‘Home sweet home office’ impacts real estate priorities during pandemic

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Jason Tangen of Shrewd Real Estate checks on details of a property with a homeowner during a listing appointment Tuesday, Sept. 22. 2020, in St. Cloud.  (Photo: Dave Schwarz, [email protected])

“I need more space” is more than a breakup line as potential homebuyers shop around during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the summer, Jason Tangen —  realtor and owner of Shrewd Real Estate in Sauk Rapids and board president of the St. Cloud Area Association of Realtors — saw a shift in what homebuyers were looking for as they shopped for a new place to live amid a pandemic that has altered many habits and decisions for seven months.

“Obviously, lakeshore went kaboom,” Tangen said last week of increased interest in waterfront properties. 

That’s a statewide trend, Minnesota Realtors CEO Chris Galler said last week. Minnesota Realtors represents more than 21,000 agents in the state. Many saw their vacations out-of-state or -country canceled, and instead looked for a property closer to home families could enjoy regularly.

According to Tangen, the pace of new listings — slow during lockdown — has quickened as sellers come to grips with what it means to sell their home in a pandemic.

Interest in different amenities growing

While the weather might be hinting at autumn, for realtors, this season might feel a little more like a late spring.

“I almost feel like we’re having our spring season now,” Tangen said.

And with low interest rates on loans, he’s not convinced winter will have its typical lull as people usually put off moving while the snow flies. 

Related: 2019 continued down trend in number of homes for sale in St. Cloud area

Statewide, homeowners have also become more interested in locations farther from work as their work moves home with them more often, Galler said. Since the pandemic started, 52% of realtors saw buyers looking for homes in less populated areas, according to a July trend survey of 300 realtors across Minnesota conducted by Minnesota Realtors.

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Jason Tangen of Shrewd Real Estate talks with a homeowner during a listing appointment Tuesday, Sept. 22. 2020, in St. Cloud.  (Photo: Dave Schwarz, [email protected])

And with children doing school from home and a partner on a different business call, a home office has moved up the list of priorities for buyers, Tangen said. 

Matt Imdieke owns Central Minnesota Realty and serves as multiple listing service president for St. Cloud Area Association of Realtors. He said he’s hearing buyers putting more deliberate consideration into workspaces for their children.

“That’s something I didn’t hear a year ago,” he said last week. 

Buyers are interested in more square footage, but also other features: pools, Tangen said, and home theaters.

“I find people going more gaga over those types of amenities,” he said.

He wasn’t alone; Minnesota Realtors’ trend survey saw 66.5% of realtors report the pandemic had a moderate to significant impact on buyer interest in outdoor spaces.

Helping buyers shop online

Tangen took on some home listings during the lockdown. He did a live Facebook tour for one that he said had 2,500 people log on to see it. Since seeing that interest, he plans to incorporate it more permanently into his work. He expects other realtors to do the same. Virtual tours have improved since the onset of the pandemic, and he expects they will get better and better.

“This whole pandemic, the push to what we can do online, the virtual showings, the virtual open houses and stuff , it just got pushed up so much further and go so much better, and as agents, I think we got better at it,” Tangen said.

Imdieke said he saw virtual showings increase, especially in cases where an interested party couldn’t travel, but he doesn’t expect people to move away from wanting to physically visit a house before choosing to buy it.

“People just buying homes based on the virtual showings and tours, I’m not seeing it on my listings or with my buyers,” he said.

Sarah Kocher is the business reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Reach her at 320-255-8799 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @SarahAKocher.

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