Has home-working affected the UK housing market?

There are always new trends ebbing and flowing to affect the property market. But people’s home-working patterns and how they impact housing needs could be here to stay.

Early on in the pandemic, as people grappled with lonely lockdowns in confined spaces, the “race for space” became evident. Far from slowing the property market down, people were more keen to get a move on than ever, and activity and appetite soared.

But now, two years on, it is time to assess whether some of these trends and behavioural changes are here to stay. And one of the biggest lifestyle adaptations for many thousands of people has been home-working.

Jamie Johnson of FJP Investment has addressed how these changes have affected, and are affecting, the needs of the housing market. The company conducted a study looking into these trends more deeply, and found that there has been a shift in demand.

“The research suggests that homeowners across the UK are rethinking what they want and need from the place they live, with people’s social and professional priorities shifting markedly over the past two years,” he says.

Reconsidering priorities

Almost a quarter (23%) of people said that an increase in home-working had made them reconsider what they wanted from their property. This included 44% of the younger generation, too.

More than a quarter (27%) of people surveyed said that having a dedicated office space at home is now more important. Of course, this isn’t possible in every home, but having a spare bedroom or even a ‘zone’ in a living space is likely to be preferable.

A further 44% of respondents now value space more highly than before – both indoor and outdoor. A quarter (26%) specifically focus on the square footage of a prospective property.

Johnson comments: “Evidently, the advent of remote working has had a tangible impact in what type of residential properties buyers – particularly younger ones – are looking to invest in. Looking ahead, homebuyers’ changing imperatives are likely to accelerate developer innovation.”

Of course, from a property investment perspective, these survey responses are likely to apply almost equally to the rental market. Property investors and landlords can take this into account when deciding what is more important to today’s tenants.

Home-working means more relocation

Location preferences are another thing that could well have changed thanks to the rise in home-working. People can be more flexible professionally than ever before, and for many, this could mean looking into a whole new area.

According to FJP’s research, 17% of people are now more likely to consider living in a different part of the UK.

Johnson points out: “More plurality on the demand side of the market means a greater volume of opportunities for investors to attract buyers. In turn, increased remote working patterns will naturally have consequences for the demand and supply of commercial property.

“From the ashes of abandoned and unprofitable office buildings could rise re-purposed residential properties, fitted to the evolving needs of urban working professionals.”

Opportunities for property investors

While growing numbers of people are heading back to the office, with city centres now bustling again, home-working remains a reality for many. Hybrid working, which involves a mixture of both office and home, is more common than ever now.

The latest government statistics as of September last year show that half of British workers are still working from home at least some of the time. This is up from 37% pre-pandemic. Further to this, 60% would prefer to work remotely either all or some of the time if they could.

However, on the flip-side, many business leaders believe there is great merit to office working, and believe that it will still dominate. Sixty-nine per cent of business leaders and 62% of the wider public think home-working could make starting a career more difficult.

Johnson believes the changing trends present opportunities for investors:

“As the most restrictive days of the pandemic recede into memory, now is the time for property investors and the real estate sector as a whole to anticipate the changing dynamics of the working from home revolution, and how it will influence people’s relationship with their homes and physical workplaces.

“Clear opportunities are emerging that should be harnessed to build future-facing homes that will suit the evolving requirements and preferences of remote workers, as the dust settles on a new kind of buying market.”

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