The UK has long been a famously home-loving nation. Under the current circumstances, that’s probably just as well. One of the many and varied consequences of COVID19 is that it has led to people reassessing their homes. In many cases, they have taken, or intend to take, steps to improve them. Unsurprisingly, budget-friendly changes seem to be the most popular.
Major home improvements have slowed
Defining “major home improvements” as “home improvements which need planning permission” creates an effective measure for judging the impact of the lockdown. Bridging loans broker Octagon Capital analysed data from gov.uk. This analysis showed that applications for planning permission in April, May and June 2020 were over a fifth lower than the same periods the previous year.
The good news is that the level of approvals remained fairly constant. This indicates that planners are both willing and able to work with home-owners. In other words, planning departments are still operating fairly normally despite the pandemic.
Home-offices are the new must-haves
Home-working has been a growing trend for some time now. Up until the pandemic, however, most of that growth was through freelancers and start-ups. Now, even the most traditional companies have been forced to invest in home-working infrastructure and, bluntly, to make it work for them. Many are now openly enthusiastic about its long-term potential.
It’s therefore hardly a surprise that multiple surveys are highlighting the need for a proper home office as a new must-have. In fact, it’s probably a fairly safe bet that a lock of the lockdown planning applications have come from people investing in “garden offices”. Those without a garden are looking at ways to create a dedicated office space indoors.
Of course, you can only carve out a dedicated office space if you have actual space to carve. This has obvious implications for the inner-city property market. Up until 2020, many people, especially young adults, were happy to trade space for the joys of city life. Now, however, this is being rapidly reassessed. In fact, survey data is pointing to a clear “flight from the city”.
Home gyms and gardens are highly desirable
Like home-working, home-exercise has been a growing trend for some time. In general, however, it has been a supplement to gyms rather than a replacement for them. Currently, however, people are being forced to look at other options. It will be interesting to see whether this change sparks a long-term development or whether it fades away with COVID19.
Gardens have long been desirable features in family homes. Since the lockdown, however, survey data indicates that they’ve become increasingly desirable to young adults too. Given the UK’s high population-density, this could be a sign that planners and developers will need to start looking at alternative options such as communal gardens, roof gardens and even balconies.
Cosmetic updates are the order of the day
Statistics from homeware retailers such as B&Q show that the initial lockdown was quickly followed by massive demand for DIY materials. Unsurprisingly, paint and wallpaper led the way. Anyone who knows anything about DIY knows that these are generally the quickest and most affordable options for giving your home a refresh.
Anyone who refreshed their home during lockdown would have had an advantage if they subsequently put it on the market. Rightly or wrongly, first impressions do matter a lot in sales, especially property sales. It may be, however, that people were simply updating their homes on the expectation that they were going to be seeing a lot of them over the coming months.
If that was the case, then their expectations have been justified by the second lockdown. It will be interesting to see if this triggers a further wave of home-improvements.