Are Home Offices a Must for Tomorrow’s Buyers? (Plus: Practical Tips for Creating Office Space in Your Current Home)

If there’s anything 2020 has taught employees and business owners alike, it’s the fact that we can do a lot more with technology than we ever tried to. Zoom meetings have replaced conference room gatherings and in-person consultations between service provider and client. E-signatures on documents and ordering supplies for curbside pickup are becoming the norm.

It’s true that these virtual techniques will never replace certain aspects of our work. Firefighters will still need to go to the station and get into the truck when there is an emergency call, and doctors will still need to see their patients in person to offer thorough diagnoses. But for many of us, a great deal of the tasks we used to perform in cubicles at corporate headquarters can just as easily be completed from the comfort of our own homes. In many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic forced this experiment onto us — but we’ve managed to adapt fairly seamlessly.

Sure, there are social elements of working in-person with your team, or with your department, that are lacking when you work from home. But this shift in thinking about where we work may well become a more permanent change.

In the real estate industry, the homebuyer’s “must-have” list has long been a guide used by real estate practitioners to help our clients identify features in their new homes they absolutely need in order to make their purchase make sense. Some requests are more unique to the buyer, such as specific acreage, three-car garage, or waterfront view. Others seem to make their way onto a majority of people’s checklists, such as a basement, open floor plan, or at least two full bathrooms.

Until this year, I would have said the home office feature was a “nice-to-have” for many of our clients, and only a “must” for a select few. But due to the work environment changes that have become non-negotiable for most folks, I predict we’ll see the home office feature rise to rest right alongside some of the top features on buyers’ checklists.

For current homeowners, and especially those looking to sell, this means that converting one of your less-used spaces into a home office could be a worthy home improvement project — both for yourself and your future buyers. Aside from simply staging a room in the home to look like a home office or study, here are some more creative ways to dedicate some space to the pajama-wearing operations manager who may be your homebuyer:

1. Install great tech in your outside spaces.

Our property has a covered porch off the detached garage situated behind the home. There are incredible views of our grounds from that back porch, and in the past, we used this space purely to relax and enjoy gatherings with family and friends. But now that I’m spending more time at home and Beth is enrolled in college courses again, it would be nice to be able to grab some WiFi and sit out back and work from time to time. We’ve planned to upgrade our electrical to the garage and to the other outbuildings, so while the conduit is being installed to accommodate the new electrical wiring, we’re also planning to install data lines to allow for this tech. Additionally, our next furniture buy for the space may be a table where we can sit while dining outdoors, but it will also be a great space to sit while working on an essay or responding to emails for a couple hours.

2. Turn an underused area of the home into a hybrid space.

If you don’t have enough space to justify dedicating an entire room to home office quarters, consider a custom fit-out of a section of a room you use less frequently. One great example of this would be a corner of your dining room. For most of us, this is not a room that gets daily use. Have a custom cabinet maker or interior designer measure the space and design a built-in cabinet that could house your router, a printer/scanner, some books and office supplies, and your laptop when not in use. When the cabinet doors are closed, it could look like another piece of dining room furniture — but easily convert to your personal home work station.

3. Create a fully functional workspace in the basement.

Unfinished basements are an open slate with endless design possibilities. If you’re planning to finish your basement soon, create a home office space in a room within the basement. Depending on your budget, you could go so far as to add a powder room, which would allow you to truly “punch in” at work in the morning and avoid wandering into other parts of the home during the day (into the laundry room to move a load of wash into the dryer, or to graze on your fifth snack of the morning in the kitchen), and instead remain focused — so you can really feel like you’re at work. Upon resale, an area like this will be a huge selling feature for someone who spends some or all of their time working from home.

Paul Augustine Horsham Realtor and Best of Montgomery County Real Estate RE/MAX

Paul Augustine, Associate Broker at RE/MAX Centre Realtors

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