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Upsizing to stay post-COVID as buyers seek space

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Metricon's Phoenix display home in Waterford demonstrates the desire for functional and flexible spaces. Photo: Metricon

Upsizing to stay post-COVID as buyers seek space

Homebuyers are prioritising lot size over near-city locations and the size of new houses is growing at its fastest rate in more than a decade, with the COVID-inspired shift of buying preferences expected to be a lasting phenomenon.

Homebuyers are prioritising lot size over near-city locations and the size of new houses is growing at its fastest rate in more than a decade, with the COVID-inspired shift of buying preferences expected to be a lasting phenomenon.

Lockdowns and social distancing requirements made many Australians think the walls were closing in in 2020, causing buyers and renters alike to prioritise open space and privacy over proximity to work.

A recent report on home size trends from CommSec showed Australians were building the biggest homes in the world in 2020, with the average size of a new house growing by 3 per cent on the year, the biggest jump in 11 years.

Cedar Woods Properties chief executive Nathan Blackburne said there were several interesting trends that emerged in development over the pandemic, with buyers’ changing priorities illustrated through their dwelling choice.

 “The first trend is that buyers that were looking for an apartment are now seeking townhomes or detached dwellings,” Mr Blackburne said.

“That is being driven by a desire for more private open space because of lockdowns, as well as private access to their dwelling for social distancing reasons.

“This is evident in our townhouse development in Subiaco, as one example, where we have seen really strong demand for townhouses relative to apartments that are on offer in that suburb.”

Mr Blackburne said another trend was that home offices had shifted close to the top of many  buyers’ wishlists.

“Many purchasers are now looking for that flexible space within the dwelling, that can be used as either an additional bedroom for teenagers, or in many cases, a home office because of the greater comfort and ability for people to work from home,” he said.

“Pre-COVID, it was actually quite difficult to sell townhouses that had what we call ‘Fonzie flats’. 

“Cedar Woods has responded to these changes in buyer preference by building Fonzie flats, that is a living space above the garage, in our townhouse developments. 

“These are a great home office solution because they offer separation from the living areas, and enable clients to be met in a way that is separated from the activity within the dwelling.

AVID Property Group NSW project director Nathan Huon said another COVID-related trend was buyers being drawn to regional areas due to the affordability and availability of larger block sizes.

Mr Huon said his company’s Waterford estate near Chisholm in regional New South Wales had its best yearly sales performance in 2020, as buyers realised they could work remotely and no longer needed to live close to traditional employment hubs.

“Buyers are looking for more space which has been drawing flocks of people to the regional areas and with that, we’ve seen a demand for larger blocks of land,” Mr Huon said.

“The most popular blocks at our Waterford community in Chisholm are around 600−650 square metres or larger, with most buyers looking to build four-bedroom homes.”

Adrian Popple, a design director at Metricon Homes, which is working closely with AVID at Waterford, said many buyers had focused on their wellbeing when considering what type of dwelling they would like to live in. 

He said as well as home offices, homebuyers were seeking more space to accommodate more people living in the house, as well as increased privacy and relaxation spaces.

“For years we saw a trend in downsizing, but space and upsizing is where we’re seeing a lot of interest in the 2021 market,” Mr Popple said.

Sydney-based buyers agent Michelle May said the additional buying power resulting from historically-low interest rates had allowed homebuyers the flexibility to seek out more space in 2020.

Ms May said she expected purchases would continue to be based around functional uses of homes in 2021.

“For many families these ‘nice to haves’ are now firmly on the ‘must haves’ and are non-negotiable aspects of their purchase,” Ms May said.

“There is also an increased focus on outside spaces. 

“Inner city buyers are really focusing on green spaces around them such as community gardens and parks and those further out are keen to secure homes with a backyard, or at the very least a courtyard.”

And while Ms May said larger dwellings were certainly popular, she expected quality apartments would still sell well.

“Prices have gone up for houses and some suburbs have even gone up by 20 per cent,” Ms May said.

“This is predominantly driven by the lack of supply of homes. In the apartment market, this is not the case.

“There is lots of apartment stock on the market and there are less apartment buyers out there. 

“This means that, if you are looking to buy an apartment as a first home buyer, downsizer, empty nester or an investor, now is the right time to buy. 

“As long as you do your due diligence and only look for quality stock, you’ll find there are some really good opportunities.

“Buyers are shying away from newer developments and turning to red brick, older apartments due to the integrity of the build of the apartment blocks. 

“To that end though, this means there’s a slight shortage in this part of the apartment market because they’re in high demand.”

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