ANDERSON — The coronavirus pandemic has done more than upend the local real estate market. It likely has transformed the criteria many potential buyers have for the spaces they call home.

More than a year after the first reported case of COVID-19 in the U.S., millions of workers are still doing their jobs remotely – and in some cases, that has meant reimagining the necessities.

“People are realizing they have different needs in their house,” said Jada Sparks, an agent with Carpenter Realtors. “They need the home office. They need a place to put a gym. They need a homeschooling room.”

While homeowners may be using their spaces differently, local builders aren’t necessarily seeing the trend translate into the construction process. Instead, house plans are often defined by a desire for more overall space in order to provide more options for its use.

“(Dedicated) office space in homes has been a trend that’s been going on for awhile,” said Jack Michael, owner of Michael’s Construction in Anderson.

He added that normally, plans don’t specify what certain parts of a house will be used for.

“It can be a bedroom or an office, whatever,” he said. “We try to utilize the space as best we can.”

Instead of searching for new houses, many people are choosing to remake their current dwellings to fit their needs. Several local home remodeling companies and contractors who do related work have noticed a pronounced increase in such projects, including rewiring and other work to more clearly define spaces where specific activities can take place without distractions.

“People have time to think through their house and how it’s laid out and what they want to do,” said Brian Miller, president and co-owner of West Electric in Anderson. “I see people changing out light fixtures, adding outlets, asking about running data cables (for increased bandwith). I think definitely this will keep going.”

With spouses working from home – and children schooling from there – many people are looking for a change simply to avoid feeling like the walls are closing in. But they’re finding fewer houses on the market – and by extension, fewer choices of customized floor plans.

“I have had clients on the residential side who are wanting more square footage because of the work from home and the schooling from home,” said Nick Rodgers, owner of RE/MAX Real Estate Solutions in Anderson. “I mean, you have everyone right there, and you need more space.”

Even after the pandemic subsides, Michael suspects the demand for bigger homes – or at least homes that feel bigger – will persist. Buyers want more space, he said, so they can get more out of that space.

“It’s been going on long before the pandemic. It’s been going on for years,” he said. “It’s almost safe to go ahead and build a four-bedroom (house), but you know someone will want a five-bedroom soon after.”

Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.

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