Selling Your House? Working From Home May Impact Buyer Preferences

Image of a computer sitting on a desk next to a cup of coffee in a home. Captioned: Working From Home May Impact Real Estate Buyer Preferences.

Appealing to work-from-home buyers can boost your home’s profile. How much? To get an idea of the value placed on the work-from-home economy today, note that Apple, in September 2020, introduced its holiday subscription sets of TV shows, games, news, music and home workouts — all designed to cater to the work-at-home set.

The office has shifted, and the work-from-home life is here to stay. With that in mind, let’s look at what work-from-home buyers are seeking in a home itself, and how a seller can use this knowledge advantageously.

What’s Driving the Market Now? Home Sweet Home Is More Appealing Than Ever.

Interest rates are the lowest they’ve been in decades, and a growing number of millennials and post-millennials are hoping to take the plunge into ownership. Finding the right house will matter more than ever. In 2020, with so many businesses rolling out work-from-home policies, research from Zillow indicates that they’re especially drawn to spacious homes with good working spaces.

Around 40% of employees are now working at home, following health-related changes at their companies. And many of the newly remote office workers are rethinking what they want and need in a home. Sellers are listening, and heeding the cues. Home workspaces were touted in about 10% more for-sale listings in spring 2020 than the previous spring.

Home designers and renovators are also responding. New homes are being specially built with home-based workers in mind. They’re taking into account our rapidly changing views about what a home should be.

Boost Your Home’s Profile. Think Like a Remote Worker Who’s Buying a Home.

Who is your remote-working buyer? Some buyers are displaced from companies or organizations for reasons related to the 2020 upheaval. Some now seek home-based work spaces to run small, independent businesses. Some are doing jobs on a contract basis, not a salary, and it may take them some extra time to receive an all-clear from a mortgage lender. Many more are well-to-do employees of tech-focused companies.

Of the 2,000 active home shoppers who answered questions for the® HarrisX survey published in July 2020, more than half of those working from home have no plans to return to a corporate office from 9 to 5. Many are anticipating some style of remote work in their futures — even if it’s a hybrid situation of office and home. More than half the people now working remotely prefer it, and they’re ready to make it work for the long term. If a home office space, ample kitchens and gardens and an attractive community to live in didn’t matter to them before, these things might be more relevant now.

Right now, the newly remote are working creatively with what they’ve got:

  • Some already have an office space at home but want something better because they are working from home more than they used to.
  • Some currently have converted a room into an office.
  • Some are working with a laptop on the kitchen counter, and others have set up workspaces in other rooms during their work hours.
  • Others are struggling to work around their families and attending to business from a variety of locations throughout their homes.

Among respondents who would move, if they found work that offered the option to work remotely, a significant number would be interested in moving to more spacious homes with dedicated office spaces.

Broaden Your Advertising Scope to Draw Geographically Flexible Buyers.

Remember when living in a specific city was non-negotiable for people working at business hubs? How quickly things have changed. For today’s rapidly increasing hybrid or remote job situations, the length of a commute isn’t much of a factor. Many newly remote employees have their sights set on moving because they can, given their newfound capacity to work from practically anywhere they wish. Some are ready to migrate from expensive cities, which they formerly chose for career reasons.

This is uplifting the real estate market in places like Austin or Phoenix or even Palm Springs, where spacious houses with offices are affordably priced; real estate markets in the San Francisco suburbs and secondary cities such as Oakland are rebounding more quickly than the downtown markets. Many homes in these markets have dens, basements, and spare bedrooms that could become dedicated office spaces. Those homes were always much harder to come by in dense, expensive city markets.

Make a Point of Mentioning Quiet Workspace, Storage, and Purified Air.

There are several ways to increase your home’s remote working appeal, depending on the type of home you’re selling:

  • If you have a rural home: If your home has been on the market a while, don’t give up now. We may be at the start of an investment trend focused on homes in out-of-the-way locales. Appeal to buyers hoping to find the getaway they crave and live there for good. Talk up your home’s biggest plus: plenty of undisturbed personal space. Upscale homes in remote areas can expect to draw more buyers’ attention than they have in past, and consider that second-home buyers’ market. An upscale home in the country can be marketed as a vacation home.
  • If you have a suburban home: People working for hybrid-remote companies are increasingly attracted to the suburbs or secondary cities. If your house, condo, or apartment property happens to have a den, now is the time to stage it as office space for selling. Other potential office spaces may consist of a converted smaller bedroom, a sunroom, a finished basement, or an accessory dwelling unit (“granny flat”) on the property. Electrical outlets accessible to patio and deck space can also be helpful to the buyer who is working at home and would enjoy plugging in at a breezy spot at least occasionally. Any space that’s insulated or separated from distractions may have potential. Attic space can become extra storage space for the remote office worker or home-based business.
  • If you are selling a small house, or an urban house or condo: Small home? It may appeal to millennials, artists and entrepreneurs, as well as downsizing boomers. There are some important touches you can make in small spaces. For example, make a new or existing HVAC system more conducive to good health at home by having a UV light installed in your air conditioning system. Air quality is especially important if everyone’s home, so the ability to advertise a home air purification system could be a big plus to buyers who see that your already have one installed. The reasons people buy homes in the cities, of course, are not just limited to where their careers take them. There will always be buyers who seek eco-friendly living in walkable downtown locations. Personal space is valuable, but so is a low-carbon footprint. If you’ve got it, flaunt it!

Whether You’re Selling a Home in the Country, City, or Somewhere in Between…

Be bold about creating and showing off a dedicated office space. You might wish to point out to buyers that a room or well-sectioned space in a room used exclusively for business (rather than space used flexibly) can qualify for tax deductions.

Many companies of all sizes learned, during the trial forced upon them in 2020, that they could operate using cloud-based systems. This turned Zoom and Teams into household words. This means the seller’s strategy has to speak to remote workers, who now understand home life as encompassing business as well as pleasure.

Key Resources

In addition to the linked resources, the following are important references for this article.

Remote Work Could Fuel Suburban Boom, Builder Online (May 2020).

Monsef Rachid, As Millions Forced to Work Remotely From Coronavirus, Home Offices in Big Demand from Potential Buyers, World Property Journal (June 2020).

George Ratiu, Remote Work Gains Increased Visibility During Coronavirus Pandemic, (March 2020).

George Ratiu, Remote Work Comes of Age in Coronavirus Era, Changing Housing Landscape, (July 2020).

Photo credit: Chris Montgomery on Unsplash.