Time at Home

Photos courtesy of Brown Harris Stevens

After an extended period of time within our homes, and in the event that the current COVID-19 environment endures, we would not be surprised to a see a shift in how developers reimagine building design, amenities and individual homes.

In the past decade, we have seen the trend of “the lifestyle building,” which can incorporate the convenience of a gym, a landscaped roof deck and party rooms for shared use. However, as people remain cautious in a post-COVID-19 environment, we may see a shift from shared common amenity spaces and resources to bringing some of this functionality into the individual homes. Some trends we may see growing in importance are:

Flexible Floor Plans
First and foremost, spaces that are easily convertible and are able to serve dual purposes may become a draw. Floor plans that offer the flexibility to carve out at-home spaces to work, exercise, learn and play will become increasingly important, especially for those who may continue to work remotely.

Developers may see the benefit of adding additional space to the typical layouts of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, whether as an alcove, a small nook or even a full room to accommodate customers’ needs.

Larger Kitchens
In general, kitchens have always been the center of the home. As people are spending more time within their homes, they are spending even more time in their kitchens with their families.

Cooking as well as baking, which were thought of as chores or for special occasions, have become a common and fun activity. Center islands have doubled as homework and office spaces and will be in higher demand than ever. While we previously may have grabbed breakfast running out the door or eaten take-out in shifts, there is a renewed sense of togetherness. We believe that this will inspire open kitchens and both informal and formal dining areas.

Developers will also focus on maximizing storage space in the kitchen as large pantries and spacious cabinets for stock-up items and supplies will be highly desirable for those in the market. Perhaps a second fridge or freezer, as many people can accommodate in the suburbs, will become more common.

Natural Light
As we spend more time in our homes working and learning, rooms that are flooded with ample natural light will be prime. Once stowed away to the basement or a back area for their infrequent use, home offices are now being moved upstairs and upfront to increase productivity with this natural mood booster.

In addition, buyers may feel the need to have windows they are able to open to allow for fresh air. Rather than windows that were placed to be decorative and give a sense of luxury to a home, they will want them to be functional.

Private Outdoor Space
While sprawling landscaped community roof decks were once a major draw for buyers, in the future backyards, side yards and terraces (albeit overall a smaller space) may be more desired for the privacy they offer. For current roof decks, we may see a shift to divide the space up more in a style that offers privacy residents feel comfortable with, such as carving out multiple individual cabanas that can be reserved and sanitized in between uses.

In-Unit Washer and Dryer
Once considered among the most luxurious of New York City amenities, many buyers may begin to think of in-unit washer and dryers as a necessity. Not only do they streamline efficiency, but they also shelter from a crowed public space.

While sky-high views were once the draw for buyers, we may see a shift in willingness to trade these for lower floors and townhomes to reduce reliance on elevators. Smaller buildings also mean less foot traffic from other tenants and less reliance on shared amenity spaces as previously mentioned.

Despite trading mile-high views of the local park, people will still enjoy close proximity to parks for the escape they offer.

As many households have recently welcomed a four-legged addition, buildings with pet-friendly policies will be sought out.

Change in Marketing
For those buildings that have already been designed in the lifestyle manner and offer top-of-the-line amenities, we may see a shift in how the properties are marketed. For example, an emphasis may be placed on the floor plans now rather than the amenities. When amenities are mentioned, they will likely be positioned in a way that highlights their safety and cleanliness. Bike rooms with space for the whole family will be a selling point.

Developers will also need to invest more in air purifying equipment for the building interiors, including each apartment as well as hallways and common areas. Converting to voice-activated elevators is something we may start to see in residential as well as commercial buildings. These will be marketed as an added amenity for the new environment.

Nada Rizk and Joanne Greene are top-producing licensed associate real estate brokers at Brown Harris Stevens.

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