It has been reported by many that the effects of COVID-19 will no doubt be felt for years to come and the life we had become accustomed to will no longer exist. However, is it all doom and gloom?
Societal behaviour and patterns will most definitely change as a result of the widespread disruption and danger we have all been exposed to. After all, this is simply a natural human response and one that has been recorded in history time and time again.
Once a society feels a threat, it adapts. We spent years in school reading about how historic pandemics shaped the behaviours, requirements and desires of the communities it affected and in more recent times, we have experienced similar shifts ourselves following global events such as 9/11 and the 2008 recession.
The COVID-19 pandemic is no different to those that have come before it. People will learn and adapt in response to what they have experienced and make the necessary changes to ensure they do not find themselves in a similar situation again.
Perhaps the biggest change we’ll see is increased migration from large cities and city centres to more rural, less densely populated areas.
Experts warn, large cities all over the world including New York, Toronto and London, will all experience a drop in demand for new property as residents embark on a search for a new home, which ticks all the boxes on their new, reflective checklist of lifestyle priorities.
Alistair Brown, CEO of Alistair Brown International Real Estate (ABIRE), a UK based real estate sales and marketing company focused on international property, explains the reasons behind the shift.
“Having been confined to their homes for weeks on end, people will be feeling claustrophobic and nowhere is this more apparent than in highly populated areas, where confinement is restricted even further to a small apartment.
“It’s no secret that space is scarce in what once were, popular and desirable cities to live and work in. While this was previously a sacrifice people were willing to make, having now felt this level of confinement, this will no doubt change.
“These areas are known for having large sought-after tower block apartments. However, on the new home checklists we will begin to see multiple spacious rooms, gardens and fewer neighbours - things that people will no longer be willing to compromise on post-COVID-19.”
Working from home
Another big lesson to come out of the lockdown is the ability to work from home. This is something that many people are predicting will continue after the pandemic.
“Having been forced to work remotely, with little warning or time to prepare in most cases, many will have recognised the benefits of having multiple rooms or more space where an at-home office can be set up. And should remote working become the new norm, this desire will only get stronger,” explains Alistair.
A small apartment in a densely populated city certainly will not suffice and people will have a greater urge to move elsewhere to find a property that does.
“And with less need to travel to a city centre office, employees can enjoy the freedom of no longer having to take into consideration their commutes when searching for a new home, enabling them to move further away.”
Health is wealth
Having lived in a highly populated city, these people would have experienced a greater risk of being exposed to the virus.
“After feeling this level of threat to yourself or your family, it is no surprise that you will be more inclined to move somewhere further away to reduce the chance of ever experiencing this danger again,” Alistair reassures.
As well as being an issue for residents living in populated apartment blocks, people are also at risk while commuting to work or getting around the city on public transport. When you live in a city centre, it is often not feasible to get around in a personal car so public transport is the only option; an issue not faced in more rural, less populated areas.
This trend has also been seen in the office lettings industry. Richard Smith, Founder & CEO at Office Freedom, leading agents in serviced office space explains.
“We are aware that moving staff away from densely populated city centre locations is certainly under consideration and some companies have been discussing splitting teams into smaller groups and relocating to regional hubs.
"When lockdown is finally over, we will enter a new world, a new normal, which will be a major reset and reboot for everyone.
"As a result of the life changing circumstances we are all experiencing together, in my opinion, one thing is for sure, business will never be the same again, especially in regards to property and business priorities, such as reducing costs and preserving capital.
"In terms of office space, for me, flexible workspace and agile working is the way to go. Decrease your overheads and increase your flexibility so that you are best prepared for the future, no matter what transpires.”
Value for money
The financial impacts of COVID-19 and the drastic measures that have been put into place to control it are already being felt. With concerns about financial hardship on the minds of many, sensible financial decisions, particularly regarding rent and mortgages need to be made.
The high rent prices associated with properties in large cities around the world will no longer cut it. Instead, individuals will seek greater value for money with larger, more spacious properties that have better amenities in fringe areas or more rural locations.
The post COVID-19 paradigm shift will no doubt be an interesting one. We are already seeing changes in behaviour across industries through people’s searches and enquiries but, whether these come to fruition or are just a flight response to the current threat, is yet to be revealed.