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Rise in flexible working could affect the housing market

The Covid-19 pandemic is expected to be the catalyst for significant workplace changes, including more flexible working options. It’s a trend that could affect the housing market as aspiring buyers shift their priorities.

When searching for a home, ease of getting to work has long been a priority for buyers. Sellers with properties that have benefitted from excellent transport options or are located in commuter towns have benefitted from rising property prices. But with more people working remotely or at flexible times, this could change.

Before the pandemic took hold, 18% of workers regularly worked from home. The lockdown measures forced businesses to rethink their working environment and patterns. To keep operations moving forward, thousands of employees began to work from home for the first time. For many businesses it’s been a success they’re keen to maintain in some way.

The percentage of people working from home regularly is expected to remain at 37% once the crisis is over, according to CIPD, the professional body for human resources. When asked, employers said they expect the portion of staff who work from home full-time to rise from 9% to 22%.

It’s easy to see why flexible working is an attractive option. It’s been linked to a higher level of wellbeing among employees as they’re able to better control their work-life balance. For employers, it’s likely to mean a reduction in costs, especially if they choose to move to smaller offices or close an office altogether.

The impact on property search criteria

According to Zoopla, 42% of movers are expecting to work from home more often. This has led to a shift in priorities when it comes to location and property specification.

Without a commute, or at least commuting less often, buyers are likely to be expanding their search area to include areas they’d previously excluded based on the challenges of getting to work. The impact lockdown had on social lives is also influencing location. Proximity to pubs and shops has been deprioritised and is now a must-have for just 13%. This presents both opportunities and challenges for sellers.

Sellers that benefited from a desirable location due to transport links or a thriving high street may now find they’re having to compete with a much wider pool of sellers too. On the other hand, sellers that may have previously been excluded by some professionals could find interest in their property rises alongside the shift in priorities.

The good news is that most prospective homebuyers searching the market before the pandemic still plan to move. 86% of those hoping to move pre-Covid-19 intend to go ahead with their plans in the next 12 months. So, if buyers’ focus is shifting away from the ease of commuting, what are they now looking for in a home?

What are buyers looking for now?

Understanding what buyers are looking for can help you position a property in the right way to attract more attention.

Andy Marshall, Chief Commercial Officer at Zoopla, commented: “It’s reassuring to see that 86% of those who had planned to move before lockdown still intend to go ahead with their plan in the near term. Without doubt, the lockdown put the functionality of many homes under pressure, and many homeowners have emerged with a revised list of requirements they’re looking for a new home to fulfil – as well as a need to move, fast.”

The research found three key areas that have moved up the priority list of buyers.

  1. Living close to open spaces: Over four in ten (44%) that have changed their criteria have done so in the hope of finding a home that’s close to outdoor spaces, such as the countryside, parks or the coast. After months of lockdown, it’s not surprising that people are prioritising natural areas they can explore close to home.
  2. Having a home office: The rise in homeworking means the home office is becoming even more sought after. 22% of all respondents listed this as a priority, increasing to 34% among 35-49-year olds. Creating a dedicated work area when showcasing your home can make it more attractive to those that will be taking advantage of flexible working options.
  3. Outdoor space overtakes additional bedrooms: In the past, an additional bedroom could boost property prices. But now, one in five would prioritise outdoor space over this. It’s likely to be a direct impact of the lockdown restrictions that forced people to spend more time at home, particularly affecting those without a garden to escape to.

Selling or buying a home can be a stressful experience at the best of times. The added pressure of Covid-19 can make it even more so. If you’d like to discuss mortgage options or how a property could affect your wider financial plans, please get in touch.

Please note: This blog is for general information only and does not constitute advice. The information is aimed at retail clients only.

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