AusFinance Gazette

Working from home could completely transform the property market

When the pandemic forced us into lockdown earlier this year, no one knew how they’d go working from home. Some of us doubted our ability to maintain productivity, while others wondered how many episodes of The Office would qualify as work-related research (spoiler: none). But over the last few months, the majority of us have not only adapted to the change; we’ve thrived.

Now that so many Australians have had a taste of taking meetings in slippers and sending emails from the couch, the prospect of going back to the office fulltime seems both unappealing and unnecessary. But if the WFH trend continues post-pandemic, it’s not just the office landscape that’ll change—the property market will undergo a major transformation too.

If we can work from wherever, then wherever we live won’t matter (say that three times fast). If commute times and proximity to the workplace become irrelevant selling points when it comes to choosing where to live, some of Sydney’s most sought-after suburbs are in for a serious shake-up. Shortening our work commute has long been a top priority for working Australians, with accessibility to employment hubs heavily considered when determining a suburb’s livability rating. But when the only commute you need to worry about is the one from couch to kitchen, suburbs outside the obvious become much more desirable.

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This will mean that many potential buyers will be more attracted to regional cities and smaller suburbs for both their affordability and larger property sizes. Up until now, one of the main reasons Sydneysiders have shunned regional areas has been due to lack of job availability, but as remote employment looks set to stay, that’s no longer an issue.

Wanting to make a ‘tree change’ to more a regional, less built-up area will also likely be a common side-effect of us all living on top of each other these past few months of lockdown—particularly in the more densely populated Eastern and Inner-city suburbs of Sydney. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to never hear what my next-door neighbour’s sister’s partner thinks about Bitcoin ever again.

Working from home is also set to change the type of home people are seeking to buy. In the last five years, demand for properties with a workspace has close to quadrupled and will only intensify in the coming year or two. Whether it be an extra bedroom, study, or even a detached studio or garage, the property market is set to see a rise in demand for larger family homes. This demand for more space will also further elevate the desirability of more regional suburbs where more spacious and affordable homes are on offer.

Finally, the commercial real estate market could see a significant decline as less businesses seek office space. Office vacancy rates in the CBD have risen steadily over the past few months as many companies move to working remotely full-time. The same goes for retail spaces, as more small businesses close-up shop due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

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