Smaller homes and convenience now prioiritised by families

The cost of living, return to office life, and shift in priorities highlighted during lockdowns are driving Australian families back to smaller homes close to convenience and community.

The cost-of-living crisis has stayed the hand of some prospective buyers and sellers who are waiting for market conditions to change, but for those still out there searching for homes, the financial squeeze has asserted its influence in another way.

New research commissioned by ING suggests that Australian families — meaning adults over the age of 18 with children under 18 living at home — are more likely to be looking for smaller, low-maintenance homes as the reality of increasing interest rateshigh house prices, and higher-than-average inflation sets in.

More than a quarter of Australian families considering buying said they believed a big home would cost too much to maintain in the current financial environment. And one of the prime motivators for a majority of COVID-19 moves is now an aspect on which buyers are prepared to compromise: almost one in five (19 per cent) said they would opt for a home with less outdoor space.

At the same time, families are also re-evaluating their need for size versus convenience, as they bump up the priority to be close to certain amenities and with a shorter commute, now that office life has resurged as a regular part of the week.

The report found that 86 per cent of Aussie families currently looking or thinking of buying are searching for a home in a “20-minute neighbourhood”, where all their daily needs can be met within a 20-minute walk, drive, or bicycle ride.

According to the research, more than a third (38 per cent) of Aussie families said that being closer to work is a priority in their next move, while a similar figure (36 per cent) would like to be in close proximity to public transport. Time is a factor here, but many are also looking to minimise travel costs.

Furthermore, a fifth said they were looking to live closer to friends and family after being separated during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Of the practical concerns driving home moves, 63 per cent said that a grocery store was the most desirable amenity to have within a 20-minute walk, while 18 per cent reported that good food delivery was among their priorities.

As Fiona Prater, head of mortgages at ING Australia, commented, “Australians are clearly responding to another shift in context and rethinking what they consider to be the ideal Australian home.

“The pace of family life has picked up as we’ve emerged from the pandemic, and families are undeniably wanting a more efficient and balanced lifestyle.

“With the heightened costs of living, families are thinking about how they can keep their costs down, and a smaller home that’s closer to public transport or work and costs less to maintain is a smart way to achieve this.”

But even with the cost of living biting at their heels, Aussies haven’t lost sight of what’s most important.

“They’re willing to sacrifice a big home to be closer to amenities, family, friends and work in order to spend more time doing the things that matter most to them with the people they care for most,” Ms Prater added.

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