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Looking for the NEW property normal

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The impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the world means many things will change for ever and the real estate industry will not be immune

The shock and trauma South African families faced when the country was locked down will probably reverberate in their buying choices in times to come. This too will have an impact on where they choose to live, and with whom they choose to live.

And estate agents and the property industry in general have been told to prepare for possible changed demands from buyers, sellers and tenants. “Things will never return to the way they were before the Covid-19 pandemic,” says Mike Greeff, chief executive of Greeff Christie’s Real Estate.

Psychologists agree, saying a new normal is likely to emerge. People’s worlds have been turned upside down and they will seek to make sense of past choices and easily change them to better suit a changed environment. Not only that but financial constraints will play into the home choices they make.

“The coronavirus has had varying effects on people of all ages and on all parts of the economic spectrum. These effects are likely to be longlasting and will affect many aspects of the home-buying, selling and ownership process for the foreseeable future,” says Greeff.

It is therefore “imperative” that the industry considers the changes that might occur once lockdown is lifted. Possible trends that might be seen on greater levels than before include multigenerational living, out-of-city living and a reconfiguration of the way homes are laid out.

Multi-Generational Living

“While it was already a trend, multi-generational households might become the new norm for many, especially as Covid-19 has had an impact on jobs, tertiary education plans and retirement planning.

“In addition,” Greeff says, “homeowners who were thinking of bringing their elderly parents to live with them may have brought these plans forward as a result of Covid-19. “They may be looking for a place better suited to their new living situation.” The student accommodation market will probably be different too. Distant learning at higher education institutions could affect students’ need to be on campus.

Returning to home towns or rural settings

Similarly, notes Greeff, one of the first trends that became evident on social media when the lockdown began was the large number of young professionals who went home to wait out the virus with their parents.

“Having left the cities where they work and returned to their home towns, many of these young people may not go back. If the work-from-home situation continues – or if their jobs are eliminated outright – they may find themselves moving back home for good. “Psychologists say in times of survival and threat it is normal for people to go to a safe place, a community environment, or back to a place they regard as home.

“Experts say it is likely we will see a rise in the number of people leaving the cities and looking to go to the suburbs but more likely to smaller country towns. “These shifts will be especially relevant if working from home becomes the norm.

“Many people also fled the cities for their holiday or second homes when lockdown hit. We may see people selling their city homes and moving to smalltown or rural second homes. “Not only will this be more affordable but the need for two homes when the economic crunch comes may see them choose to forego the city lifestyle.”

Your home will look different

Many homeowners or tenants stuck in small apartments with no balconies will be rethinking their future choice of home. The trend towards small 20m² homes may hold no charm going forward.

“Significant shifts” may also be reflected in homes’ design elements. “Many jobs and classes may go virtual permanently, more families may choose to home-school and we will all be more aware of how much of the outside world comes into our homes,” says Greeff.

Buyers and tenants could therefore start looking for larger homes with emphasis on multiple home offices and bathrooms. There might also be shifts from apartments and townhouses to single-family homes. “This is an unprecedented and challenging time and no one knows what the future holds. The best and most proactive thing (the industry) can do is try to predict all the possible outcomes and arm itself with tools needed,” he says.

Edible gardens, communal living

This was a growing trend pre-Covid-19 and will probably take on new momentum as the home environment continues to be a safe haven. The shock of seeing supermarket shelves empty has encouraged people to consider how much they want to rely on the “outside” world to take care of them.

Communal living – particularly a trend with the older generation who could not afford expensive retirement estates and chose instead to pool their resources and buy a piece of land or a home in which to live together with
friends – could increase.