a room with a book shelf filled with books: WFH impact: Homes get bigger, business centres open within housing complexes

© Sounak Mukherjee
WFH impact: Homes get bigger, business centres open within housing complexes

With the work-from-home and learn-from-home culture here to stay, at least for as long as the pandemic lasts, some homebuyers, especially those on rent or those working from matchbox-sized accommodation, are scouting for larger housing spaces. Developers, too, are cashing in on the trend by incorporating efficiently designed spaces to include smaller rooms that double up as a study or an additional bedroom.

That’s not all. Some developers are going one step further and introducing business centres to ensure that those working from home have an office-like environment within their housing complex.

From ‘honey I shrunk the flat’ to ‘I increased it a wee bit’

So, have flat sizes increased during the pandemic with more people working from home or kids attending classes from home?

PropTiger Research has said that work-from-home pushed more people to upgrade homes. At least 47 percent of homebuyers wanted to look for larger homes in December 2020.

A recent report by Anarock Property Consultants has said that for the first time in four years flat sizes have begun increasing thanks to the pandemic.

The average apartment sizes in the top seven cities have risen by 10 percent on a yearly basis — to 1,150 sq. ft. in 2020 from 1,050 sq. ft. in 2019, Anarock data has said.

The average apartment size is still highest in in Hyderabad at 1,750 sq. ft. among the top cities, approximately 2x bigger than that in MMR.

The average apartment size is still highest in in Hyderabad at 1,750 sq. ft. among the top cities – approximately 2x bigger than that in MMR where, at 932 sq. ft., average sizes continue to be the lowest. Pune came next with a 12 percent annual increase in average apartment sizes — from 878 sq. ft. in 2019 to 986 sq. ft. in 2020, according to the data.

Also Read: Get ready for 6-feet offices, dedicated quarantine rooms in housing complexes

Hyderabad still had the highest average apartment size of 1,750 sq. ft. in 2020, increasing by just 3 percent against 1,700 sq. ft. in 2019. Bengaluru’s average apartment size also increased by 3 percent – from 1,280 sq. ft. in 2019 to 1,320 sq. ft. in 2020. In the NCR, the average apartment size was 1,290 sq. ft. in 2020 as against 1,250 sq. ft. in 2019, a YoY increase of 3 percent, the Anarock data revealed.

The average size of MMR units was calculated based on the built-up area of all new unit launches (1BHKs/ 2BHKs / 3BHKs, 4BHKs etc.) during the pandemic period. MMR witnessed total new launches of approximately 182 projects comprising 30,300 units in 2020 and the average size of these new unit launches was approximately 932 sq. ft. built-up. In 2019, MMR saw total new launches of approx. 584 projects comprising nearly 77,990 units and the average size of these was approximately 773 sq. ft., Anarock said.

Also Read: Mumbai Real Estate: Are you booking a home that is too small?

Anything for bigger homes

Some homebuyers were even willing to shift to cheaper suburbs and smaller cities to get larger homes. Overall, in most cities, homebuyers are opting for 2.5-3 BHK configurations wherever they can afford to purchase them.

Anuj Puri, Chairman – Anarock Property Consultants, said the two main reasons for apartment sizes reducing in previous years were affordability and millennials’ preference for low-maintenance homes.

“Keen to generate more buyer interest with smaller price-tags, developers whittled down their flat sizes. The year 2020 saw an almost immediate reversal of buyer preferences. With the accent suddenly being on accommodating the WFH and learn-from-home culture, flat sizes began increasing for the first time in four years,” he said.

Pradeep Aggarwal, the founder and chairman of NCR-based Signature Global Group and Chairman of the ASSOCHAM National Council on Real Estate, Housing and Urban Development, told Moneycontrol that the company had launched approximately 2,383 units in two projects in November 2020 and that the sizes had increased by around 8 percent.

Also Read: Average flat size in top 7 cities increased by 10% in 2020

The two projects included The Millennia III at Sector 37D, Gurugram, and Signature Global Superbia at Sector 95, Gurugram. In 2021, it will be delivering 4,500 to 5,000 units and is planning to launch a few more projects as the demand is high in the affordable segment.

“During the pandemic, the culture of WFH was widely accepted and we realised people’s need for more private space for the purpose. Since prices are pre-defined under the Haryana Affordable Housing Policy, we have tried to accommodate that extra space in the form of a study room in a 2 BHK unit,” he explains.

In the company’s earlier projects, the size of a 2BHK unit was 674 sq. ft. (balcony inclusive), and this was increased to 731 sq. ft. (balcony inclusive) in 2020 for Golf Greens 79 in Sector 79, Gurugram.

Let’s talk sizes

According to the latest data in the bi-annual update of the Gera Pune Residential Realty Report, the share of a three-bedroom configuration in new launches has improved by 31 percent, from 9.3 percent in 2019 to 12.2 percent in 2020. This is indicative of the fact that customers are trading up on size.

The share of a three bedroom configuration in new launches has improved by 31 percent

At an overall level, average sizes of fresh supply have increased by 7 percent YoY from 885 sq. ft. in H2 FY19 to 947 sq. ft. in H2 FY20. The share of the 1,201-1,400 sq. ft. segment in overall offtake has grown by 24 percent in 2020 while the over 600 sq. ft. segment has contracted by 33 percent.

