Rehabbing homes for the remote workforce

John Allen

The definition of the home has changed for a significant portion of society. Many of us are stuck working from home full-time, with spouses doing the same, and some with kids who are also at home for remote schooling. The home —which for many people was a sanctuary away from work and society—is now the only environment that we experience on a regular basis. The idea of a singular habitat for an entire family 24/7 can get a bit chaotic. So many homeowners, real estate developers, and real estate rehabbers have taken measures to make that environment more suitable for the evolving conditions.

The home office is the key area of the modern home that has seen the biggest change in demand due to the pandemic. 68% of people who responded to the[American Institute of Architect's Q3 survey indicated their desire for a home office, up from 29% in 2019. Many people who didn't work from home last year are forced to by their employers this year. And it's worthy to note that the majority of houses don't actually have offices designed into their layouts. So rehabbers and developers need to account workspaces if they want to tend the shifting demands of homebuyers.

Home fitness rooms are another area of houses that homebuyers and homeowners desire while they are cooped up in their habitats. 23% of people from that survey emphasized the need for home gyms and yoga spaces. Though this not a significant portion of people, less than 1% of respondents last year highlighted their desire for fitness rooms; so the growth is massive in this space.

A third and rather abstract area of the home that witnessed a high increase in consumer demand post-pandemic are flex spaces. These spaces were typically in the form of mud rooms but are now being used as sanitization entryways or remote schooling areas. Why limit the use of a room in your home to just storage when you can actually use it with a purpose? 43% of people now follow the notion that wasted flex space is pointless, especially if you're at home 98% of the day.

Regardless of the newly desired areas of the home, humans still strive for the essentials—clean air and nature to be exact. Outdoor living tops the charts with 61% of respondents noting the importance of having the ability to enjoy nature with privacy. Demand for backyards, porches, and terraces will continue to increase as more people look towards nature for tranquility. Similarly, clean air is an aspect of the home that can't be forgetting, especially in the western U.S. where wildfires are contaminating the air at record rates. There has been a sharp spike in the demand for air purification systems since COVID started and that continued to drastically rise as the wildfires burned through the country. While we may take clean air and beautiful nature for granted, we shouldn't expect every home to come with these dynamics baked into the deal.

So what does this all mean? Well we have to look towards the root of our problems and the natural desires of humans within their environments. Many of us no longer have offices to keep us focused on work, gyms to keep us healthy, or peaceful spaces to keep our minds stable. So we have to adapt our environments to account for these things to ensure that our lives, while disrupted on a macro scale, can return to some normalcy. We can't just stop working or exercising or appreciating the outdoors; we have to, at some point, bring the qualities of our past environments to our home. And therefore developers and rehabbers should build these newly demanded spaces into their properties. Doing so will not only help sell properties but will also make the house feel like a home again.

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