The days are getting colder and daylight is fading more quickly, which means people are getting ready to stay at home for what may be a long winter of COVID-19. As homebuyers and owners prepare to settle in for the long haul, they’re looking for amenities to keep them warm through the winter and provide them with experiences and entertainment in a world where going out is still on pause for many.
Winter’s hottest property add-ons
“Everybody’s digging a hole for a bonfire or they’re buying the Solo Stove, which is a new, fancy stainless steel bonfire [pit],” Billy Buck, president and CEO of Buck & Associates, Inc., told Inman. “I think every other house on my street has one … because they’re [all] in the same predicament. People are just looking to have experiences and squeeze the most out of the seasons.”
Even in regions where the weather remains relatively temperate through the winter, like in Northern California, warming amenities are trending.
“[Buyers] love outdoor fireplaces as well as hot tubs,” Tracy McLaughlin, broker at The Agency in Marin County, California and author of Real Estate Rescue, told Inman in an email. “A lot of people in this area mountain bike and surf. Coming back from those sports and jumping in a spa or hot tub and then warming up near an outdoor fireplace are very appealing in this market.”
Erin Krueger, team leader of The Erin Krueger Team at Compass, also told Inman that outdoor fireplaces in her Nashville market “are key” for buyers now, moving into winter.
In Santa Fe, New Mexico, Sotheby’s International Realty agent Darlene Streit said there’s such heightened demand for hot tubs right now that they’re backordered for months.
“Pools aren’t so common because we’re a high mountain desert,” Streit said. “But a lot more people than before, it seems, are wanting pools, and then there’s a major short supply of hot tubs. There’s like, a several month back-up on them.”
What clients want inside the home
Buyers are also looking to add features to a their interiors, too, as the seasons change, in anticipation of spending even more time inside in upcoming months when going to the park may be less attractive.
Buck told Inman that his clients are more concerned with the infrastructure of their homes these days, and want to know the ins and outs of how everything works, particularly if they have any kind of smart home systems.
“What I mean by infrastructure is, for example, if somebody has a natural gas line to their grill,” Buck said. “A year ago, that may not have been seen it as an opportunity to add a bonfire fired by natural gas. A year ago, half my clients would have been like, ‘I don’t want a bonfire.’ But, a lot of people are looking to extend summer into fall, extend fall into winter, based on varying levels of health and concern, social distancing and all those things.”
“If you’re on the more cautious side of the safety spectrum and you’re really going to take the position of staying home most of the time and having things delivered most of the time, then I find people getting a lot more granular into wanting to understand the systems in their house,” Buck added.
In addition, Buck said his clients have never been so interested in and concerned with the topography of their yards, as they consider future improvements like installing a pool or adequate play space for their kids. One of his clients was recently struggling with a backyard on a property that Buck said seemed to be “checking every box.”
“He finally said to me, ‘I can’t find a flat place to put the [kids’] trampoline; I’ve never been so concerned about a trampoline,'” Buck told Inman. “And I agree with him in that sentiment, because it is more important now.”
Krueger said her clients are continuing to optimize lesser-used areas of their homes to suit their new needs during quarantine, and in preparation of family gatherings before the holidays.
“I have seen dining rooms being fitted for home offices and unfinished space being conditioned for more livable space,” she said.
In the Pacific Northwest, buyers are most concerned about practical matters like home heating systems. Before committing to a home, they want to be sure that heating systems are in good condition and distribute heat evenly throughout the home, Rick Sadle of The Sadle Home Selling Team at Keller Williams told Inman. Tied into that desire is a want for windows and doors that don’t allow drafts into the home, Sadle added.
In addition to outdoor fireplaces, Dewan Felix, co-owner/broker at Lokal Realty in Oklahoma City, said that his clients are also looking for ways to keep the interior of their homes warm.
“Right now, there’s a lot of outdoor fireplaces being requested and a lot of gas-burning indoor fireplaces,” Felix said. “I also have a lot of clients who are wanting spray foam insulation inside the homes.”
Francie Malina, a Compass agent in Westchester, also recently told Inman that her clients have been updating and maintaining their decks and patios more so than in previous years to have space for socially-distant gatherings. They’re also buying outdoor heaters and heated tents for these spaces to continue gathering with friends outdoors into the winter season.
Similarly, buyers in Annapolis, Maryland, have been craving access to the outdoors through an all-season sunroom, said Engel & Völkers Annapolis agent Bernadette Coates.
“An all-season sunroom has been very popular,” Coates told Inman. “It’s a nice addition to entertain and relax with the family. It’s always a plus to homebuyers.”
“We have a sunroom on the back of our family townhome and have enjoyed many games and family events there,” she added. “It’s directly off the kitchen and opens to the backyard for easy access to kitchen or the grill out back.”
Creature comforts are top-of-mind for buyers in Boise, Idaho, where Group One Sotheby’s International Realty agent Deborah Phantana says heated floors are trending.
“I have seen heated floors popping up more and more in our market,” Phantana told Inman. “In the last month, I’ve seen — maybe because I’m working with more luxury buyers at this point, everyone I’m working with is at $1 million or higher — and we’re seeing heated floors become a standard feature.”
One of Phantana’s luxury clients is also building out an oversized, heated RV garage so they can “work on and maintain their toys throughout the winter.”
“I do think that people are putting additional creature comforts into their homes at this point because of what we’ve experienced through 2020,” Phantana added. “It’s making that sense of home and that use of space even that much more important. So doing those improvements at home has definitely come to a higher level of relevance.”
Update: This article was updated on October 29, 2020 with additional feedback from Bernadette Coates.