Additionally, sales volumes of the 3 BHK to 4BHK apartments have also increased by 19 percent.

“The pandemic has amplified the need for larger homes given that homes now double up as offices. Children confined to learning at home online has also created the need for more space. The affordability of homes at 3.68 times one’s salary is at a 9-year high. This is only giving a fillip to this trend of trading up in size. The ability of developers to respond to this need and create a more efficient product to suit wallet sizes while offering customers the option to trade up has been the catalyst to this trend,” Rohit Gera, MD, Gera Developments, told Moneycontrol.

Bengaluru-based Puravankara Ltd’s Managing Director Ashish R. Puravankara believes that there has been no increase in unit size but demand for 3BHK, 4 BHK and villa projects has gone up.

“From our anecdotal data, we understand that buyers are not looking at the size of the houses in terms of square feet, but are rather looking forward to having more rooms in order to use them for home-office, workout or home schooling spaces. This also helps them practice social distancing,” he said.

At Delhi-based DLF Ltd, too, unit sizes are being relooked at and evaluated across projects.

How builders are paying attention to space in flats

“It has been seen that during the pandemic people who can afford to stretch themselves a bit more prefer to have bigger spaces given the fact that they are spending more time at home. People today want bigger balconies and perhaps that half extra room that could be converted to a study or perhaps a little more seating space within the bedroom where they can set up their own temporary workstations,” says Karan Kumar, senior vice president and Chief Marketing Officer, DLF Limited.

Since November 2020, the company has launched three phases of independent floors in Gurgaon. As many as 150 units totalling Rs 500 crore of revenue have been sold.

During the pandemic, the company focussed on bigger spaces and greater utilisation of floor space.

“To meet specific needs of the pandemic, the help’s room has been integrated as part of the independent floor. A 4BHK is now 4,200 sq. ft., much larger than a regular unit. Balcony sizes have gone up too. Overall, sizes have increased by 10-15 percent. It is important to note that each project has its own FAR (floor area ratio); therefore, the size of each unit will depend on the kind of FAR consumed,” he adds.

The focus is also on multi-utility rooms. “Depending on the family’s requirement, a study room can double as a guest room or a pooja room can become a study,” he says.

Sanjeev Chandiramani, COO at Ruparel Realty, has a different take on increasing sizes. The dilemma most developers are facing today is that while people do require additional space, one needs to take cognisance of the fact that people who have taken a hit on their salaries or undergone business losses may not be able to afford larger spaces, he said.

“The need of the hour, therefore, is efficient planning. Rather than creating an expensive 800 sq. ft., it is much better to design a 2BHK within 650 sq. ft. so that people utilise the space better and ensure that the affordability of the unit is maintained,” he explains.

A buyer may want to shift to an 800 sq. ft. unit but the question is can he afford it, he says.

A buyer may want to shift to an 800 sq. ft. unit but the question is can he afford it – Sanjeev Chandiramani, COO at Ruparel Realty

For its new launches, the company has tried to enhance efficiency by reducing passage areas, creating more storage space, adequately sized living space and an additional bedroom space etc.

“As many as 80 percent of our housing units have a configuration of 610 sq. ft. and 620 sq. ft. This is an ideal size from the affordability point of view. It is not fair to generalise that everybody will upgrade from 1 to 2 and 2 to 3BHK as all these decisions depend on affordability,” he said.

Have bigger sizes led to higher prices?

Puravankara says that their company’s systematic approach to implementing design changes has not caused any significant alteration in charges. “It is all about replacing an existing technology with an advanced one to meet current and future requirements. Moreover, in terms of design, the focus is on judicious utilisation of the space through smart planning, which will be driven by innovation and customer satisfaction,” he says.

At DLF, every subsequent phase of independent floors was launched at a higher price.

Chandiramani does not foresee price increases in this calendar year.

Get ready for club houses that double up as business centres

Developers are also introducing amenities such as co-working or business centres within the gated complex.

Get ready for club houses that double up as business centres

Developers are also introducing amenities

At Mumbai-based Ruparel Realty’s housing projects, specific areas have been designated as business centres within the development. These have individual meeting rooms in business centres rather than big boardrooms.

“This facility will be provided as part of standard maintenance going forward but those using the facility would have to pay an additional amount as these spaces will have to be reserved in advance,” said Chandiramani.

The company has planned business centres for one of its new projects coming up in Chembur and two launches in Kandivali.

Even with regard to breakout areas, the company plans to have these facilities scattered across projects rather than concentrated at one place in order to maintain social distancing.

“Rather than have all the amenities provided at one place, we intend having people interact separately at different places scattered across the project,” he says.

Bengaluru-based Puravankara’s Provident Housing projects Cappella and Equinox have contactless elevators and sanitisation zones.

At the unit level, it has made design changes giving buyers the option to use the hall and dining space for their work-from-home requirements. Additionally, these two premium affordable projects will see the introduction of ‘smart-furniture’ which will be the future of interiors.

For its luxury offering, the company has introduced sanitisation gates for the Purva Atmosphere project and hybrid spaces in the club houses, which can double up as workspaces.

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