There's no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has changed our way of life. It's shifted our priorities in everything from work to love. Even once the virus subsides, the effects of this experience will be long-lasting.
In particular, sheltering in place has made us think about the concept of home in a new light. There's little doubt that homebuyers who enter the market after the risk of COVID-19 is in the rearview mirror will have a whole new set of priorities in place for their home search.
[Read: The Guide to Buying a Home.]
Here are eight priorities you can expect to become prevalent in future home searches:
- Light and space.
- Space for cooking.
- The quest for privacy.
- Energy efficiency.
- Space for working out.
- Outdoor space.
- Home office space.
- Less focus on building amenities.
Let There Be Light (and Space)
When city dwellers who never spent much time at home were expected to make their homes their sole destination, many quickly discovered a newfound appreciation for sunlight and living space. It wouldn't be surprising to see a lot of studio apartment dwellers hoping to upgrade to larger abodes in the months following the pandemic. In general, expect a trend toward light-filled, airy homes with views of something other than the neighboring alley.
Cooking with Ease
If social media is any indication, there are a lot of us becoming newly acquainted with our kitchens as the virus has eliminated the ability to go out to eat, and even trimmed our takeout options. While kitchens are often called the heart of the home, after we've grown accustomed to cooking several meals a day, expect a continued trend toward large open kitchens where families can gather to cook together. A pantry and abundant cabinet space will be critical for storing large quantities of food and easy-to-use, efficient appliances will make the entire process – from prep to clean-up – a breeze.
Anyone sheltering in place with loved ones knows that privacy is precious these days. Those who once considered separate bedrooms for each kiddo a luxury might have a new set of priorities in a post-coronavirus world. Even a den, bonus room or finished basement can be a boon when family members need a timeout from non-stop family time.
People who normally spend long hours away from home might be surprised to see a bump in their utility bills during shelter-in-place. Working from home, cooking more often and binge-watching Netflix all adds up in terms of electricity, water and gas use, and even trash collection. As temperatures get warmer, the impact on electric bills will be even more apparent. Future homebuyers would do well to consider the energy efficiency of their new house, and even small touches like proper weatherstripping and double-pane windows can lead to sizable savings.
Staying Fit While Staying Home
For many in quarantine, a significant decrease in activity is more than a vanity issue – it's a mental health issue. While a home gym fully stocked with the latest equipment is a dream-home scenario, a small space with a TV, floor mats and weights can still provide a much-needed break during tense times.
DIY Outdoor Space
Private outdoor space is a godsend when leaving your home can seem downright dangerous. Even a small balcony provides the ability to bask in sunlight and fresh air. Those with larger yards will feel especially grateful that kids and pets have space to stretch their legs. One thing to keep in mind for expansive yards, however, is the ability to maintain them if service providers are unable to visit your home. States and municipalities have disagreed when it comes to designating landscapers and pool maintenance providers as essential, so homeowners should be prepared to handle basic tasks on their own.
Working From Home With Ease
Well before COVID-19, the American workforce had been leaning toward freelance work and jobs that can be done, at least part-time, from home. Now that shelter-in-place orders have made long-term working from home a necessity for many, homeowners will be on the lookout for properties that effortlessly accommodate business needs. This will usually start with a private, quiet space for an office or dedicated work area. Technology is also crucial, so homes with ample electrical outlets and high-speed Wi-Fi equipment or hardwired Ethernet connections will earn high marks.
In luxury multifamily buildings, an ever-growing list of lavish common amenities used to lure buyers. Unfortunately, many of these amenities, including fitness centers, pools, lounges and children's playrooms, were among the first things shut down during quarantine. What amenities remain valuable in a pandemic? A doorman to accept deliveries, storage for stowing supplies, parking for easy essential trips and multiple elevator banks for social distancing.
Life after the coronavirus pandemic will no doubt require a long period of economic recovery and personal adjustment. For many, new homes to suit our new normal will be the first step in that transition.
Browse for homes – and maybe even close a deal.
Luckily for homebuyers, house hunting apps are growing in number and sophistication. As the online real estate marketing industry becomes more competitive, mobile apps are getting better at helping consumers find accurate housing information while offering features to help users narrow down their search. Read on for some of the most popular and helpful apps to use when searching for your next house. All apps are available on both iOS and Android.
Updated on Nov. 6, 2019: This slideshow was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.Zillow
(Courtesy of Zillow)
This is the most downloaded real estate app for both Apple and Android phones, and it includes Zillow's signature map and home value estimate tools. With more than 100 million homes in its database, Zillow's app is the most popular method for users to explore the platform. In fact, Zillow reports that more than two-thirds of its usage takes place on a mobile device, jumping to more than three-quarters on the weekends.
Best feature: The app’s dashboard includes a Your Home tab that allows you to store your property’s information and see how its value estimate changes over time.
Pro: You have the option to filter your saved searches by property listings that have recently changed, so you don’t have to scroll far to see if a house's asking price dropped.
Con: As much as you may want it to be, the Zillow Zestimate isn’t a guarantee of what your home will sell for.Realtor.com Real Estate Search
Realtor.com Real Estate Search
(Courtesy of Realtor.com)
Filters on this app's search function allow you to include specific details on your must-have list, such as multiple floors, a fireplace, central air and even community swimming pools or security features.
