The first thing I do when I work with buyers is sit down for a coffee or a beer and go all Oprah on them. I want to know who they are, what they do, when did they move to town, where have they lived, what they like to do on the weekends….you get the idea. Getting that background helps me understand how my buyers live, and allows me to look at listings through their eyes. It works really well.
Next, I ask the kind of property-specific questions you’d expect, starting with how many bedrooms they need. I started this real estate gig twenty years ago, and for the first ten of them, buyers almost always added a bedroom for the office. These were the days of desktop computers and file cabinets. The Marie Kondo-types might have been able to tuck it all in a corner and have it double as a guest room, but a home office was necessary.
In 2010, when the iPad was released, the price of laptops came down, and wifi became dependable, everything changed. I still asked if buyers needed a room for an office, but only one out of every twenty did. “I just put my laptop on the kitchen table.” Poof. The demand for a home office disappeared.
I’ve heard some pretty sensational predictions about how the pandemic is going change buying habits in real estate. Everybody’s gonna head for the hills. Neighbors are dangerous. Cities will be deserted. To which I say, “Poppycock!” (I’ve always wanted to say that.) I’ve worked through a couple of significant events that were expected to change everything. There can be a knee-jerk reaction at first, but things settle down and the new reality ends up looking mostly like the old one, but with some tweaks.
As a result of our current “significant event”, we can expect the home office to make a big comeback. Working from home is nothing new to newer, smaller companies who’ve needed to keep overhead down to survive and grow. The big corporations? That kind of wholesale culture change was not going to happen on its own. COVID tossed them into the deep end of the working-remotely pool and after some initial flailing, that water’s starting to feel fine. My two brothers both work for some sizable companies and it’s been funny to watch the expected date for a return to the office get pushed back every month, to the point where my oldest brother expects to be back on site until next year, at least.
Follow the money. Big business has now discovered that their workers are just as productive, if not more so, working from home. Maybe they can get by with four floors of office space instead of seven. That’s a huge reduction in operating costs. Corporations are known to enjoy maximizing profits. GoToZoomTeams meetings are here to stay.
Those online meetings can really use a door to close behind you, so expect to see yoga/craft/overflow storage rooms get turned back into an office. I expect builders to start adding small, efficient spaces that can be used for work and online meetings when the kitchen table is too loud. It will be an interesting trend to follow.