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COVID and real estate: How the pandemic bought permanent changes in home-buying trends

Adoption of digital technology, need and demand for bigger houses even if located in the suburbs or nearby hills have increased after the pandemic

(Representative image: Shutterstock)

(Representative image: Shutterstock)

The COVID era has meant that online schooling and work-from-home are very much accepted and normalised. Even when it comes to home-buying, the process of finding the house has changed post the pandemic. Let’s read more about things that have changed in the residential real estate sector and are expected to remain so for a long time.

Digital adoption

COVID-induced lockdowns and restrictions in movements have compelled every sector to adopt a digital way of doing business. Prospective home buyers and sellers, tenants and landlords, intermediaries have been using realty portals and other tools for a few years now, but the pandemic has taken it to the next level.

Also read | Home loan rates are at record lows; should you switch your lender?

“In a mere 90 days, we have vaulted forward 10 years in consumer and business digital adoption. Real Estate has become the digital first sector,” says Anuj Puri, Chairman - ANAROCK Group. Some of the new technologies that real estate developers and professionals are extensively using now include virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and 3D programmes, and artificial intelligence (AI). Developers are using VR technology to enable potential home buyers take a virtual tour of the properties digitally via 3D apps.

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Demand for bigger and better houses

People need more space at homes, especially because of online schooling and work-from-home. According to Square Yards’ online search trends, the demand for modern flexible room configurations such as 1.5BHK have seen a 54 percent rise post-COVID as compared to 1BHK, while 2.5 and 3.5 BHK houses clocked a 150 percent and 132 percent surge, respectively, across the top six cities. Homes that come with a 3BHK and plus, also witnessed a 150 percent uptick in demand since January 2021, with work-from-home and e-learning models, becoming the order of the day.

Further, as per a recent poll conducted by Square Yards research,  37 percent of homebuyers chose space/size of homes as an important factor while buying a home in the post-COVID era, while 25 percent looked at proximity to healthcare as a factor.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has ensued a paradigm shift in consumer behaviour, igniting a sense of immediate homeownership and fostering demand for spacious spaces that enhance the quality of life without compromising on the luxury quotient,” says Anupam Rastogi, Co-founder and Head NRI Sales, Square Yards.

According to Anarock, in the past two years, demand has skewed towards homes large enough to accommodate the new WFH and e-schooling realities, and the average sizes of new unit launches have risen by 26 percent.

Moving out of the city

Given the high capital values, lack of open space and high density within the cities, people are moving to the outskirts of the cities to afford bigger and better lifestyles. “The importance of health, hygiene and wellness has also shifted homebuyers’ attention towards the peripherals,” says Rastogi.

As per another poll by Square Yards, 56 percent homebuyers have considered buying a home in the suburbs where open spaces, greenery count and fresh air are in plenty. It has also spurred the need for second homes in natural surroundings that can break the mundane routine of day-to-day lives.

“Villas, farmhouses and second homes were in demand as buyers looked to purchase properties that offered superior social distancing and lower infection risk in less populated, greener environs. Also, with WFH being the new normal, people could work from anywhere,” says Puri.

Witnessing the demand, developers are also launching more projects in peripheries of metros. According to Anarock, peripheries witnessed increased traction with more than 60 percent launches in the suburbs.

Given that many companies are now adopting hybrid work models, online classes are now getting preferred, in most cases these trends in home buyers’ behaviour are expected to last for long.

Ashwini Kumar Sharma
first published: Jan 6, 2022 10:36 am