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COVID-19 shifts home ownership goals

Australians are increasingly prioritising spacious living and separate study areas in their next home amid COVID-19 restrictions.

The COVID-19 pandemic restrictions have significantly changed home ownership goals and what Australians want most in their next home, according to new research.

The research by major bank Westpac has found that with more Australians working from home and juggling school and family commitments under one roof, spacious living is now the top priority.

The survey of 1,176 Australians aged 18 and over has revealed that 34 per cent of all respondents want to live somewhere less populated, 31 per cent want to be closer to either parks or shops, and 20 per cent are seeking suburbs with larger properties.

Meanwhile, 27 per cent have prioritised outdoor features like a backyard, while 18 per cent want an entertainment area. When it comes to being indoors, 20 per cent have rated having a separate study as important while 15 per cent want a larger kitchen.

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Westpac managing director, mortgages, Anthony Hughes said Australians have been using the lockdown period during the coronavirus pandemic to re-evaluate their living space and how it would meet their future needs.

“For many of us, staying home for an extended period has changed how we use the space we live in, whether that’s home schooling from the kitchen table or setting up a makeshift office in the lounge room,” Mr Hughes said.

“Our research suggests that this has started a behavioural shift in what Australians want in a home, with people now seeking more space outdoors, proximity to parks and beaches, and even larger properties.”

With respondents saying they would like a separate study in their homes, Mr Hughes observed that more people want their homes to cater to both their professional and personal lives.

“With the government’s recently announced HomeBuilder grants, we expect more Australians will be considering a major renovation to upgrade their home to better meet their needs, or even starting a new home build to cater for their changing lifestyle,” he said.

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The survey also revealed that Australian home owners are less likely to prefer high-density living in a post-pandemic world, with 77 per cent saying they would now prefer to live in a house because of COVID-19.

This is compared with 22 per cent who sought a home in an inner-city or urban area back in 2019, according to the Westpac 2019 Home Ownership Report.

Westpac has introduced support measures for its home loan customers who have been affected by COVID-19.

Customers who have lost income or a job can apply to defer their mortgage repayments for up to three months, with a further three months available upon review.

“We are already contacting customers before their three-month deferral term is due to end to see how they are going and if further support is required,” Mr Hughes said.

“We’ve also made changes to give customers more flexibility with home loan repayments.

“This means eligible customers with interest-only home loan repayments can apply to extend their term for up to 12 months, while those with principal and interest repayments can switch to interest-only repayments for the same period.”

The findings from Westpac have come at the same time as ING released a new report on home ownership patterns in Australia, with a focus on shift in trends amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Titled Future Focus: Homeownership report, the research found that since the lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, 30 per cent of Australians now see their homes as a “lifestyle hub”.

Despite the easing of restrictions in public spaces, 39 per cent plan to continue exercising more frequently at home, while 30 per cent want to dine more frequently at home. A further 30 per cent said they would socialise more at home, while a quarter said they would work at home more often.

Millennials looking to purchase property are prioritising fast internet (40 per cent), while 37 per cent are prioritising an outdoor space like a balcony, garden or patio, and 27 per cent want a space to exercise.

[Related: COVID-19 demand shocks rattle Melbourne housing]

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Malavika Santhebennur

Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.

Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.

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