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COVID-19

Indoor life is changing what people want in a home

Amy Scott Apr 28, 2020
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Stay-at-home restrictions are making people wish they had more room to move around. John Moore/Getty Images
COVID-19

Indoor life is changing what people want in a home

Amy Scott Apr 28, 2020
Stay-at-home restrictions are making people wish they had more room to move around. John Moore/Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Andrew Manes shares a one-bedroom, 700-square-foot apartment with his wife and their pit-bull mix, Wilson. That was fine when they went out all the time. Now, the dog park is closed and most days both humans are working from home.

“The toughest thing has just been privacy,” he said.

A 28-year-old tech recruiter in Nashville, Tennessee, Manes has long thought of himself as a city person, but all this time at home during the pandemic has made him rethink his priorities. When their lease is up next year, he and his wife are thinking about trying to buy a place — and not just with more indoor space.

“Maybe some chickens and a big garden and a little bit of land,” he said. “Things that I thought were doomsday-prepping kind of mindset are now things that I’m like, ‘Well, that would be kind of nice.’ “

With most Americans under stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19, many are reconsidering what they want in a home. Realtor.com surveyed 1,300 people about what they’d like to change about their living situation after spending time in quarantine. When asked what they’ll look for in their next home, about 16% said more indoor space, while 13.6% said, “More and better outdoor space.”

“Rounding out the top three were updated kitchens, not surprisingly, given that we are spending so much more time cooking at home,” said senior economist George Ratiu.

With millions of people out of work and the economy so uncertain, a lot of these upgrades may have to wait. Abbe Will researches the home remodeling market at the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. While she expects an uptick in smaller, DIY projects, “the bulk of remodeling spending really is major home improvements,” she said. “We think homeowners are dreaming about doing those projects but are not likely to undertake them anytime soon.”

With plenty of time to dream about his next home, Lindsay Crosby, 35, a financial wellness consultant in Auburn, Alabama, knows what he doesn’t want. 

We’re beginning to rethink the open concept,” he said, referring to the popular floor plan featuring a kitchen that opens out to the dining and living areas. “We love our kids, but we’re not used to being around them every minute of every day.”

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

So what’s up with “Zoom fatigue”?

It’s a real thing. The science backs it up — there’s new research from Stanford University. So why is it that the technology can be so draining? Jeremy Bailenson with Stanford’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab puts it this way: “It’s like being in an elevator where everyone in the elevator stopped and looked right at us for the entire elevator ride at close-up.” Bailenson said turning off self-view and shrinking down the video window can make interactions feel more natural and less emotionally taxing.

How are Americans spending their money these days?

Economists are predicting that pent-up demand for certain goods and services is going to burst out all over as more people get vaccinated. A lot of people had to drastically change their spending in the pandemic because they lost jobs or had their hours cut. But at the same time, most consumers “are still feeling secure or optimistic about their finances,” according to Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, which regularly surveys shoppers. A lot of people enjoy browsing in stores, especially after months of forced online shopping. And another area expecting a post-pandemic boost: travel.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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