The term "WFH" (or working from home) has become commonplace since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many companies, including large corporations, have extended their remote work policies or even decided to make it a permanent part of their operations. Taking it one step further, REI announced a distributed work model and is shedding itself of its corporate headquarters.
Employees seem to be loving these new models, too. A whopping 86% of North American workers surveyed by Global Workplace Analytics say they are as productive in their pajamas and on Zoom as they are in the office.
This all has massive implications for the residential real estate market.
5 Things Real Estate Investors, Brokers and Agents Must Know About the WFH Consumer
- Prospective homebuyers and renters choose where to live based on the quality of life rather than workplace proximity. The pandemic has sparked a mass exodus from urban areas, and the media has even begun publishing lists of the best cities to work from home.
- Wi-Fi availability and reliability are must-haves for the WFH professional. Internet and mobile use has soared during the pandemic. People who live in rural areas have been particularly challenged with staying connected, especially since students rely on connectivity to complete their educations.
- The proximity of local services has long been important to the buyer and renter. Although online shopping is on the upswing, WFH professionals will seek out neighborhoods where they can shop and dine easily, especially as long-distance travel is on hold. In multi-unit communities, safe common areas will be attractive features because the home will be doubling as the office.
- The extended family is making a comeback. More than 50% of people ages 18 to 29 are still living with their parents. People with aging parents are often opting for aging-in-place situations rather than taking risks with group living accommodations. As multiple generations live under the same roof, buyers will be looking for homes with private areas.
- Suburbs are booming. They afford homeowners and the other people living under that roof the ability to spread out. Features such as outdoor grills and separate work and study spaces are desirable options for today's WFH buyer or renter.
How Do You Meet the WFH Need?
If you're looking to market with the WFH homebuyer in mind, there are a few things you can do. First, stay on top of trends. Know which cities and neighborhoods are trending. Forge strategic relationships with brokers and agents in other areas, so you can service them wherever they move.
As you stage homes for sale, think about the WFH buyer and what features they may want in a new home. Separate office and study areas will be especially appealing to professionals and families.
Take advantage of price drops in urban areas and encourage buyers to invest while the market is hot. Closings are down more than 50% in some parts of New York City, but scrappy and savvy brokers will seek out consumers looking to buy and hold and see these deals as an opportunity.
Above all, know your market on a deep level. Staying on top of trends and quickly and efficiently accessing data will enable you to locate, evaluate and market to highly motivated WFH buyers and sellers — who are clearly here to stay.