As we all know all too well, COVID and its aftermath has brought about significant changes to the way we live and work – and more importantly the where we live and work.
One of the most dramatic shifts has been the widespread adoption of telework – also known as work-from-home, remote work, or hybrid work. The adoption of telework all started with the necessary need for social distancing measures. The real estate sector in Alberta has also been impacted by this trend, and it's important to understand how this has changed, and will continue to change, the industry.
Before the pandemic, many people in Alberta worked in traditional office settings away from their homes, usually within urban areas in the city. However, the onset of COVID led to a significant increase in telework, but as the worst of the health emergency fades, many want to keep working from home.
This has had a profound effect on the real estate sector in Alberta. With more people working from home, there has been a shift in demand for real estate properties, particularly for homes that are suitable for telework.
A home that does double-duty
This unique period in our employment patterns has highlighted the importance of having a comfortable home that can also support telework. Many people are now looking for homes with dedicated office spaces, high-speed internet zones, and other amenities that can facilitate working from home.
As telework becomes more common, it is not surprising that having a designated workspace at home has become an important factor for many when choosing a new residence. According to the 2022 Pulse Survey of multifamily respondents in the U.S. conducted by Gensler, 20 percent of those surveyed listed "space to work/study from home" as one of the top five reasons for moving to their current residence. What we are hearing in Alberta mirrors this desire for a workspace at home.
While affordability, quality, and space were the top three factors for most survey respondents, the importance of a work area at home was on par with other amenities such as private outdoor space and pet-friendliness. As remote work becomes an entrenched pattern of many people's lives, having a home office or study space is becoming an increasingly crucial consideration when deciding where to live.
This highlights the importance of focusing on the design and functionality of individual living spaces when it comes to creating a comfortable and productive environment for telework. It is crucial for real estate agents to take these factors into account when finding living spaces that meet the needs of modern-day residents.
Even with a waning of the pandemic – the World Health Organization has declared an end to the COVID-19 global health emergency – many of the foundational changes in how we view homes will continue into the foreseeable future. As more people experience the personal (if not productivity) benefits of telework, it’s doubtful they will want to go back to the ‘old normal’. The demand for homes that support hybrid work will persist.
Agent skills are adapting
The telework trend has also led to an increase in the popularity of virtual home tours and online real estate listings. Real estate websites now offer these virtual tours and 3D floor plans, allowing prospective buyers to explore a property from the comfort of their own home. With the shift to online listings and virtual tours, real estate professionals must leverage social media platforms and have strong digital marketing skills to succeed in the industry.
Additionally, there has been an increase in the use of data-driven tools and analytics in online real estate listings. Many websites now offer advanced search filters and personalised recommendations based on a user's search history and preferences. This helps home-buyers to do their own research and work alongside their real estate agents.
Real estate agents – both new and established – will need to keep up with these online marketing trends and adapt to digital transaction tools to stay competitive. Professional photos and videos can help to showcase a property's best features and attract more potential buyers. Some home listings also offer drone photography to provide a unique perspective on a property's location and surroundings, especially since many homes during the COVID-19 pandemic were purchased sight-unseen.
New markets, new upgrades
Another trend that has emerged during the rise of telework is the upswing in suburban and rural real estate markets. With many people leaving urban centres in search of more space and a quieter lifestyle, the demand for homes in suburban and rural areas has increased significantly. This has led to increased competition and rising prices in the most coveted areas.
It's important for individuals to do their research and work with experienced real estate professionals to navigate the housing market in Alberta. In turn, agents must keep up with market trends and understand the types of properties that buyers are looking for.
According to a 2022 Conference Board of Canada report, design matters when it comes to our day-to-day living experience: “The design of the physical environment has been proven to make a difference.” Real estate agents should be open to helping their clients find homes that can be renovated to fit the needs of the individual client.
Real estate agents should also be able to work with design professionals, city builders, communities, and political leaders to not only redesign existing spaces to make them more attractive to homebuyers but to better support the future built environment.
A changing workforce needs flexible employers
The shift towards telework is causing many companies to reconsider the role of the traditional office space. As a result, the office has evolved into a destination for human connection and innovation, with a focus on amenities that prioritise employee comfort, wellness, and accessibility. With these investments, companies hope to increase worker productivity, company culture, and overall satisfaction.
However, as the work-world continues to shift, it is important to view the office as a continuously evolving space and maintain a mindset of adaptability. Those who embrace this mindset will be better equipped to navigate the changing landscape of the modern workplace and create spaces that meet the needs of both employers and employees.
(Read our blog post The uncertain future of the traditional office to learn how companies are responding to hybrid models in the average workplace, how this can affect the sales of homes moving forward, and the changing expectations for landlords.)
By staying informed and adapting to emerging trends – from digital marketing to trending design styles – real estate professionals can take advantage of new opportunities and stay competitive.
Are you a real estate agent or investor in Alberta? We’d love to hear from you! Let us know about the impacts of telework you are observing.
Keeping in the know
Check out our blog series Home is Where the Work Is? based on our research on telework in Alberta. Through these blog posts, we will cover topics such as:
Understanding how remote work is changing the real estate industry
How telework led people to move from the downtown core to suburban and rural areas
Green tips for working-from-home
How telework has changed how we design and use spaces
Find all our resources – and all our blog posts in this series – at www.AlbertaTelework.ca. Presented by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology and RFS Consulting, and funded by the Alberta Real Estate Foundation.