As summer begins and most states initiate some form of economic reopening, there are many signals indicating that outdoor living is going to be the “big boost” for real estate this summer. With slow spring sales pushing many buyers’ home-seeking activities into the summer months, this probably would have happened to some degree anyway. However, with the added factor of the coronavirus in play, many buyers and renters are likely to place a premium on properties with private outdoor living options.
According to the American Institute of Architects’ Q2 2019 Home Design Trends Survey, buyers’ interest in outdoor living was already on the rise before COVID-19. The survey indicated buyers last year were placing a premium on low-maintenance decks made of composite decking materials to eliminate the need for staining (great for rentals), yards with multiple areas for different uses (think a firepit as well as a patio and a green space), and properties that allow “blurred transitions” between indoors and outdoors, such as sliding doors that enable a resident to enjoy the fresh air on the patio and carefully placed lighting to keep the outdoors “open” long after dark.
Today, national behaviors and beliefs about the coronavirus are reinforcing these trends, as many people are opting to keep gatherings and group events outside even as states relax mandates limiting the number of non-household members who can participate in a gathering. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Warmer temperatures and exposure to sunlight will reduce the time the virus survives on surfaces and objects.” CDC guidance also notes that “adequate ventilation” in any closed environment is important to reducing or eliminating potential viral spread. Not surprisingly, the American public has translated this simply into a strong and growing preference for housing that enables them to get plenty of fresh air and spend large amounts of time outside.
That preference is most evident in what homebuyers say they are willing to shell out extra money in order to get these days. According to a recent survey from Zillow, home buyers who can work remotely are seeking more space indoors and out. Bic DeCaro, a member of the Zillow Agent Advisory Board in Washington, D.C. and Northern Virginia, summed it up: “Buyers who just a few months ago were looking for walkability are now looking for extra land to go along with more square footage,” he said.
Real estate investors should bear these trending preferences in mind both for fix-and-flip projects and for rental properties. The ability to take life outdoors and feel a little more confident about health and safety indoors is likely to directly translate to greater value in the eyes of tenants and buyers. Whether you stage a home to showcase outdoor living potential or make updates and upgrades to provide more options for a future resident, this is one consumer preference that is likely here to stay across all tiers of housing.
Tom Olson is the founder and president of The Olson Group of real estate companies and the Good Success Mastermind. You can access the latest edition of his book, Contingency Planning for Your Small Business During COVID-19, and learn more about the Good Success Mastermind and 30-Day Good Success Journey at www.GoodSuccess.com.