Home offices more desirable in stay-at-home economy

Workout space, outdoor living other areas of demand

by Judy Stringer

Home offices have been a popular feature among prospective buyers for years.

Yet the demand for dedicated workspaces is at an all-time high because of the pandemic and the expansion of work-from-home options.

In one recent survey by homebuilder PulteGroup, more than half (53 percent) of respondents said they preferred a dedicated home office over an additional bedroom, with 28 percent favoring having both available.

“There’s no question that [work-from-home] spaces are becoming more important than they used to be,” said John Lambert, a Brecksville-based agent with Howard Hanna Real Estate Services. “It used to be just having that home office or extra bedroom that could be used as a workspace was enough. Now buyers often want multiple, separate areas of the home for work, since the couple might both be working at home or the children are schooling at home.”

Local realtors said homebuyers want quiet office areas that have doors and are located away from busy areas like kitchen and family rooms. Most also want windows and natural light in their workspaces.

“That’s why they might look for a four-bedroom home when they only need three bedrooms, so that one of those bedrooms can be a home office,” said Laurie Morgan Schrank, an agent with Keller Williams Chervenic Realty in Fairlawn.

Walk-out basements, Morgan Shrank said, are also eyed for possible office spaces because there is often sunlight and privacy.

“I’ve even seen a case where there was a nice-sized laundry room on the first floor that was redesigned as office space,’’ she said. “It was close to the garage, so provided easy access in and out, and was a little away from the kitchen.

“I think the hardest thing was when people tried to make a dining room or another open space as their working space, when there was not a way to make the area quiet and private.”  

Cheryl Wiegand Schroer, an agent with RE/MAX Above & Beyond in North Royalton, said “good internet” is another homebuyer consideration.

“Especially with COVID and kids on Zoom at home and parents working at home, buyers are very concerned about how good the cable provider is, how good the Wi-Fi is,” she said.

Of course, the flip side of all of this is sellers, if you have a home office, now’s the time to promote it.

“It’s a great feature to highlight within your listing,” Wiegand Schroer said, “especially if it’s an area with bright natural light or in a quiet or secluded part of the home or both.”

Quality of life

These realtors said in addition to home office space, buyers are focusing on home gyms – or at least, areas where they can place workout equipment – finished basements and outdoor living amenities, like firepits, outdoor kitchens and even pools.

“Two years ago, it might have been difficult to sell a home with a pool. People either love them or hate them,’’ Lambert said. “I think we had at least four homes with pools last year, and they sold the first week of promotion. We are all at home a lot more than we used to be, so we want a better quality of life at home, and we are seeing that with our buyers.” ∞