How COVID Has Changed Housing Priorities

COVID-19 is still sending ripples throughout the world in 2021, impacting every industry throughout the world. The housing market is no exception – though, unlike many, this sector has enjoyed an uptake in business during these unprecedented times.

More and more people all around the nation are seeking to move onto pastures new. Some of these are homeowners that are looking to sell their primary residence and find a new dwelling. In other cases, it is renters that find their accommodation sold from under their feet and need to find somewhere else to live.

Either way, more people than ever before are on the move – and the priorities for a new abode have altered in the wake of the pandemic. Let’s review the biggest changes that have occurred in housing priorities since we took our first steps into a brave new world.

Location, Location, Location

Perhaps the biggest change in housing priority that has arisen in the aftermath of COVID is the locations that are deemed desirable. Ordinarily, the majority of people gravitate toward major cities when choosing a property. Such locations may be costly, but they offer a wide array of advantages. Job opportunities, recreational activities and the general hustle and bustle of everyday life were all huge draws.

Of course, this has all changed as a result of COVID-19. The vast majority of people are now working from home, with no idea when – or even if – they will be expected to return to an office. This means that choosing a home based on proximity to work is an exercise in futility. If your commute is restricted from the bedroom to the dining room, why bother placing yourself close to a busy motorway?

Equally, activities have been placed on hold indefinitely. Living in the city means access to fine dining, cinemas and theatres, bars and pubs, shopping centres … all of which are subject to periodic national lockdowns. Again, what is the point in paying more to access amenities that may not be available from one day to the next? And even when these establishments are open, just how confident will people feel about mixing with potential large crowds? Those that feel vulnerable are fleeing cities in their droves.

The pandemic has also highlighted the benefits of community spirit in times of crisis. One of the great advantages of living in a city is the anonymity such a location provides. Unless you’re experiencing a dispute, you may not even need to interact with your neighbours in a city. If forced to self-isolate, however, living within a close-knit community has huge advantages. Many people have learned that fostering neighbourhood relations, in a smaller locale where everybody pitches in, can be beneficial.

The Need for Bigger Spaces

It’s a subject that is often raised in jest, but it’s a serious concern – marriages and relationships are breaking down at a rate of knots in the age of lockdown. In many respects, this is hardly surprising. Couples are being forced into close proximity, unlike anything they have experienced before, during one of the most stressful periods of human history.

What’s more, most home purchases or rental leases did not take the unprecedented current circumstances in mind. A home may be perfectly sized when the kids are at school and both partners are at work throughout the day. Suddenly, though, we all need to think about finding appropriate room for home working and education, as well as that all-important space from other humans now and again to be alone with our thoughts.

This has led to many people seeking larger properties – or, at worst, a home with suitable ‘zones’. Even if two properties are of comparable size, a separate lounge and dining room will always be preferable to a large, open plan shared living area. It’s just not feasible for multiple people to share the same space, frequently shouting at their computer screens during Zoom meetings and telephone calls, while virtually touching noses.

The addition of a garden to home has also become a must-have for many people. As opportunities to get outside grow limited, private space to enjoy a breather – and feel the rays of the sun on our face – are more important than ever. Properties with gardens are outselling those without by a considerable margin, and landlords are rubbing their hands at the interest in their properties that boast such a luxury.

Mortgage Rates and Availability

Finally, we need to consider the availability – and expense – of mortgages going forward. As discussed, many people have expressed interest in moving to larger properties during the pandemic. This is a logistical decision that does not factor in the potential financial implications of such a decision.

It’s a universal fact that bigger homes cost more to run. Heating bills, for example, will always be larger in a large house than a small apartment or cottage. Mortgage repayments are arguably the biggest consideration of all, though. The interest rate on a mortgage is reliant upon the Bank of England base rate. This means that, when a fixed-rate mortgage period comes to an end, repayments could soar through the roof if the B of E up their interest rates.

This is a distinct possibility as the nation begins the slow and steady steps toward recovery following the financial impact of the pandemic. Older homeowners remember the housing crisis caused by the recession of the early 1990s, while the economic crash of 2008 points to a more recent cautionary tale. Many homeowners are considering a smaller mortgage, covering their financial backs in case interest rates once again rise considerably above the rate of inflation and up their monthly repayments.

Of course, this is assuming that a mortgage is even available. The number of lenders offering such services has dropped sharply in the last year, with enhanced caution becoming the name of the game. More mortgages are being taken out than in recent years, this is true – but the variety of businesses offering such lending is a far shallower pool than this time in 2019.

Overall, COVID has definitely changed what we look for in a home. If the eyewatering stats related to house moves are to be believed, however, people are not deterred. Humans are proved themselves to be indefatigable in the past, and once more, this appears to be the case.