So, we’ve finally made it to 2021 — and what a year it’s been. It’s pretty safe to say that 2020 brought a whole load of unexpected change. We saw a significant shift in our consumer habits, workplace culture and most notably, the amount of time we spent at home. 

But as we grew more accustomed to working, playing and staying indoors, it led to some big revelations on what we’ll need from our homes moving forward. 

And while it’s normal for renters’ demands and preferences to shift year on year, the pandemic hurled them in a completely different direction. Making this year the one to watch.

From architecture to community presence, HomeHero will look at some of the household trends we’ll leave behind in 2020 and more importantly, the ones renters will be expecting in 2021. 

More balconies, gardens and patios

Let’s cast our minds back to the first national lockdown. It’s the spring, we’re stuck at home, and Britain’s set for one of the hottest summers on record. And while we began to adjust to a strange new lifestyle, the rental market saw a surge in demand for properties with access to private outdoor space.  

SpareRoom, the UK’s leading house-share website, found that the number of renters advertising for houses with balconies, gardens and patios doubled over the summer. For gardens, in particular, the number of internet searches rose by a whopping 98% compared to the previous year — with balconies and patios following similar exponential growth at 96%. 

This trend is, without a shadow of a doubt, a result of the nation becoming a little more appreciative of the outdoors. The ability to access the natural world, breathe in the fresh air and absorb plenty of sunlight is what got many of us through the first seven weeks of ‘full lockdown’. 

Not only does a private garden or patio call for safe socialising, when restrictions allow, but it allows many renters to revel in the health benefits that gardening and exercise gives us — especially when it’s out in nature. Research shows that it boosts our endorphins, reduces anxiety and stress levels, and reduces the risk of developing chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. 

And as a recent research study revealed that 72% of women and 60% of men said they’re more likely to spend time outdoors in the future, many renters will be fighting for properties that come equipped with gardens and patios in 2021.

Inadvertently, we may also see an end to tenant and landlord conflicts regarding the maintenance of these areas, as more renters will take pride in their outdoor space this coming year. Everybody wins.

Plenty of bike storage.

As the pandemic deterred many of us from using trains and buses, the government announced back in May that they’d be investing a staggering £2billion into boosting greener active transport. 

The package set out to develop protected ‘pop-up’ bike lanes, wider pavements for pedestrians and safer junctions across England, as well as issuing vouchers for bicycle repairs to encourage people to dust off their old bikes and use them for covid-free travel. 

As a result, the number of internet searches for properties with bike storage also soared by 1500% since the initial lockdown began — and with the government’s dedication to making cycling more accessible, this renter expectation trend is likely to take the rental market by storm in 2021. 

Having your own private balcony or terrace will also play a part in this major trend. To kill two birds with one stone, so to speak, a balcony will provide a space to indulge in nature while safely storing a bike or two.

An adequate home office.

According to the Office of National Statistics (ONS), a whopping 46.6% of people in employment worked from home in April 2020. In a separate survey, 65% of respondents said they’d be more productive in a home office than working in a normal one. 

The research study also suggested that London employees were saving up to £57.78 per week by working from home — making working from a sofa or kitchen table a popular choice.

But it’s not all sunshine and roses. 30.9% of remote workers say that they struggle with loneliness, whereas 62% stated they wanted their employers to provide better technology to stay connected to colleagues. 

A further 22% of respondents said that ‘switching off’ after work was their biggest challenge. 

And with longer work hours and shorter lunch breaks becoming increasingly common, a blurred work-life balance is a concern. Moving forward, many renters will be seeking an efficient home office space that caters to effectively separating work from play — and this is where ditching the reigning ‘open-plan’ living space comes in. 

According to John Lewis & Partners, the trend for communal living spaces, which kickstarted in the 1970s, is beginning to die out. Over lockdown, 1 in 5 Brits re-designed their open-plan living space to create designated zones for multiple activities; such as home offices and makeshift gyms.

For home offices, in particular, more renters seek privacy, efficient noise control, and suitable furniture to facilitate their work-life balance. And as office furniture sales soared, our homes’ architecture and design significantly shifted from encouraging ‘social togetherness’ to the physical segregation of space —

and will continue to do so in 2021. 

Smooth and easy property management.

Another lockdown revelation was that many UK renters sought smooth and agile property management that saves them time. Let’s take WiFi, for example. 

According to a survey conducted by Zen Internet, a broadband service provider, 89% of respondents wasted an average of over 30 mins per day due to poor internet connections, with 12% losing an hour or more.

While broadband providers theorise that slowness and unreliability were due to increased connectivity, many users were scrambling to switch to another internet provider — to no avail. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, frustrated broadband users could not switch after Openreach said its engineers would be prioritising essential repairs and avoiding unnecessary home visits. 

Not only did this lead to work delays, but having to wait on and liaise with broadband providers also takes up a significant amount of time from renters’ leisure, too.

Household services, such as cleaning, also followed a similar pattern. The average man and woman spent a combined total of 39 hours per week on unpaid household services over the initial lockdown period — carving a massive chunk of time away from the things that matter most. 

However, there’s a trend that’s been emerging over the recent years that mitigates this, and that’s outsourcing home services. As there are now more millennials hiring cleaners than ever before, and there was even a 63% increase in people outsourcing help with their Christmas tasks in 2020, this is a trend we don’t see going anywhere.

And at HomeHero, we’re here to facilitate this. Switching broadband providers or cleaning the kitchen has never been easier, as we’ll manage all of your household admin for you. 

A thriving local community.

Lastly, we have a thriving local community that’s friendly and helpful. This renter expectation doesn’t come as a surprise, as the amount of volunteer work soared over the pandemic. 

In the first national lockdown, over 10million UK adults volunteered to help their communities. Research showed that 1 in 5 UK adults (19%) volunteered an average of 3 hours of their time for community activities, such as food shopping, delivering prescriptions and phoning people struggling with loneliness. 

We have become a nation of volunteers during the Covid-19 crisis”, says Nigel Wilson, Legal & General’s chief executive. “And – judging by the millions who plan to continue after the lockdown – it is a change that’s here to stay”. 

This growing trend may also reflect why SpareRoom found that 56% of renters regarded empathy, kindness and thinking of others as more important in a flatmate than they had previously. 

For us at HomeHero, this is where the true value lies. We’ll be able to connect you with a friendly neighbourhood immediately. From dog-walking to collecting a delivery on your behalf, there are plenty of like-minded, local Heroes that’ll help to make your home life easy, simple and hassle-free in 2021. 

The takeaways…

So, there you have it — just some of the main renter expectations for 2021. After the tough year we’ve all had; the key takeaway point is that many renters are looking for a home —not just somewhere to live. 

While properties near the cities’ hustle and bustle dominated the rental market for years, renters are now focusing on what’s within their homes and how it facilitates a comfortable, easy and more connected lifestyle. 

So, plant some vegetables, buy some ergonomic furniture and outsource home services to help you live the home life many renters are seeking this coming year. 

And on that note…here’s to a great 2021! 

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