Today's real estate trends reflect the reality that, after months of quarantine, Americans who have not been economically impacted by the pandemic are looking at their homes and realizing that they want something bigger and better. Stacey Oestreich, a saleswoman for Douglas Elliman in Westchester County , New York, says, "Everybody who ever wanted to do it is doing it now." Holdback has always been there, but now they're doing it. They do it if they want to move out of state. If they always wanted their mom to come and live with them, they would do it.
AD PRO spoke with architects, designers, and real estate agents to suss out the real estate trends that clients want—and where they are looking for it.
After months of remote work, buyers are cutting ties with the cities where they work, looking for more space and privacy in the suburbs, the country, and second-home destinations like South Lake Tahoe, Palm Beach, Hawaii, and the Hamptons. They are searching for bigger houses, on large lots. Some buy land when, in a frenzied market, they can not find what they want. “They’re moving farther afield,” says Andrew Cogar, president of Historical Concepts. His architectural firm has seen an uptick in business in Maryland, the Carolinas, and Virginia. “Everyone is on Zoom. You can set up your base anywhere.”
As Americans work, study, and exercise at home, they are expecting much more from their homes. “People are digging into their homes in a way that we haven’t seen since the 1950s,” says designer Patrick Mele. “People want to make their homes as singular and interesting and particular to them as they can.” They want space to exercise, and not just in the bedroom on a Peloton bike, but in a light-filled room that can compete with the canceled membership of SoulCycle. They want a dedicated home office, and potentially two, with good lighting and an elegant backdrop for a Zoom call. “The pandemic reaction is all about being inside your bubble,” says Mala Sander, an associate broker with Corcoran in the Hamptons. “You are making your bubble as beautiful and accessible as possible.”
Suzanne Kasler’s design clients are looking for spaces that are as comfortable as they are welcoming, with durable fabrics that will hold up to extra use. “Having a more comfortable and more accessible and more usable house is important because everybody is home and they need a place to go,” says Kasler. The home office, arguably the biggest "must-have" of the moment, must be functional, not just appealing, even if that means that the printer is no longer hidden inside a cabinet. Homeowners are “not apologizing that it is a working office,” Cogar says. “Desk spaces get bigger, lighting gets better.”
The second home has taken on a central role for homeowners who retreated to theirs during the pandemic, and many homeowners are adding upgrades more typical of a primary residence, like more storage and expanded kitchen pantries. Many who did not own a second home before the pandemic are now looking to buy one, focusing on properties that could be used on a daily basis, with study space for the kids, and good wireless networks so that the family can run, not just play.
Pandemic life has been one spent mainly outdoors, so homes are selling quickly with enough outdoor space. Homeowners want those spaces to be inviting, with pools, cabanas, and outdoor living rooms with amenities like a fireplace, a television, a toilet, and a kitchen with a pizza oven. Homeowners are now searching for peaceful nooks so that, without ever leaving, they can escape. Barn houses, sheds, garages, and carriage houses are being converted to children's art studios, home offices, or classroom space. Landscape architect Miranda Brooks says some of her clients are now living in the country full-time, seeing their homes in a different way than before. As the world rapidly changes around them, she says, “They are sort of reimagining their lives.”
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