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These Four Walls: How COVID-19 is Inspiring Home Buyers

Saturday, May 23, 2020   /   by Anne Rose

These Four Walls: How COVID-19 is Inspiring Home Buyers

You've been self-isolating, working from home, on lock-down. Suddenly, those four walls aren't the four walls you loved before the novel coronavirus.

COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have impacted everyone's daily movement to both work and recreation. The new lifestyle is inspiring many homeowners and renters to re-evaluate what they want most in the place they live.

Especially if they have to live in that house or condo twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

With a partner. Or the kids. Maybe a dog, or two. And a cat. Add a parent, and the house that kind of works during the best of times, really doesn't work during the most challenging of times. 

This COVID-perspective has both renters and home owners reassessing what they want out of the place they call home. There's nothing like a lock-down to make you reevaluate your living quarters with a critical eye. The list of must-haves in a new home swing from more privacy to more space, with lots of details between.

A Bit More Room to Spread Out

Living inside your four walls without the possibility of escape could be making you realize just how tight your living quarters are.


If you have decided that your next move must be to a house or condo with more room, start considering the impact that price per square foot can have on just how much house you can afford.

For Wilmington NC area homes in the price range of $500,000 to $250,000, the price per square foot ranges from $230+ per square foot for a mid-luxury coastal home, to around $140 per square foot in neighborhoods just west of the city and a bit further from the beaches. The less a home buyer pays per square foot, the more home their budget allows. The trade-offs in location, age and construction of a home might be worth the additional space.

"In our current home, we settled for two bedrooms because of the setup," says Joey Mayo, a real estate agent with KBT Realty Group. "COVID-19 restrictions have made us realize that it would be nice to just have that third bedroom for office use. Then we could maintain our second bedroom for friends and family, and the occasional Airbnb guest."

New Spaces, Better Defined

Another consideration related to a larger living area is the configuration of the rooms. For some, there is the realization that open concept means everyone in the family is living on top of each other, with little real space for privacy and alone time. When a family is convening at the end of the day for a meal and shared activities, open concept may provide the perfect layout. If no one is leaving the house for days on end, not so much. Working, studying, and binging on Netflix don't cohabit peacefully without walls.

Convertible spaces are also an attractive must-have in a next home. Teri Moylan, who manages team growth at KBT, has found herself locked down with her husband, eight-year-old son, and a rambunctious beagle.

"I would love a home with a space that can easily pivot uses," Teri comments. "To adapt to our COVID-19 work-from-home orders, I converted the guest room to a home office, but I had to do it fully. I wish that I had taken steps years ago - like I had considered doing - to install a Murphy bed and create a true home office that could convert to a guest room when needed."

"I would love a play room that could convert to a home school area, too. I would love nooks: a reading nook, a nook for a built-in desk, a nook that could be a permanent pet corner. Being at home all day has made me sick of seeing the dog toys and baskets and blankets everywhere. Little Maggie needs her own designated nook," she adds. "Being so confined in the home that I thought was perfect has made me realize that the way to go is with easily adapted spaces!"

Teri suggested another solution that would provide versatile living space in both situations like the current pandemic lockdown, and "normal" life: a tiny house. She noted that a tiny house on the property instead of a traditional guest room inside would be an excellent place for someone to self-isolate if necessary, and would be a delightful retreat for overnight visitors.


Time to Down-Size

On the opposite end of the spectrum, being stuck at home with too much space is motivating some home owners to seriously think about down-sizing. Padding around in a home that is just too big is highlighted when you have all day, every day, to gaze upon all the space you aren't using.

"I want a smaller house," Kristine Roody, KBT transaction coordinator, says. "It would be less to clean."

Or Get Away From the Neighbors

COVID-19 has made it glaringly obvious to some apartment and condo dwellers that population-dense living may come with the excitement of a big city or the high-end shared amenities of suburban townhouse developments, but perspective can shift quickly. While those benefits make being shoulder-to-shoulder with neighbors a fine trade-off in good times, others are thinking their post-pandemic move will be to a home with more privacy.

Many are joining the dispersion trend: people moving from highly populated cities in the Northeast to less crowded, and less expensive, areas of the country, like North Carolina. Home buyers are looking for more space between their home and neighbors, larger yards, and more privacy. Nancy Baldridge, listing coordinator, is on the privacy bandwagon.

"I'd like a bit of distance from my neighbors," she agrees. 

Not Just Any Outdoor Space

In addition to nooks and convertible interior space, Teri sees the appeal in outdoor space that is more useable, needing less maintenance, and designed more for function and fun.



"Fewer things to care for in the landscape would be great. Not completely void of plants and trees, just fewer of them, and more space to enjoy," she observes. "Screened patios, outdoor decks, fire pits surrounded by chairs, a pool, a space for a garden, room for outdoor sports, maybe even a sports court like basketball or room to kick a soccer ball."

Kirk and Janine Pugh, and Fred Teachey, all three of whom are Realtors, are imagining the perfect home for comfortable living under pandemic-restrictions. Their lists would cover every wish for normal times, as well: large screened porches, swimming pools, and larger yards for the dogs.

Dream Homes, Pandemic Edition

Other features inspired by pandemic dreams of a new home may have been luxuries at one time, but seem more practical in the challenging and changing ways we are looking at the environments we call our own.

"I've been thinking about essential workers entering my home - my husband has been on the front lines. A garage changing room with a shower, or a mudroom that is designed with a straight path to the shower would provide health safety and privacy for re-entering family life after a work shift." Teri adds, "Places at the beach often have an outdoor shower, which would be perfect right now."

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