- Homebuyers are looking for new amenities in the COVID age, realtors say.
- She-sheds and man-caves are popular, as are home gyms and in-ground pools.
- In New York City, buyers want bigger kitchens and new appliances after cooking during the pandemic.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
In Silicon Valley, prospective home-buyers are looking for pools. In South Florida, they want she-sheds. And in Brooklyn, they’re shopping for homes with future DIY projects already in mind.
That’s according to eight real estate agents from across the country who talked to Insider about how homebuyers’ demands have shifted after 12 months of confinement. Whereas natural light and access to the outdoors may once have been nice-to-have perks, they’re now must-haves for many homebuyers. While extra space for a home office may have been a luxury in 2019, it’s now an essential.
And as the real estate market remains white-hot in 2021 — with little expectation of it cooling off — real estate agents expect to continue seeing creative approaches to making the home an oasis.
“People are valuing relaxing spaces now,” Nadine Pierre, a realtor with Allison James Estates & Homes in South Florida, told Insider. “People want their home to really, truly be a retreat.”
‘She-sheds are becoming a thing’
Pierre said that most of her clients are looking for outdoor space, so much so that she’s seeing clients sacrifice having a larger house in order to have a nice backyard, either for entertaining or for building a she-shed.
“She-sheds are becoming a thing down here in South Florida — a lot of people are looking for enough backyard space to create a she-shed,” Pierre said. “I’ve seen the cutest ideas. People use it for reading rooms, or they use it for an office, of course.”
For those who do want a larger home, they’re also looking for space to carve out some alone time. Pierre said clients are looking for houses with extra room to create man-caves or “retreat rooms.”
In the Seattle region, David McDonald, a real estate specialist with DMD Real Estate Group, is seeing garages that are fully finished with workout equipment, or “turned into a man- or a woman-cave,” he told Insider.
Sara Olvera, a real estate agent with Dream Town Realty in Chicago, is also finding that many of her prospective buyers want space for a home gym.
Backyard pools are back in demand
Mary Pope-Handy, a realtor with Northern California firm Sereno and a blogger who writes about Silicon Valley real estate, told Insider that she’s seen an uptick in buyers looking for pools in their backyards.
Pope-Handy, who has been a real estate agent in Silicon Valley for 28 years, said there had been a decline in interest in pools since the 2008
, since it may cost hundreds of dollars per month to heat and service a pool.
“I think we were all in frugal mode after the downturn, but now, when people haven’t felt as free to travel, then you kind of want your own backyard to be a resort,” Pope-Handy said. “Five years ago it was, ‘I do not want a pool.’ And a lot of people now are saying, ‘Oh, a pool? We’d use a pool.'”
The same is true in the Houston area. Katie Day, an agent with Coldwell Banker Realty, told Insider she’s noticed the desire for outdoor space continue to be at the top of the list for many of her buyers, even as the pandemic begins to subside.
“Outdoor amenities are very important, whether that’d be a swimming pool or an outdoor kitchen — or even just having a really nice backyard,” Day said. “Most people haven’t been on a vacation in a year, so the ability to go sit out in your backyard and kind of escape from the workday is nice.”
But Day added a caveat: Throughout 2020, the cost to install a pool jumped significantly, as did the timeline to have one installed, she said. And now, an unprecedented chlorine shortage could be about to hamper pool owners as well, with the price of the chlorine used in pools almost doubling over the past year and continuing to rise.
‘Everyone’s looking for a freaking project’
The pandemic-driven desire for extra amenities looks a little different in Brooklyn, where Compass agent Jared Goodloe works. There, homebuyers are looking for the standard, COVID-era perks: natural light and outdoor space, as well as extra room to work from home.
But Brooklyn homebuyers are also looking for something highly unusual, at least in the five boroughs: spacious kitchens.
“New Yorkers have become chefs,” Goodloe said. “That’s one thing that people are looking for now is kitchen space, and the date of the appliances has become more important too.”
Beyond kitchens, Brooklynites are looking for DIY opportunities, Goodloe said. He chalks it up to a lot of people being unable to shift out of pandemic-mode — “it’s like they’re planning for another lockdown” — and looking for easy ways to update the homes themselves, like painting the walls or doing minor renovations.
“Everyone’s looking for a freaking project,” Goodloe said. “They’re like — every place we go in — ‘I want to rip this wall out, I want to knock this down.’ I feel like people want to really reconstruct the house these days.”