Working From Home Sees Aussies Prioritise The Home Office
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Working From Home Sees Aussies Prioritise The Home Office

Additional space for working or schooling is proving to be invaluable for homeowners and potential buyers alike

By Kirsten Craze
Mon, Apr 4, 2022 11:20amGrey Clock 5 min

Working from home was once seen as a temporary measure amid the pandemic, but many have embraced it as a permanent change that’s shaping purchasing decisions.

Luxury buyers have long had a home office high on their wish lists, but now just one dedicated space isn’t enough.

Lockdowns saw parents both try to remotely hold down full-time jobs alongside homeschooling children from primary school to university age. As a result, families are now seeking versatile floor plans that can cater to two, or sometimes three, home offices.

Data from NAB, outlined changing homebuyer priorities since the pandemic and highlighted the increased demand for a work or study area. Of the property professionals surveyed (including investors, real estate agents and developers), 86% revealed a separate work area was more important today than ever before.

The findings were unsurprising, given that more than 40% of employed Australians were regularly working from home in 2021, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

And the shift was evident in buyer behaviour with an extraordinary 1107% rise in searches for the term “home office” on property portal Domain in July 2021 for the state of Victoria—the country’s most locked-down city. The search term doubled in New South Wales, its most populous state.

Two Is Better Than One

Anna Porter, a buyer’s broker with property firm Suburbanite, said with working from home and blended study environments all under one roof, purchasers were seeking innovative solutions to get the most out of their square footage.

“In 2022, a single desk in the back of a family room won’t cut it anymore,” she said.

“Working from the dining table may have been a great band-aid solution while you juggled home schooling and mandatory lockdowns but for a longer term working solution it is critical to have a great space that you can thrive, be creative and really enjoy being in.”

Aussie homeowners and potential buyers are getting creative and looking beyond just another bedroom for their office spaces. They are considering all areas, from the attic or basement, to the garage or even the backyard, according to Ms. Porter.

“For as little as $10,000-$20,000 depending on size, quality of fit out and location, you can get a full home office in your yard and in some areas this can add an additional $50 to 100 per week to the rent if it is an investment property,” Ms. Porter said.

This house on the NSW South Coast sold in 2021 for $3.27 million and has a home office with artists’ pods in the gardens.
Cullen Royle Property Purveyors

What Buyers Want

In an ideal world, high-end buyers are seeking separate spaces as different family members are often simultaneously on the phone, conducting zoom meetings, or needing quiet time.

“But to get two offices into a house you’ve got to steal about 215 square feet of space, which is the size of a single garage and it can be tricky to do it as separate spaces,” Ms. Porter said.

With so much time spent at home over the past two years, Australians are now imagining how they might better use the space they have in their homes.

“If you think about your laundry, your dining room, your attic, your basement; how many hours a day are you spending in those spaces? Compare that to how many hours you would be spending in a home office space? So there are better ways of using space,” Ms. Porter said, adding that it is now a no-brainer for vendors seeking top dollar to show buyers how a home can work for them.

“Homes which already have an office or two laid out are definitely selling at a better price, and faster. If buyers can’t figure out a way to get the office spaces they need, they’re walking away from them.”

Deborah Cullen, selling agent and co-director of Cullen Royle Property Purveyors, specializes in luxury regional homes and has seen a large swing towards multiple office spaces at home. 

“People are mirroring what they had in the city in order to work from home in their country or beach property. A lot of our clients work a couple of days here, a couple of days there, so both partners want to have their own space. Plus they would like a study space for their children,” she said.

Ms. Cullen said when her team lists a home, the key today is to show the versatility of the property and that can come across in the presentation and styling.

“It’s about showing flexibility, demonstrating the option of an office, or two, is there if you want it, but those rooms can be used for other things. So it’s not about spaces necessarily being locked into formal offices, but allowing for the freedom to choose.”

“We never presume to know how people want to live, work and play. But it’s a really exciting time because there are no rules. Even though lockdowns look to be over, so many businesses are saying to their staff ‘You’re free to work from wherever’.”

