There is no question that we have all been profoundly impacted by the pandemic. Our daily lives have been upended as schools and businesses have closed. Many of us are working from home. Our priorities have shifted, too, as we focus on our health, happiness and loved ones.
The luxury housing market has already begun to reflect some of these changes. Recent NAR research backs up what we’ve been hearing in the field from our Coldwell Banker Global Luxury® Specialists. So, what are some of the ways our clients have modified their behavior during the health crisis? And what are agents doing differently in this moment? I want to highlight a few of the most significant changes for the luxury side of our business.
1. Communication is king. Our legions of agents around the world have quickly adjusted to the new social-distancing reality, and what they are doing is incredible. They are keeping their clients’ spirits up with regular check-ins and connecting with many of them virtually. In fact, there is more agent-to-client communication now than ever before. Adaptability is the word of the moment.
2. Wish lists are shifting. Many of our Global Luxury Specialists have reported that homebuyers are changing what home features they deem desirable. NAR research found that the top feature desired by buyers right now is a home office. “Among the most sought-after amenities we are seeing are home offices, and often times two — as a lot of families have two working adults or need a private/quiet space for children’s remote learning. Large yards, pools for keeping kids entertained, and rec rooms or media rooms are also very hot right now,” says Dawn McKenna of Coldwell Banker Realty in Hinsdale, Ill. and the No. 1 real estate agent in Illinois. “A lot of our buyers are coming from downtown Chicago to Hinsdale, the western suburbs or the North Shore, and they want to settle in quickly. For that reason, turn-key homes are selling quickly since these properties don’t need work prior to move-in.” Christopher Fling, one half of the Silicon Valley powerhouse Fling Yang & Associates of Coldwell Banker Realty in Los Altos, has also noted similar trends: “People are looking for every amenity to entertain their families; they are willing to push harder for a little more land and a little more to do at home, and they’re willing to drive a little farther in order to get it.”
3. Resort markets are seeing a boom. Several Global Luxury Specialists in luxury resort markets like Napa, Aspen, Stowe, VT, and Maui have told me that they have seen a major uptick in demand since the pandemic. As remote work grows, buyers are no longer bound by geography and are deciding that they want to make the move without consideration for things like commute times. Riette Jenkins, a veteran real estate agent who recently rejoined the brand with Coldwell Banker Island Properties in Maui, says: “Hawaii is a great place to be if you’re going to have to be isolated for a moment. With everyone working remotely now, you can be anywhere in the world. Why not live in your favorite place in the world and work from there?” Carrie Wells, a longtime luxury expert with Coldwell Banker Mason Morse, has also noticed increased demand in her mountain market. “People are deciding that they want to be in the fresh air and have more open space for their family if they are going to have to shelter in place for a while.” Indeed, about 22% of about 2,300 Realtors® surveyed by NAR also say that their buyers are becoming less concerned about commute time when shopping for a home.
4. Storytelling is essential to selling. The new showing environment in many markets has impacted how buyers perceive properties. “It’s made it even more important to explicitly demonstrate how you’re going to live in the house,” explains Fling. “We’ve always told the lifestyle story of our listings through staging, but it’s more important than ever because a buyer’s first interaction with a property is very different now. There are new distractions, as they’re being asked to put on masks and booties before they ever step foot inside the property, and in California, there is a limit of two people from the same household and one agent in a property at any one time. The kids have to wait in the car, and Grandma and Grandpa can’t come along to opine. Property prep and storytelling are key.”
Craig Hogan is the vice president of luxury for Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC and a 20-year real estate veteran based in Chicago.