In many ways the pandemic seems something from the past. It’s been overtaken in the headlines by economic and political concerns.
One long-lasting impact it has had on the housing market, and which I think will become more important over time for buyers and sellers, is the growth of hybrid working. Is hybrid working changing the housing market? Let’s take a look.
The fall of office working
There are startling figures about how working life has changed for tens of millions in the UK, from a recently published report.
It suggests that UK office workers are actually ‘going in’ just 1.5 days a week. The average attendance at the workplace was only 29 per cent with a peak of 39 per cent mid-week but only 13 per cent on Fridays.
The result of the research – covering sectors including banking, energy, engineering, healthcare, insurance and IT found that this markedly different to pre-Covid studies which show workers were going into the office an average of 3.8 days a week.
The UK is not alone. The pattern was roughly in line with 12 other developed countries in the survey. But the practical repercussions for the housing market are considerable.
Our homes are our workplaces
There’s no suggestion that this decline in office attendance has been matched by any such reduction in productivity amongst office staff. So working from home has really caught on.
On the micro level, there have been several surveys. Showing how a dedicated or flexible space in the home which can be used for hybrid working. Ideally with a degree of privacy and away from distractions – is now a ‘must have’ for many prospective buyers and renters.
And at the end of last year a survey of UK estate agents found that 20 per cent reported high quality broadband to be the most important feature for buyers.
It was perhaps no coincidence that the areas of the country where it was deemed most vital were the south west of England and in Scotland. These two areas have seen population influxes from elsewhere in the country since the pandemic began.
Relocation, relocation, relocation
My day job on TV helps people find homes and relocate. And a trend of the past two years is that the growth of working from home. The rethinking of lifestyles, have led more people to consider longer distance relocations.
Telecoms mean, quite simply, that people can live a lot further away from workplaces than used to be the case.
Nathan Emerson, chief executive of Propertymark, has seen unusually strong demand for homes on sale. Especially in areas like Wales, the south west, Scotland and the Lake District. I agree with him when he says: “What we have today is the ability to be flexible on location due to remote working which has a large impact on price.”
This explains, partly at least, why London has seen quite small price growth in the past year (9.1 per cent according to the Office for National Statistics). But other parts of the UK have seen uncharacteristically large rises (20.7 per cent in the south west, 18.1 per cent in the north west, 17.6 per cent in Wales).
What does this mean if you’re selling or a landlord?
- It’s good news. It means many homes have potentially larger audiences who may be interested in buying. Most transactions are still done locally. But increasing numbers involve purchasers or tenants who are moving to areas much further away from their work.
- Marketing a home may change slightly. Sellers and landlords should use agents with a stronger regional or national reputation. Or who have links to trade groups that can market homes to wider audiences.
- The practical emphasis of how a property on sale or to let is described should focus on some of these new ‘must haves’.
Few people are really interested in how many power points a room has. But the property’s broadband speed is essential for those Zoom sessions and sending files up to the office. Not to mention watching Netflix movies when there’s downtime.
If you’re braving the housing market this autumn, despite the economic challenges. It may be worth ensuring your agent emphasises these characteristics as well as traditional ones.
It’s a changing world out there, and the housing market is at the forefront.
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Last Updated: November 22nd, 2023