Pandemic reduces demand for homes with open floor plans

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The pandemic may have killed open floor plans in homes as buyers opt for walls over easily conversing as one person sits in the living room while the other cooks in the kitchen, according to real estate experts.

“They want more rooms instead of open space,” said Joseph Zoppi, managing partner of Templar Real Estate in Princeton, New Jersey, which restores homes and then sells them.

His firm routinely used to tear down walls, such as the ones separating dining rooms from kitchens, because open floor plans were a big seller. Now, clients want walls.

“Everybody pre-COVID was looking at open spaces in terms of the floor plans. Now, they want privacy,” he said.

Michael Rossi, CEO of New York City-based residential brokerage firm Elegran, told the Washington Examiner via email that open-concept floor plans, which have been “heavily favored in the last 10 to 15 years,” no longer work for most homebuyers.

“The old adage ‘location, location, location,’ may change to ‘space, space, space,’” he said.

Buyers want that space to accommodate additional rooms, said Michael Nourmand, president of Nourmand & Associates, a real estate brokerage firm located in Beverly Hills, Brentwood, and Hollywood, California.

“This [pandemic] has translated into increased demand for homes with a pool, gym, home office, guest house, game room, and screening room,” he said.

Sales for luxurious homes, including the ones referred to by Nourmand, have skyrocketed during the pandemic, according to the real estate brokerage firm Redfin.

Its report found that luxury home sales increased 41.5% year over year in the third quarter, which is the largest jump since at least 2013, when Redfin began recording this data. Meanwhile, sales of medium-priced homes climbed just 3%, and sales of affordable homes declined by 4.2%.

“Remote work, record-low mortgage rates and strong stock prices during the pandemic are allowing America’s wealthy families to gobble up expensive houses with home offices and big backyards,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist, in a statement releasing the report.

Francie Malina, a real estate agent with Compass, said that clients are sometimes requesting two to three additional bedrooms if a home does not already have multiple office spaces.

“Having room to work away from the other household activities help to maintain a sense of normalcy during this unprecedented time,” she said.

Zoppi said that buyers have shunned four-bedroom homes on account of their size.

“A lot of people are saying it’s too small,” he said.

The desire for space also means larger yards, according to Nourmand.

“Buyers need larger yards to entertain themselves, family, and close friends,” he said.

Chip Murphy, regional vice president of New York-based Hunt Real Estate, said buyers are looking for yards to provide space for a host of activities since backyards are the safest place to be outside.

“Buyers are looking for activities to keep them busy at home, which has resulted in the popularity of outdoor at-home hobbies like gardening and landscaping, bird-watching, and outdoor home improvements,” he said.

The desire for outdoor space, coupled with the ability to work from anywhere, has made an increasing number of buyers move to rural areas.

“If you want more bang for your buck and you don’t have to drive to your office every day, it makes it more appealing to live further from your office,” Nourmand said.

Glenn Kelman, Redfin’s CEO, recently said that homebuying has shifted to rural areas and away from densely populated urban areas.

“Rural demand is much stronger right now than urban demand, and that’s a flip from where it’s been for the longest time, where everybody wanted to live in the city,” he told CNBC.

Zoppi said that people migrating to rural areas is happening nationwide.

“That’s a big, big trend. Super big. It’s big in a number of states right now,” he said.

The pandemic has not only prompted buyers to purchase homes in rural areas with more rooms and outdoor space, but they are also mulling new technology for their abodes.

Rossi said that clients are interested in air filters and touchless technology to make it harder for the virus to spread if a resident were to become infected and wanted to protect others from the disease.

Murphy said that clients are requesting smart features in the homes they purchase.

“We’ve seen a rise in requests for smart features such as automatic, motion-sensing lighting, [and] smartphone-controlled technology,” he said.

Despite all the money, effort, and time homebuyers have devoted to moving themselves and their families to remote parts of the country, Zoppi thinks that, once the pandemic passes, some of them might regret making such a radical change to where they live.

“I think there is going to be a little bit of a snapback. ‘We don’t know why we reacted the way we did. We should have just waited it out,'” he surmised.

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