reality of working from home has made people consider space and location instead of commuting times.

Other than more people spending more time at home, multigenerational homes are another reason Americans want more space. Real estate agent Michelle Mumoli said that parents and in-laws moving in with their adult children isn’t a new trend, but it’s received greater impetus because of the pandemic. “I think we are seeing families not wanting to consider assisted living facilities, and instead bringing their families together under one roof”, said Ms Mumoli.

South Africans want free-standing homes

Speaking to Cape Talk radio, First National Bank senior economist Siphamandla Mkhwanazi said that COVID-19 caused a change in buyer behaviour in South Africa. He said that the demand for bigger freestanding homes in smaller cities indicated this, as buyers would generally get more space for their money than they would in a major centre like Johannesburg.

Homes with ‘pandemic appeal’

Speaking to Architectural Digest, Corcoran associate broker Mala Sander said, “The pandemic reaction is all about being inside your bubble, [and you] are making your bubble as beautiful and accessible as possible”. According to DouglasDouglas, QLD Douglas, QLD Elliman saleswoman Stacey Oestreich, COVID-19 has made people reassess their homes. If they’ve ever wanted to make any changes, they’re doing so now.

Designer Patrick Mele echoed the words of Sander and Oestreich, and although they were speaking about America specifically, what they said rings true for the situation in Australia too. Homes with “pandemic appeal” are those offering a multi-purpose sanctuary. Mele explained that people were putting more time, energy and money into their homes than they had since the 1950s.

The trend means that, as far as design goes, homes are once again being treated as homes and not as showpieces. Accessibility, comfort, durability and functionality are the buzzwords. Landscape architect Miranda Brooks said that people were experiencing their homes differently, and that the rapidly changing world has led to them “reimagining their lives”.

Preparing for the future

There’s more to the increased demand for bigger properties than home offices, Zoom Rooms and space for the children to play. Homes with more space also make it easier for people to practice social distancing and self-isolate.

It’s because of those elements that post-pandemic properties will feature fewer open-plan spaces, which can make it easier to separate and sanitise clothes, shoes, grocery bags and other items. Space is now of paramount importance, and is no longer just a luxury, but in some cases a necessity.

There’s no way of looking into the future, but this trend could be the beginning of a massive change to our approach to city living and urbanisation.

About the author

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Maja Garaca Djurdjevic is the editor of nestegg and Smart Property Investment. Email Maja at Read more

How COVID-19 has increased the demand for bigger properties
How COVID-19 has increased the demand for bigger properties
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