This article was researched and crafted by the experts at property search tool, Search Smartly.
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered the way we live and work. Many Londoners have had to change their lifestyle completely in order to comply with government restrictions and stop the spread of the virus. It’s no surprise, then, that coronavirus has changed the way renters search for properties.
Priorities have shifted for flat-seekers. Those who choose to stay in urban areas like London are looking for more green space, faster Internet, and better locations. 2020 isn’t over yet, but renters’ priorities have already changed drastically from 2019. Depending on how the coronavirus pandemic evolves, trends could shift again just as easily. So what has changed in renters’ search for properties?
Private Outdoor Space
In 2020, renters increasingly want their own outdoor space. Whether it’s a garden, terrace, or balcony, an outdoor area that renters can have all to their own makes a difference in today’s market. Being stuck in their flats during pandemic confinement made many city-dwellers realise the importance of having a private green space where you can get fresh air away from the masses.
Proximity to Public Parks
Some people are less finicky about the masses, though, and are willing to go to a public park instead of having a private garden. But that park should be close by for a flat to catch a renter’s attention. Private outside space and proximity to a public park have become two of the most important factors in the search for properties, according to a Benham & Reeves survey. Before, these factors barely made the top 10.
A Willingness to Commute Longer
Research from property search site Search Smartly has shown that Londoners are more willing to put up with a long commute. Already in 2019, commute times were increasing, going from an average of 45 minutes to one hour. Now, with many people working from home all the time or at least part-time, the long commute seems less burdensome to renters. Commutability has, therefore, fallen down the list of important factors for renters.
Less Importance on Proximity to Public Transport
Just as commutability has decreased in importance, so too has the reliance on public transport. Being near an Underground or bus station was a top priority in 2019. This year, it falls behind fast broadband, green space, and access to a concierge in renters’ priorities. Fewer people commuting for work and fewer people leaving the house due to confinement mean less public transport usage.
Affordability remains a steady constant for many renters. Green space and good Internet are nice, but they won’t move into a flat if they can’t afford it. This trend doesn’t change much each year and 2020 is no exception. The pandemic has upended several ways renters look for property, but not price.
After affordability, location remains a top priority as well. Location matters for green space, proximity to a good school, and nearby shops and supermarkets. Some people also factor family and friends’ location into their decision. Choosing a flat to be near family and friends was the third most important factor for tenants in a Knight Frank study.
The importance of broadband hasn’t shifted much – it was the second most important factor in 2019 and moved up to number one, according to Benham & Reeves. As the work from home model becomes the norm, renters will prioritise flats with access to fast broadband Internet. Throughout 2020, people have been spending more time at home in general, entertaining themselves by streaming content or video chatting with friends. Faster broadband is essential for these at-home activities.
Increase in Cycling
Research from Search Smartly also showed a 77 percent increase in a willingness to cycle. This trend aligns with Londoners’ decreasing reliance on public transport. With more cycling, it’s possible renters will want flats close to cycle lanes.
Close to Supermarkets
While proximity to supermarkets isn’t the most important, it’s still a factor in the back of renters’ minds when they’re choosing a flat. The nearby shops and amenities are part of why many people choose to live in a city. COVID-19 has changed that, forcing shops to close and shifting to online shopping. Regardless of this change, many renters still want to have a supermarket nearby, either because they don’t like to buy groceries online or because they still have to pick up their online order in person.
According to the Benham & Reeves survey, onsite security is a top factor, just after broadband and proximity to green space. The pandemic won’t change the fact that renters value safety and want to feel secure at home. This desire has the potential to increase, as more and more families with kids are choosing to rent instead of buy.
Coronavirus Has Changed Renters’ Attitudes
The rental market is still feeling the effects of COVID-19 and will continue to do so for a while. It’s possible that the pandemic has brought some more permanent changes to renters’ preferences, just as it’s brought long-term impacts on our daily lives. Dynamic search tools like Search Smartly can help renters and real estate companies navigate this shifting market and respond to the COVID-19 trends.