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Work-from-home positives for real estate sector

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Picture: Clifford Oosthuizen, managing director Westbrook estate; Carl Coetzee, CEO Betterbond

Working from home has become the new norm across many industries.  And with many workers pushed out of their traditional offices, there’s every indication that this is a consequence of a global pandemic that’s here to stay. So, what are the positives for the real estate sector?

The rise in working remotely has already precipitated an increase in the number of buyers seeking bigger homes that can accommodate a productive, sustainable live-work environment. And having spent decades enduring a daily routine in rush-hour from the suburbs to the city, many are keen to make the new status quo permanent.

The global Work-From-Home Experience Survey of 3 000 employees, for example, saw 73% of South African respondents report that they are working from home very successfully (68% globally). Another recent Gallup poll indicated that nearly 60% of US workers would like to continue working remotely, and that most never want to go back to the office.

Back in April 2020, statistics released by the UK’s Office for National Statistics showed that 49.2% of employed adults were working from home, as a result of social distancing measures introduced in response to COVID-19.  But as early as March of the same year, Lloyds research reported that working from home had become so popular in the UK that it had become a key consideration for those looking to buy or sell property. Several estate agencies in London have also reported “a rush for properties since the real estate market opened back up, particularly for more spacious properties with outdoor space”.

Investing in the home workspace

South Africa is likely to follow this trend, suggests Clifford Oosthuizen, managing director of the Westbrook secure lifestyle estate in Port Elizabeth: “The rise in the number of people working flexibly has led to us seeing more buyers seeking homes with an extra bedroom, with the intention of turning it into a dedicated home office. This is evidence that they are willing to invest to improve their home-working environment.”

Carl Coetzee, CEO of Betterbond, agrees: “The average purchase price for almost all home buyers was up almost 4% year-on-year in October, with more buyers now in a position to afford the type of property that can comfortably accommodate a work-from-home set-up.”

A shift to more space

Oosthuizen maintains that “space” has become paramount for home buyers, given that homeowners are now spending much more time at home, compared to the few “off-duty” hours and days pre COVID-19.

“We are seeing a shift to bigger and more spacious homes, this is because the home is becoming integral to quality of life; for many, a decent, spacious workspace has become a priority,” he says.

Coetzee confirms they have seen increased interest in larger homes with spare rooms or office space but attributes it to the fact that affordability has improved by 30%, following five consecutive repo rate cuts since January this year. “This is the real driver of the bond size increasing,” he said. “If nothing else, lockdown afforded us the opportunity to reflect on life, and face our fears around the global pandemic.”

According to Oosthuizen, considerations around health and well-being, outdoor exercise and recreational facilities have all become important drivers in the decision-making process. “This trend supports the renewed popularity of larger homes near safe, outdoor recreational amenities, and well-maintained open public spaces within secure, residential estates,” he says. “Added value derives from the communal gardens, parks, picnic areas, sport and recreational facilities at mega estates like Westbrook”

“Whether you are living under lockdown, self-isolating, or working permanently from home, having access to these amenities without having to get in a car, or even leave your estate, is a game-changer in delivering the optimal work-life balance,” concludes Oosthuizen.

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