Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced workers into remote work situations, many employers were beginning to embrace the advantages of reduced real estate footprints and happier, more balanced employees. When the virus hit, this trend accelerated dramatically, as people shifted their lifestyles to protect their loved ones and communities.

Once the tipping point was hit, there may be no turning back, even after the affects of the coronovirus are in the rearview mirror.

Advantages of Telecommuting

Even without a pandemic, there are multiple advantages to a telecommuting workforce. For employers, it means they have to keep less real estate on the books, along with eliminating all the other real estate expenses (utilities, insurance, parking, etc.). This saves capital that could be reinvested into growth or increasing employee salaries. Interestingly, some employers have even found that telecommuting allows them to tap talent pools that were previously closed off due to proximity.

For employees, the benefits are less measurable, but more tangible. Greater work-life balance, schedule flexibility, and cost savings associated with the daily commute. The ability to be home when kids get home from school, or to see them off on the bus in the morning, or work during times of peak personal productivity are just a few of the perks. Not to mention less dry cleaning!

Now that employees and employers have had a taste of the benefits of full-time telecommuting, there may be no going back. Many employers, including Twitter, have already said that they will move to permanent telecommuting arrangements and plan to reduce their physical footprint. Others are considering making the move, or are looking at options that offer the best of both worlds.

Impact to Real Estate

Of course, if all major office employer started full-time telecommuting, this would not bode well for the commercial real estate market in the future. We’ll have to see what happens as the markets evolve. It could be office space will be repurposed for other business needs. However, in the residential real estate markets, it means two things:

  1. People are no longer tied to dense urban areas for high quality, high-paying jobs, as they will be able to work remotely from anywhere (look out Montana and South North Dakota!).
  2. The home office has become one of the most ind-demand features for buyers currently in the market. This trend is only expected to grow.

The Survey Says…

In the early days of the pandemic, a Houzz showed that about 55% percent of homeowners had dedicated office space, while 25% worked from a kitchen or dining room. Right around 11% preferred a laptop and comfy sofa (lucky dogs!).

The same survey indicated that one of the biggest challenges that homeowners faced at the start of the pandemic was finding a place in their home that was quiet and private for working from home. Comfort was also an issue for nearly 25% of respondents.

A “What Home Buyers Really Want” study, conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) showed that both recent home buyers and prospective home buyers had a home office on their list of requirements. The prior survey, conducted in 2018, showed that 65% of homeowners preferred a home office, which shows that this trend pre-dates the pandemic.

For those who qualify, having a home office may also save money on taxes, which makes it an even more attractive feature for home buyers.

Home Office Design

If you are planning to add a home office of your own, or just want to stage your home for sale in a way that appeals to buyers who want home offices, here are some considerations:

  • Choose a designated office space that is separated from the primary activity areas in the home (like away from the kitchen, family room, or play room. A spare bedroom, or a sitting area off the master bedroom might be good options. If you have a finished basement, you could also frame in a room for an office. If you don’t have space in the house, a “she-shed” or loft over the garage may be a promising spot. Just make sure you are following all zoning and building codes for finishing the space (insulation, wiring, HVAC, etc.).
  • Don’t be afraid of “multi-functional” rooms. Especially in smaller homes and condos, you may not have a lot of extra space for an office. Efficient use of space may mean that your office also includes a pull-out couch for guests.
  • Get creative. Have an unused closet? You could “hide away” your office equipment behind a bi-fold door. Underutilized formal living rooms or dining rooms also make possible candidates for re-purposing space.
  • Think carefully about comfort and lighting. A poorly designed space will not attract buyers.
    • Consider ergonomic designs.
    • Layer your lighting sources. You want a lot of bright, natural light, but an overhead light and dedicated lamps for task lighting can help you find the right balance.

Even as states maneuver through the various stages of re-opening, we don’t see the trend in increased telecommuting ending any time soon. The impact will be felt for years to come, as buyers shift their desires and expectations on location and home features.

Whether you are looking to buy or sell a home in Northern Virginia, we are always here to help with all your real estate needs! Contact Jason at 703-298-7037 or Jason@JasonAndBonnie.com.