How COVID Has Changed Home Design and Sales


Just as the pandemic has changed so many things in our lives, it has had a significant effect on both home sales and what people are looking for in a home. There is a marked demand for homes in Rutherford County, and prices are going up as the number of new listings goes down. And while the trend had been to buy smaller homes and use one room for multiple functions, homeowners are now looking for more separated spaces where the family can spread out.

As COVID-19 raged in April and May, new listings increased and sales slowed, but by fall the backlogged inventory of homes began to plummet continuing to drive up the sales price. Home prices were already increasing with the inflow of growth Middle Tennessee had been seeing pre-pandemic. As many who were planning to sell decided to stay in quarantine and work on what they had, and others were looking for a new or more functional home, prices have consistently been well above those of 2019.

Many of those looking for a home are opting to get a larger home to have room for at least one home office and a space where the kids can do online classes. Others are looking to outdoor spaces to fulfill the need for a place to stretch out.

“In years past, a home office was occasionally important to some buyers,” said Bill Jakes, Broker and Owner of Bill Jakes Realty, “but many were willing to just make a corner of their house work for them. However, in this new age of Zoom and teleconferencing, I now have clients who would prefer a dedicated room for their home office. And many who have previously worked in call centers or large tech companies have learned that they will not likely return to their old office routines. It seems like the home office is something that’s here to stay as the workforce evolves in this new era.”

Jakes also notes that people are not wanting an open floor plan as much as they did in years past. With so many now at home for school and work, it has become important for the kids to Zoom for classes and to do school work away from their parent’s home offices.

“I’ve had quite a few buyers who have lived with open floor plans who now want more individual rooms,” noted Jakes. “The open plans that have been so popular in the last decade are falling short of today’s unique needs. The idea of living spaces merging with the kitchen and dining are still desirable and are a good use of square footage, but these homes must offer adequate private spaces to remain desirable to today’s buyers.”

Another area where buyers are demanding more is outdoor living areas with the outdoors being a safer space to socialize.

“Some families have looked for bigger yards or homes in a neighborhood with other kids, or a common area with a playground or pool to keep kids occupied,” said Beth Boudreaux, a realtor with Bill Jakes Realty. “And now people are putting more effort into their outdoor living area as well…adding a covered patio, a pool and fire pits.” The desire is to gain use of the space all year around.

One other change that has accelerated due to the pandemic is the increasing shortage of single-level homes. As land values increase, developers build up instead of out.

“Many builders are constructing houses and townhomes with maybe one bedroom on the first floor and sometimes all bedrooms on the second floor,” added Jakes. “Additionally, it’s getting harder to find newer homes with big yards. The days of the single-story Ranch home on a half-acre lot are long gone. That has more to do with population density than COVID, but it is still a factor that has added its own stresses to the buying process.”

Homebuyers are now buying older homes where they can get what they want and either remodel them before moving in, or making plans to remodel them slowly after moving into them. The biggest changes are kitchens and baths.

“If you’re wanting a home on land or an older home in a historic district,” said Boudreaux, “you’re going to have to put some money into it…Prices have gone up so much that some people have to buy a home that needs updating to fit their budget and plan to fix it up over the years.”

Jakes believes that some of these changes will stick with us well into the future. The most significant change being the need for a separate home office. “The home office will not be a temporary need for many families who work in phone-based or technology jobs. Many of these types of companies will not return to the large commercial workspaces they once used. Many are making permanent plans to convert their workforce to home-based employment.”

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