Best feature: With the Sign Snap feature, you can take a photo of a real estate sign you see in a neighborhood and get details about the property right away.
Pro: You have the option to connect with a real estate agent who can represent you as the buyer in a deal, but you can also see the contact information of the listing agent if you want to talk to him or her directly.
Con: The more specific filters rely on listing agents using the right keywords, so if you’re struggling to find everything you want in a house, you may have to widen your search and keep an eye out for details in listing photos.Trulia
Trulia’s app gives users a desktop-like experience in a mobile platform, with a focus on design that makes it easy to use.
Best feature: Trulia polls its online users who live in specific neighborhoods and includes the results on the app. For example, you might find that 93% of one neighborhood's respondents feel comfortable walking alone at night or that 76% say kids play outside regularly.
Pros: On each property profile, Trulia lists local legal protections, noting whether there is legislation in the area to protect against discrimination for gender identity or sexual orientation in employment, housing or public accommodations.
Cons: On any property profile, you’re prompted to call or email an agent about the property. While this is convenient if you’re serious about buying but don’t have an agent, it can get in the way if you’re just browsing.Redfin Real Estate
Redfin Real Estate
Since Redfin utilizes an out-of-the-box business model with agents and professionals specializing in different steps of the homebuying and selling process, the company’s app serves as a way for users and Redfin agents to communicate. A map indicates which properties are listed by Redfin or another broker and also notes homes that are likely to sell fast through its Hot Homes feature.
Best feature: You can schedule a tour with a Redfin agent directly through the app. The app even lists the next available tour time.
Pro: You can click the heart symbol to keep a property you like on your radar, and you can also nix properties so they don’t keep popping up in searches.
Con: If you don’t live in one of the 80 markets where Redfin has agents, the app offers local listing information pulled from the MLS, but you won't be able to utilize the features that connect you with Redfin agents.Homesnap Real Estate & Rentals
Homesnap Real Estate & Rentals
(Courtesy of Homesnap)
Homesnap gives house hunters the reins with this app. A signature feature allows users to take a photo of a home, and the app will identify the property and provide details about it from the local multiple listing service or public records.
Best feature: The beginning of each property profile details the property history, including previous sale prices and when it last went on market.
Pro: Each home has a section that allows you to determine your commute route and time and see both map and street views of the property.
Con: The property details are in list form, which you can expand to see everything from the home's architectural style to number of bathrooms and homeowners association fees. The depth of information is helpful, but long lists can make it easy to lose focus and miss key criteria.Homes.com
On this app, you can search based on your needs and desires, including buying versus renting, home value information for properties on the market and what neighborhoods are ideal based on your preferred commute time.
Best feature: An exclamation point in the corner of a property profile lets you know that it’s a new listing, which can help you move quickly to avoid competition with other buyers.
Pro: If you'd like to get in touch with a local agent, the bottom of a property's profile often lists more than one option, making it easier for you to shop around for the right agent.
Con: While Homes.com has much of the same property information as other house hunting platforms, the app doesn't offer much in the way of neighborhood information.Estately Real Estate
Estately Real Estate
Estately aims to connect consumers with the right local real estate agent, and its app offers multiple ways to get in touch with agents.
Best feature: Users can click on icons on property profiles for quick information on taxes, utilities, appliances, schools and more. Profiles also include scores on things like area noise pollution and internet speed – details that aren’t always considered but could be deal-breakers.
Pro: The app encourages you to see houses in person, with multiple opportunities on a property profile to schedule a day and time to visit.
Con: Estately only covers markets in 40 states, so those looking for homes in Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky and several others are out of luck.Century 21 Local
Century 21 Local
(Courtesy of Century 21)
A longstanding national brokerage, Century 21 provides consumers with access to home listing information pulled from the local multiple listing services. The app can particularly come in handy if you plan to use a Century 21 agent, as that’s who you'll be in touch with if you would like to inquire more about a property.
Best feature: The app provides a notes section for every property, so you can keep track of your impressions as you compare homes.
Pro: If you start searching for homes in a different city, information about the local Century 21 brokerage you should contact changes accordingly, although you can still see listings from brokerages outside Century 21.
Con: This app pulls from Zillow to provide home value estimates, but occasionally lists "unavailable" even if the property has a Zestimate available on Zillow.The best apps for house hunting include:
The best apps for house hunting include:
- Realtor.com Real Estate Search.
- Redfin Real Estate.
- Homesnap Real Estate & Rentals.
- Estately Real Estate.
- Century 21 Local.
Larson has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Real Deal and other top-tier outlets for her industry insights and expertise. Recognized among her peers for her eye for design, she has bought, renovated and sold apartments and homes in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago and Nantucket, providing her an acute insight into the needs of buyers and sellers alike.
Lisa holds a Master's degree in History and was a member of the Division I cross-country and track teams at the University of California, Berkeley. Larson also remains actively involved with various charitable foundations, neighborhood associations and at both of her children's schools, and serves as a director on the board of the USA Track & Field Association.