Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today – The New York Times

Changing homes in the pandemic.

Amelia NierenbergJonathan Wolfe


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Credit…The New York Times

The past year and a half has been one of the most turbulent periods in recent real estate history. The pandemic not only changed where some of us lived, but also what home means.

In a new series we’re calling “Our Changing Lives,” this newsletter will be exploring how the pandemic altered the way we live now. To start off, we spoke with Stefanos Chen, who covers Real Estate, about how different our homes have become.

People with means have moved, people who lost their jobs and could no longer afford rent were forced to move, and another huge population that fell behind on rent or mortgage payments became “stuck in place,” Stefanos said. We asked Stefanos about a few other trends.

Where did people move from, and to?

As much as the pandemic has uprooted everything about our lives, migration patterns have surprisingly remained largely the same.

The big exceptions were cities like Seattle, New York and San Francisco, really expensive places where people decided: “We need to move somewhere more affordable.” Space is also a function of affordability, and stir-crazy buyers decided they could get a lot more square footage by moving outside of costly cities.

Other cities that were already benefiting from inbound migration — parts of Florida, the Hudson Valley in New York, some places in the Sunbelt — continued to benefit.

Some of that will persist, if only because a lot of things we took for granted before — five-day workweeks and the centrality of downtown areas — has softened. We aren’t going back to that point.

How have conceptions of home changed?

We didn’t have to demarcate our homes the way we do now. Not that work-life balance was perfect, but there was home and there was work, and there was this big firewall. Now, at least for those who were lucky enough to be given the option to work from home, it’s 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. you’re on your work computer and then, to unwind, from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. you’re on your fun computer. And maybe it’s the same computer, and it’s in the same room. And your kids are hovering over you all day.

I think the idea of home is changing because of how the idea of the workplace is changing. There is now this blurry space between home and work that we need to keep grappling with. All of the tidy compartments we had are sort of gone.

How has the pandemic changed family living arrangements?

There was a recent national survey on the question of multigenerational home buying. The survey found that, during the first wave of the virus, 15 percent of home buyers said they bought multigenerational homes, the highest share since 2012. Some of the earliest scares were in senior housing, and a lot of folks with the means to do it decided to take their elderly parents out of those situations.

But the unpredictable market has also fueled this trend. I talked to a family in which the grandparents sold their homes because of how crazy hot the market was. They sold over ask in a week, then their adult children sold their house in less than a week. With their windfall, they bought a sprawling estate in Connecticut, where none of them had ever lived before.

We asked readers this week to send us their stories of moving during the pandemic, and hundreds of you wrote in.

We were immediately struck by how some of you moved — not once — but multiple times during the last 16 months.

Danielle, now of Jacksonville, Fla., moved twice; Laura Hornkohl in Bow, N.H., moved three times; while Ghadah Alrawi in Taipei, Taiwan, changed homes four times during the pandemic.

Many of you moved to be closer to family, or took new jobs in another state, or were free to choose where you wanted to live because of remote work. Some people, like Stephanie Harper, from Eugene, Ore., who had been considering a move for a while, took a very practical approach: She ranked places her family wanted to live based on things like diversity, access to health care and cost.

“Michigan turned out to be at the top of most of our lists,” Stephanie wrote. “We spent our first year here locked down with everyone else, but found employment quickly and are currently shopping for a home.”

As people fled New York City and rental prices dropped, people like Theadora Paulucci had the opportunity to live alone for the first time.

“The change has been extremely positive and I am so happy,” Theadora reported. “I need to be able to come home and not have to deal with anyone’s mental health issues. Conversely, I’m sure I’m overbearing and irritating.”

For many of you, expanding your living space became an urgent concern. Andrew Wallner and his girlfriend lived in small one bedroom in Portland, Ore., when the pandemic forced them both to work from home.

“We were quickly at each other’s throats about who could be at the dining room table versus taking video calls from the bedroom dresser,” he wrote. “We even made up a fictitious imaginary co-worker who we’d blame for the (frequent) messes left in our wake as we worked extended hours.”

The couple recently moved into a unit with more space, more natural light and a home office — which “has been excellent.” Even so, he added, they “still blame the fictitious co-worker for the occasional mess.”

Quite a few of you took issue with how your new communities were managing the virus.

“There is no one wearing a mask in Wyoming and we don’t really feel comfortable in the deny-culture of the American cowboy West,” wrote Anne Quinn Corr, who relocated from State College, Pa., to be near her daughter and new grandchild. Anne loved the extra family time, “but we miss our Pennsylvania life and friends and the ease of knowing our neighbors are cognizant of the Covid danger and careful.”

Erica Seeuwen and their partner disliked Florida’s virus policies, and “wanted to go somewhere we felt safer that was taking it more seriously.”

The two moved to North Carolina, which was a struggle at first, but like many of you who’ve moved house during the pandemic, they eventually learned to build a new home in their new location.

“I learned that nothing is permanent in life. If you’re scared to make a move or try something new, it doesn’t have to be forever,” Erica wrote. “Give it a shot. If it’s great, great! If not, make another change. Life is too short to be held back by the uncertainty of the unknown.”

See how the vaccine rollout is going in your county and state.