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Picket fences?

Ada Slivinski: For many, the pandemic has spurred a rethink of their individual housing situation.
Coming back in fashion?

Over the past four months, you have likely spent more time at home than ever before. Spaces previously used for rest and recreation became offices and makeshift schools. It should come as no surprise that many are looking at those spaces a bit differently.

Open concept used to be the default preference; just watch any home renovation show. Often the first thing they do is tear down walls. Now, as shut-in family members crave some quiet and privacy, walls are making a comeback.

Architect David Hart told City Lab that more people are searching for homes with home office and one builder estimated that up to 75 per cent of new apartment units will have one (previously that number hovered between 10 to 15 per cent).

The pandemic is forcing a rethink of commuting and workspaces. As Zoom meetings have become the norm, property values in the suburbs and places previously known as commuter towns could shoot up, while condos in city centres see a dip, as many realize they truly don’t need to be downtown in the city core every day for work.

In a special report, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation said that the COVID-19 pandemic will lead to a "historic recession in 2020," which will lead to "significant falls in indicators of the housing market,” a little ironic because there has never been more emphasis on the time spent at home.

According to RBC, “This year's home resales could dive by 30 per cent to a 20-year low as physical distancing limits sales while the economic fallout erodes confidence and leaves speculators sitting on the sidelines.” RBC bank analyst Robert Hogue said “A shock like this one is an inauspicious time to get full value for a property. We expect for-sale inventories to shrink, which will further contribute to stall activity.”

When that rebound comes, change will follow. In addition to more segregated spaces and home offices, some interior designers are predicting a trend towards hands-free appliances, keyless entry, bidets in toilets (think back to the toilet paper shortage in March) as well as of course outdoor space -whether it’s a spacious yard or a small condo balcony. Many are stocking up on food like never before, so bigger pantries and more freezer space might see a resurgence.

After months of being confined to a condo, a roomy house in the suburbs may start to look good and some of the core’s key draws – proximity to things like work and great restaurants –make less of a difference when those things are shut down, and likely will be again.

That’s what’s coming. The big unknown is how long a market like this will last.