How the Pandemic Changed Our Homes

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Business and Finance, BUSINESS INSIDER, LUXURY, REAL ESTATE, WRITING
  • There’s been a rise in demand for “wellness design,” which is about a homeowner’s well-being.
  • Quarantine spaces, flexible rooms, and accessory dwelling units (ADUs), are hot trends right now.
  • Experts have also found that homebuyers are looking for larger entryways, mudrooms, and bathrooms.

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When Tanya Trevett, a mental-health advocate, retired teacher, and author from Massachusetts, started her house hunt in 2020, she had a very specific need: a space to quarantine.

“My daughter and I have autoimmune issues, and she’s on a medication that causes her to have a low immune function. I wanted an area in case one of us got COVID-19 so that we could quarantine away from the others,” she told Insider.

Trevett and her three daughters eventually settled on a roughly 2,600-square-foot split-level home in the suburbs of Boston. The lower level matched exactly the kind of space Trevett was looking to build out.

“It’s kind of cool because you can be down in that lower level and have a separate entrance, so it’s perfect for quarantine. If someone gets sick then they can go out that back door without coming up to the main living area or to the other bedrooms. I love it,” Trevett said.

Trevett isn’t the first person to consider redesigning her home in the wake of a pandemic: The influenza outbreak of 1918 was the catalyst for features like powder rooms, built-in closets, and bathroom subway tiles, as well as upgraded radiators. Similarly, the COVID-19 pandemic has spurred what experts call a rise in “wellness design” — or home elements focused on a resident’s mental and physical health and wellbeing.

Much of wellness design comes down to space. According to Rose Quint, the assistant vice president for survey research at the National Association of Homebuilders, more space is one of the biggest demands homebuyers have right now. Additional data from the NAHB shows that demand for things like flexible living spaces, dedicated office or Zoom spaces, outdoor spaces, laundry rooms, and home technology has risen during the pandemic.

“Flex spaces and open-floor plans are what buyers continue to be interested in. They ultimately want to be the final decision maker in how those spaces are used, rather than turning it over to the builder,” Quint told Insider.

In late 2020, architect Nancy Keenan, homebuilder Alaina Money-Garman, marketing expert Teri Slavik-Tsuyuki, and building strategist Belinda Sward released an “America at Home Study” that surveyed more than 6,000 consumers during the first and second waves of COVID-19.

The survey found that among other things, buyers wanted larger entryways and better mudrooms that are easily closed off from the rest of the home, more bathrooms near the entry points of the home to give visitors an opportunity to wash their hands, flexible spaces that can be turned into places to do homework, take a Zoom call, or work out, and guest suites or quarantine bedrooms that have direct outside access, their own bathrooms, and can be safely isolated from the rest of the house.

Aaron Enfinger, the CEO of The Cleary Company, a remodeler in Columbus, Ohio, told Insider he’s seen an uptick in demand for outdoor living spaces. “A lot of people want to increase the square footage of their home by getting more ‘livable space’ without actually having to do a big addition or something along those lines.” Enfinger said. “We’ve done a number of basement remodels in this past year that again helps to provide people with that level of privacy as needed and a place to go to kind of have a refuge.”

As housing costs and interest rates rise, housing has become more unaffordable than ever. The most recent data from the National Association of Realtors shows that the median single-family home price for the second quarter of 2022 rose 14.2% year over year to $413,500, rising above $400,000 for the first time. As a result, according to 2022 data from NAHB, one of the main remodeling projects expected to boom this year is accessory dwelling units, or ADUs, which are smaller, independent residential units located on the same lot as a stand-alone, single-family home.

Adding more living space separate from the main home has also become more important for families considering the needs of aging parents and boomerang kids. Over the last few years, places like California, Texas, and Seattle have all started to relax ADU rules and regulations in an effort to make housing more affordable.

Money-Garman, one of the authors of the “America at Home Study” and CEO of construction company Garman Homes in North Carolina, said that on a local level, Garman Homes has seen an uptick in demand for new homes with ADUs or spaces with a separate entrance, especially above the garage.

“Our buyers are increasingly asking for a fully functional guest suite with a separate staircase above the garage. So if you had a boomerang kid or an older college kid, that space is more inclusive for that,” she said.

As the pandemic continues to run its course, many of the changes we’ve made in our homes to make them more comfortable and accommodating for remote learning, remote work, and expanded family units are likely here to stay.

“Having a dedicated quarantine space gives me a sense of relief,” Trevett said. “When you’re a mom, you just feel like you’re taking care of everybody and you want your children and your family to be safe. It makes me feel relieved and really happy because it’s another space where the kids can go.”

Read the complete story on Business Insider.

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Abigail Bassett is a full-time freelance journalist, content creator, and television, video, and podcast host whose work has appeared in publications like TechCrunch, Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Forbes, Fortune, Motor Trend, Shondaland, Money Magazine, and on CNN. Her passion is telling unique stories that change the way we see, interact with, and relate to the world. She is also a Yoga Alliance Registered 500-hour yoga teacher.

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