One may think after a year of living “at home” that we’ve managed to maximize both our spaces and our living situations, but the fact is that many of us have simply spent the past year trying to cope with a seemingly endless set of changes.
As we pass the one-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic, we thought it time to turn to a variety of our favorite home and lifestyle experts to see what we should be considering for the coming months to help improve our lives and living situations. You may be surprised by their responses.
Changed Living in a Post COVID World
Homes were once a place we laid our heads – not a place we spent our lives 24/7. Particularly for those living in smaller spaces, a home may be a haven, but it wasn’t the focal point of their existence … until the pandemic and quarantines put our primary living spaces into prime view.
Jeff Beck, CEO Leaf Home Solutions, says that due to the amount of time we’re spending indoors and in our spaces “people are evaluating their homes with a new lens. Home improvement projects and redesigns have skyrocketed, and the projects that people have put off are coming into the spotlight.”
In a January 2021 survey from Modernize, nearly one in three people reported making upgrades to their forever home, and more than one in four planned to spend more than $10,000 on upcoming projects.
Greg Hicks, Modernize VP and home improvement expert with more than 20 years of experience in the industry, says that solar panels are a particularly popular investment, and that “more people are reconsidering how their homes can better meet their current needs,” including improving their timeline for aging in place home improvement projects, ranging from installing stairlifts and laundry chutes to simple fixes like replacing faucets with motion-sensing models.
Perhaps no living space has become as in-demand, however, as the home office, backyard, and home gym.
Carly Friedman of Berkshire Hathaway Fox & Roach Realtors, suggests that it is important to dedicate an actual space, vs. using a living room or kitchen table – both for mental focus and for home values, as this is a primary area where new buyers are seeking space. Both pools and outdoor spaces are also “huge” as people have not been traveling. “They want to make their backyard feel like an outdoor oasis,” she says.
Home gyms are also highly in-demand, with sales spiking for everything from free weights to much-reported shortages for popular exercise equipment like Peloton.
A Seller’s Market
If you’ve put off having folks in your home due to the pandemic, now is the time to consider having those outdoor contractors “in” to make critical updates, particularly if you’re considering a sale. Lower-than-usual inventory, coupled with attractive interest rates, make this very much a seller’s market.
“Most buyers will find the ‘ghosts’ of a home during the inspection period, so it’s advantageous to get ahead of anything you can. It will not only position your home for competitive offers, but it’ll help the selling process go smoothly,” says Beck.
He points to basic maintenance, like gutter cleaning, as well as professional tree trimming and removal, as potential areas of focus.
Add Value in Smart Ways
Hicks suggests small updates that add value, such as improving the functionality of indoor spaces by replacing cabinets can provide a high-traffic area like a kitchen with new storage options and a more practical layout that better serves homeowner needs.
Replacing flooring, such as tile or laminate, with carpeting can soften footsteps if background noise has become an issue while working from home. If you live with carpet currently, hardwood flooring options can mean easier cleanup with more kids in the house and can be more durable over the long haul, he says.
Modernize’s newest homeowner data indicates that indoor remodeling is the most pursued renovation, with 32 percent of surveyed homeowners planning to remodel their kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. Another 23 percent are planning to tackle outdoor projects, such as patios, fencing, pools, yards, driveways, and more.
It is also helpful to keep in mind that as warmer weather approaches, window replacements can make your home more energy-efficient, keeping the cooler air inside and reducing energy bills. Window projects can also give your home’s curb appeal a fresh look and boost the value of your home.
Big Impact Updates
Friedman adds that decluttering is a very important thing to do if you are considering selling. “Buyers will look in all closets and the last thing you want a buyer to see is a big mess,” she says. “Also, neutral paints are very important in terms of making the house show-ready. I wouldn’t spend lots of money doing cosmetic updates if your bathroom or kitchen is dated, it is better to price it appropriately and let the next buyer update it to their taste.”
If you’re looking to buy, don’t forget the big three: checking the roof, remediating mold, and ensuring HVAC systems are up to date, says Beck.
Production Designer for Living Spaces Channa Alvarez also says that there are simple ways that can create more livable space in your home and add value at the same time. Removing closet doors in a spare room to create a “tucked away” office can be helpful and help future buyers see value while utilizing outdoor space “not only will increase free square footage but will create an outdoor experience of sorts without breaking the bank. Some upgrades like the furnace and addressing the water heater are also ways to drastically increase your home’s value by making your home lower maintenance,” she adds.