Everywhere we turn, we see impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, from the “new normal” in face masks and social distancing to truncated sporting seasons and canceled events of all types. As we’ve shifted to working from home, it’s only natural to wonder what the pandemic impact on real estate will be. From home design to home amenities, real estate after the pandemic will not be the same. I recently wrote about home office trends for luxury real estate, but it’s likely we’ll see many additional changes and trends.
Pandemic Impact on Real Estate Features
Luxurious bathrooms are a must-have in any estate or luxury property, and there’s one element that’s predicted as essential in post-pandemic bathroom design and amenities: the portable electronic bidet. The bidet is a common feature internationally, one which many U.S.-built homes have heretofore lacked.
The toilet paper shortage in the early days of the pandemic inspired many people to think again about the bidet. After years of Europeans wondering why there are so few bidets in U.S. homes and hotels, the bidet has become sufficiently prominent that a new manufacturer, Tushy, recently bid for naming rights of the Orchard Park football and sports complex in Buffalo, New York.
The Buffalo Bills football team, assuming that fans will be able to safely attend, could play in the “Tushy” stadium for the 2020/2021 football season. Tushy makes attachments that transform traditional U.S. toilets into bidets.
Other post-pandemic bathroom trends include touchless fixtures. Although many homes have had touchless faucets and flushing for years, manufacturers are rushing more hands-free alternatives into production as hygiene is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. In addition to no-touch bidets and self-flushing toilets, companies like Kohler and Sloan have accelerated their development of beautiful and functional faucets and dispensers, some of which use intelligent technology to be environmentally friendly, as well as convenient and hygienic.
More expansive property
The interest in urban living has crashed for understandable reasons, and homeowners in all market segments are seeking more space, from suburban homes with larger lots and a bit of privacy to estate homes. Fortunately, Napa Valley has plenty of both, which explains the extraordinary migration of Bay Area residents to our beautiful small towns. Napa Valley estates have ample greenspace, from vineyards to open space and wilderness-adjacent grounds. They meet the need for privacy and the ability to stay safe within beautifully designed grounds and green space buffers. It’s so much easier to stay safe and socially distanced, while continuing to enjoy the outdoor lifestyle that Napa Valley is known for. And of course, having a backyard with outdoor dining in our beautiful warm weather is a huge benefit and so much easier to social distance and entertain friends and family.
Multi-generational homes and compounds
The COVID-19 pandemic has focused everyone’s attention on the health of our elders. Whenever possible, I’m sure that families have wanted to keep their elderly relatives living at home with them, but in the wake of COVID and its special risks for older people, the trend toward multi-generational living has increased. It’s difficult to forget the early days of the pandemic when children and grandchildren were forced to communicate with their parents and grandparents through FaceTime due to quarantines.
The solution? Keep and care for your elderly parents or other family members at home. A number of Wine Country estates offer space that can be adapted for older family members. Changes necessary for safety are simple and easy for experienced contractors to create which will enable older family members to live safely, eliminating the need for a senior care home or similar facility.
The same is true of younger family members. Although younger people have had a lower mortality rate from COVID-19 than older people, there’s no assurance that the disease won’t change, or that other pathogens could produce a future risk.
A family compound needn’t be like the famous Kennedy family compounds and other similar properties owned by notable families. There are many properties in Wine Country that could support a compound with homes for several generations and extended family members, as well as associates and staff.
Safe delivery space
We’ve all become inveterate customers of convenient mobile or online shopping platforms. And there’s seldom anything more frustrating than awaiting a delivery only to find that it has either been lost in transit or that an enterprising package thief has taken the delivery for themselves. Rather than adopt the approach of extensive security coverage and “catching the thief” after the fact, a more pro-active approach is gaining favor. Dedicated, secure delivery spaces in or near homes are the latest trend, and I expect they’ll be increasingly common in years to come. Amazon and similar retailers have locker space in central community locations: There are several in Napa, but there are as yet none of these secure facilities upvalley beyond Napa city limits.
If you’re purchasing a Napa Valley winery, vineyard, or estate, of course, you’ll have proper security. However, we must also take potential pathogens into consideration. You may choose to use a secure package delivery center on your property which can hold packages until they’re deemed safe. Luxer makes upscale package delivery centers, including secure package rooms with easily controlled access using video, mobile, and touchscreen technology.
Some smart designers have also begun to include convenient recycling bins which are co-located with package delivery areas or rooms, so packages may be opened and packing material quickly disposed of outside of your primary residence. Many of these new solutions will also be able to accept drone deliveries; we know this is on its way.
Healthy home features as a result of the pandemic impact on real estate
Touch-free conveniences throughout our homes will certainly become essentials in the wake of the pandemic. Voice controls for media and lighting are already available; I covered some of these helpful technologies in a previous blog post about smart home devices you’ll love for your luxury estate.
Some industry experts refer to these appliances and controls as part of a “sensor-driven” home. Everyone will welcome automatic trash bins that require no “hands-on” effort. A variety of touch-free door locks and doors are available. One low-tech option that could eliminate the need to grasp a door handle or pull is the foot pull. Any door with a latch can easily be adapted to work with a foot pull device. There are also portable, hands-free devices available that eliminate the need to touch doors in public locations. It’s much easier to keep a device like this sanitized and available in bag or pocket than it is to worry about juggling paper towels or using scarves, etc. to touch public door handles.
And finally, with so many of our interactions moving online and becoming remote, I’m very interested in home solutions for Zoom or other video meetings. Designers are creating savvy, easy-to-use home videoconferencing studios so you can not only look your best on conference calls, but also enter and leave them quickly and seamlessly. Real estate after the pandemic is certain to continue to change, and all of the trends so far are easily found in Napa Valley’s wineries, estates, and other upscale properties.