Caption: For sale by expressions of interest, Brindley Park is a grand estate on 330 acres with both heritage and modern buildings including a freestanding library and office building.
Cullen Royle Property Purveyors

 

Make Space Work

Buying a home with a spare bedroom is the obvious choice for an extra work space, however with Australia’s skyrocketing property prices, each additional room sets buyers back between $250,000 and $550,000,especially in Sydney where the median house price is now just under $1.4 million.

Donna Allen of The Space Within, an interior designer in Sydney’s prestigious Northern Beaches, said savvy homebuyers are looking at ways to make spaces flexible without losing a family or dining room to an office full-time.

“You can morph an underused dining room into an office and still retain it as a dining area. By creating built-in joinery with a desk and storage, it can be made to look more like a traditional dining room sideboard. One day it’s a dining table, the next it could be your quote-unquote conference table.”

Some spacious under-utilized rooms can become two quite easily, according to Ms. Allen.

“I’ve got a project at the moment where we decided to put a glass wall up in the middle of the rumpus room with a sliding door to create two functional offices. If it’s just one of them at home, they can open the doors between spaces so it feels more spacious. They’ve also got some soundproofing and opaque glass for privacy.”

Located in the Southern Highlands south west of Sydney, this home has a purpose-built separate building acting as a home office with its own fireplace.

Cullen Royle Property Purveyors

She added that dual offices at home will likely become the norm as each family member has their own needs.

“The reality is, if it’s just quiet work and you’re not on conference calls, you can almost work from anywhere. But with kids at home doing classes online, and parents on Zoom, you need more than just the kitchen table, you want to actually close a door,” she said.

Open concept has been a style favourite in Australia’s contemporary home designs, however the pandemic could be changing that, said Ms. Allen.

“Although I don’t think open plan is going anywhere soon, people do want spaces that can be closed off so are really starting to rethink the trend to go open plan. Rather than knocking down all those walls, people are now more open to conversation around keeping a few in, more than they would have been just two years ago.”

 

Reprinted by permission of Mansion Global. Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April 3, 2022.

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House values continued to fall last month, but the pace of decline has slowed, CoreLogic reports.

In signs that the RBA’s aggressive approach to monetary policy is making an impact, CoreLogic’s Home Value Index reveals national dwelling values fell -1.0 percent in November, marking the smallest monthly decline since June.

The drop represents a -7.0 percent decline – or about $53,400 –  since the peak value recorded in April 2022. Research director at CoreLogic, Tim Lawless, said the Sydney and Melbourne markets are leading the way, with the capital cities experiencing the most significant falls. But it’s not all bad news for homeowners.

“Three months ago, Sydney housing values were falling at the monthly rate of -2.3 percent,” he said. “That has now reduced by a full percentage point to a decline of -1.3 percent in November.  In July, Melbourne home values were down -1.5 percent over the month, with the monthly decline almost halving last month to -0.8%.”

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“Potentially we are seeing the initial uncertainty around buying in a higher interest rate environment wearing off, while persistently low advertised stock levels have likely contributed to this trend towards smaller value falls,” Mr Lawless said. “However, it’s fair to say housing risk remains skewed to the downside while interest rates are still rising and household balance sheets become more thinly stretched.” 

The RBA has raised the cash rate from 0.10 in April  to 2.85 in November. The board is due to meet again next week, with most experts still predicting a further increase in the cash rate of 25 basis points despite the fall in house values.

Mr Lawless said if interest rates continue to increase, there is potential for declines to ‘reaccelerate’.

“Next year will be a particular test of serviceability and housing market stability, as the record-low fixed rate terms secured in 2021 start to expire,” Mr Lawless said.

Statistics released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this week also reveal a slowdown in the rate of inflation last month, as higher mortgage repayments and cost of living pressures bite into household budgets.

However, ABS data reveals ongoing labour shortages and high levels of construction continues to fuel higher prices for new housing, although the rate of price growth eased in September and October. 

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