Will we go back to the office full time, once the coronavirus crisis is finally over? Labour market experts and behavioural specialists are following developments closely. However, there are signs that the switch to home working is beginning to have an impact on the housing market.
I have definitely noticed a change in the way people are approaching buying a house since the start of the coronavirus pandemic,’ says real estate agent Mie-Lan Kok, who specialises in helping international workers find a home of their own. ‘People are looking at properties and thinking about how they would be able to work from home. They want to know if they can place a desk somewhere away from the main living area, for example, especially if they are part of a couple or have young children. And extra bedrooms are now at a premium.’ This means that the demand for properties with more rooms is likely to increase, as home working becomes more entrenched. ‘Home seekers are more willing to compromise on the location if it has that extra potential,’ says Mie-Lan. ‘Space is is more important than ever.
This, she says, is particularly true of families with young children – where home working takes on an added dimension when the kids are around. ‘If you need a quite place to work, because you have to really concentrate or take part in online conference calls and meetings, then you need somewhere where you can lock yourself away.’ Larger properties come at a premium in the bigger Dutch cities, particularly Amsterdam, where more than two bedrooms is a real plus. And now that the lure of the city centre – instant access to restaurants, theatre and cinemas – has become more muted, areas that are purely residential are also growing in popularity. ‘Quiet, green areas are definitely on the up,’ says Mie-Lan. ‘It used to be that people wanted to live close to their work, with a short commute by bike, but now space and outdoor space in particular, have a higher priority.’ ‘Our younger customers in particular are keen to have an outside space, much more so than they used to be,’ she says. ‘Being near a park, walking on the beach, these things are becoming more important. People appreciate the value of being able to go for a walk and nature. It is almost as if work is becoming less of a priority. People want to have time for themselves.
So if you have decided that now is the right time to buy a property, what are the key issues you should think about? ‘Before you start, you need to sort out the money side,’ says Mie-Lan. ‘See a mortgage advisor, preferably an independent one, and get yourself a budget. Then you need to decide what is important to you about buying a property. What are your priorities? Do you plan or expect to work from home for example? And recognise that you will always need to compromise.’ Next on the list is to find an estate agent to guide you through the process and to talk about what options are open to you given your finances and your priorities. You can, of course, go it alone, but in today’s seller’s market, an estate agent will give you the edge, particularly if you are not confident in Dutch and in dealing with officialdom. ‘And when you go to a viewing, really imagine yourself living in that home and think about how your day will be, especially if you are going to be working there,’ she says. Space is now more important than ever, but so is making a place your own because you are going to spend more time there. ‘Coronavirus has made families more important, because we are spending more time with our loved ones,’ says Mie-Lan. ‘But you also need a space of your own and some time for yourself.