Nila Sweeney | 28 Aug 2020

For months since the pandemic hit, Sydney selling agent James Price was convinced vendors would be forced to sell due to financial pressures as a result of the lockdown.

But he quickly realised the trigger for most sellers was less about money and more about space.

“We were waiting for that financial hit like everyone else, but then we started seeing a trend where bigger homes or anything that’s more substantial relative to the area, were still doing really well,” said Mr Price, director of Hudson McHugh.

Tony and Megan Paull are selling their home at 3 Rowallan Avenue, Castle Hill, to have more space as they continue to work from home. Renee Nowytarg

“So I looked at the list of people who were considering selling in the short term and found that almost all of them were upsizing. They’re professional, double-income families who work from home.

“I assumed that household financial pressures would begin to have more influence. I was wrong. Most people are jammed at home and they need more space.”

Tony and Megan Paull were among those grappling with the cramped space when they decided to sell the family home at 3 Rowallan Avenue, Castle Hill, in Sydney’s north-west.

“Our four-bedroom house is quite comfortable for a family of four, but with two teenagers home schooling and Megan and I working from home, the house has gotten a little packed,” Mr Paull said.

Tony and Megan Paull said their four-bedroom home has become a bit cramped since they started working from home. 

“The house started to feel a lot smaller, and we’ve been pretty much on top of each other since March.

“So we’re hoping to get a larger home, maybe a two-storey house that’s big enough to accommodate our two teenagers who need more space and us working from home.”

Demand from upsizing buyers also soaring

Ray White Castle Hill sales executive Sara Perry, who is handling the sale, says the number of upsizing vendors like Mr Paull had been growing since the onset of the pandemic, and so had buyers.

“Around 80 per cent of our inquiries are from buyers and sellers who are upsizing,” Ms Perry said.

“They are upgrading because they now have the flexibility to work from home, so bigger homes are in high demand.”

Buyer’s agent Amanda Gould of HighSpec Properties says in addition to larger space, all her clients are demanding a dedicated home office when searching for a home.

“We have seen a number of clients upsizing directly due to COVID restrictions,” Ms Gould said.

“No matter what their budgets are, all our clients are asking for a study on top of their bedroom requirements. They want a dedicated space where they can set up a home office that doesn’t impact their living arrangements with their families.”

Home office becoming a must for buyers

This trend was even more pronounced in Victoria, where the stricter stage four lockdown in greater Melbourne has prompted a staggering 1107 per cent rise in searches for “home office” on Domain – the strongest increase of all states and territories.

Home office searches have nearly doubled in NSW, and have more than tripled across the country during the same period.

Domain’s senior research analyst Nicola Powell said while the search term “study” has always been a fairly traditional search term in Victoria, “home office” was new to the agenda.

“Prior to the pandemic, the use of home office was infrequent but soared in popularity amid the COVID-19 crisis,” Dr Powell said. “The importance of a dedicated workspace has hit the home wish list for home buyers.”

But the strong demand for bigger homes is not being met with housing stock, Mr Price said.

“These homes tend to turn over less frequently and they’re tightly held so there are only few of them on the market, at least in Sydney’s inner-west,” he said.

“That’s why we’re seeing some buyers bidding up and pushing prices higher at auctions, and also explains why values have not fallen dramatically.”