We are used to looking for a home close to the office and only stay in extra-urban properties for a few weeks while on leave. Last year brought a distinct shift to these traditional attitudes and emphasized the idea of a ‘second home’.
Surveys of our own and of foreign luxury property markets show an increased interest in homes in what was considered holiday or seasonal destinations until recently. The health crisis caused by the spreading of COVID-19 led to an elevated demand in seaside and mountain resorts, as well as for apartments and houses beyond the boundaries of major cities. The data also shows an overall rise in transaction volume in the residential property market, where the decline during the first lockdown in the spring of 2020 was followed by a strong recovery of demand and transaction volume over the coming months.
The big changes came with the new lifestyle, triggered by the two lockdowns and the transition to working from home. Convenient travel to the office was replaced by the need for more personal space, working space and amenities at home. The emphasis on adopting a healthier lifestyle also had an impact and many buyers turned their attention to areas offering more affordable conditions for sports and outdoor activities in nature.
‘In recent months many people were left with the sensation of literally being prisoners in their homes. This made them rethink their lifestyle and their attitude to the concept of home,’ Svetoslava Georgieva, Chief Operations Officer of the luxury properties company Unique Estates, stated.
This resulted in changes in the attitude to extra-urban areas – from places where you are looking for a home for the weekend and the summer months, into places of lasting interest or longer-term occupancy.
‘Generally speaking, the concept of a ‘second home’ refers to a vacation house or apartment that you use during the summer or winter months but only spend no more than 30% of the year there. Now, this market has transformed, particularly with regard to well-managed villages and satellite small towns around Sofia,’ Svetoslava Georgieva added.
Unique Estates targets areas such as Bankya, Vladaya, German, Lozen, as well as Elin Pelin and the surrounding villa areas and villages around it east of Sofia. They offer easy access and established transport links to the major city but at the same time provide additional benefits, such as mineral water, proximity to a mountain or a forest, clean air… The demand is focussed mostly on detached houses with a large yard, but there are also quite a few buyers preferring properties in gated complexes with security and maintenance.
According to Unique Estates’ consultants, in many cases buyers are also looking for a combination of a suburban house and an apartment in the city, to be used depending on their needs and business commitments.
A survey conducted by Luxury Portfolio International in six of the most popular destinations for the purchase of a ‘second home’ globally is showing a rise in the interest of increasingly younger buyers. In many cases, they are not on the market for a vacation property, but rather for a permanent residence. The conclusion is that working from home in many cases results in a shift of priorities – from proximity to the office to a property that is more in line with the lifestyle of its occupant.
Similar trends are witnessed in the Bulgarian market. The attention of the millennial generation is increasingly drawn to suburban areas. The reasons are similar to the ones presented above. A number of surveys emphasize the fact that younger buyers prioritize the balance between work and personal life and that is reflected in their choice of home.
On a global level, some of the most coveted amenities related to the purchase of a home are: a pool, personal training space and a home office. Buyers are also keen on opportunities to charge an electric car or a Tesla, as well as ‘smart’ security and facility management systems.
In the Bulgarian market the picture is a little bit different, partly because of the limited supply of suburban properties with the listed amenities. Personal space is of particular importance, i.e. the presence of a yard and more working space, entertainment space and relaxation space at home are essential traits. Energy efficiency also remains an important criterion, and people are looking for homes with energy-saving solutions for heating and cooling, catchments, irrigation system. Modern architecture and materials utilized are also important for buyers in the luxury segment.
Overall, with the growth of the luxury property market, more and more detached properties and complexes are being offered in suburban areas. This is a trend that is sure to impact buyers’ attitudes in the future.