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REAL ESTATE TIPS: COVID-19 has changed the look of home offices

I will be the first to admit that I personally don’t know Columbus very well at all.

In fact, it was only about three years ago that I figured out which shopping area was Polaris and which was Easton. And that is only because I figured out that the East in Easton implied the east end of Columbus.

On a side note, while I may know little about Columbus, one of our agents, Lindsay Peters is a pro. Many of you know her as Galen and Sherri Lehman’s daughter. Her husband is from Columbus so she knows the ins and outs and the neighborhoods and has successfully put property under contract in that area.

While she might notice things like neighborhoods, restaurants and school districts, the thing I notice is traffic and an insane amount of commercial construction. It’s everywhere. Buildings popping up high in the sky. I see a ton of office space for lease both new construction and existing construction. Every time we have driven by over the last few years, I wonder why in the world construction companies are building so much office space and why companies don’t just have their employees work from home. To me, in many cases, that seems much more efficient. No utility bills, renting by the square foot, office furniture, etc. Maybe I should take a trip to Vegas! Apparently I can predict the future of commercial real estate! Because now a lot of people are working from home. All kidding aside, the home office is going to be something that we hear about for a while and could be something to consider in the future.

I remember the homes in the ’90s — in particular the early ’90s — were often built with big home offices. The fancy ones all had a similar look – one entire wall of wooden bookcases and cabinets for books, memorabilia, pictures and awards. The large desk built with the same wood as the shelves was the showpiece of the room. For those who didn’t have the square footage for the big desk, there was the built-in desk in the kitchen to serve a similar purpose. The next big phase in the home office was, well, to not have one. Working from home was not a thing yet but the laptop was. If one was working from home it was normally “extra” work and not the 9-5 job so it was just as easy (and way more comfortable) to work on your laptop from your couch than a big wooden desk.

Then March came and things suddenly looked different. People were almost instantly working from home. Some companies were set up for that (my friend who works at Smucker’s had been working from home a few days a week for several years). Some were not. Some people were happy to work from home. Some were not. Maybe it was a lack of structure, perhaps they missed their community and friends, or they had kids yelling “mommy!” every few minutes. It was an adjustment.
Will working from home be the new thing? Time will tell.

If I were a business columnist, I could write an entire series on the work from home concept. I’m kind of an expert at it. But for now, we are just going to talk about what a home office looks like in 2020. My answer? It depends. What are you going to be doing from home? Do you need a quiet dedicated space? Or will you just open and close the laptop from the dining room table? Do you have things that you need to have handy in your office? Books to reference? Filing cabinet(s)? These are the things that will make a difference. My educated guess is that if you are now working from home, your office computer is all that you need. With that in mind and with trends that we were already seeing with the home office prior to March, here is what I see the home office looking like today:

* Light and airy
Comfy and informal offices are what people want. It is an extension of the rest of the house. Decorated in a similar fashion. Functional and bright spaces are what people like. A space that you want to be in.

* Quiet space
I remember years ago, I sold a house to a couple who needed a home office. The husband worked from home, still does in fact. He wanted a room away from the other bedrooms so that it would be quiet from distractions when his family was home. His employer was in another county but he was disciplined in his work space. Not only did he want a separate room with no interruptions during the 9-5 time but he even had a specific 30 minute lunch time that he took each day! For him, and for many working from home, the less distractions the easier it is to get things done.

* Flexible
While people want quiet when they are working they might not care after hours. In the business space that I am in, I hear a lot of women talking about how they have a home office and when the door is closed, the kids are trained not to go in. For some people that is their preference. It is only an office. Period.
Others want flexibility. Whether it be because they don’t need a full room for an office, they don’t want to limit the use of the square footage or they are squeezing into another space that is already taken, flexibility is key.
Money guru Dave Ramsey says that he started his business on a card table in their living room. The living room doubled as an office. It was a flexible space.

Whether you never worked from home, currently work from home, or would like to in the future, don’t go overboard on a home office.
Most of us will need minimal space or not need one at all. So a big home office the size of a bedroom does nothing for resale. What you use as a home office, someone else might use for toys or a ping pong table. If you do need to work from home and you want a space to do that but don’t know where to start, I can help. Just call me. I have worked from home and hotels and cars for years. I can show you how to set one up that uses the space that you have but makes you able to work comfortably.
If you are building a new home or remodeling, I would not suggest having a ’90s type office unless you really truly need it or you have a plan to potentially turn the space into something else.
Styles and trends change regularly. We might be having an entirely different conversation in 10 years. But for today, the home office is about flexibility in terms of space, function and location. The good news is that a house doesn’t have to have a home office, even post COVID-19, to be marketable. The other good news is that as of today, July 2020, the home office can look exactly like YOU want it to. Have a blessed week!

Esta Ryder, Broker/Owner
President’s Club
Ryder Realty, LLC

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