Ever since Covid sent the work-from-home trend into high gear all across the country, homeowners have been converting garages and spare bedrooms into offices, or forcing rooms to do double-duty. Simultaneously, homebuilders have been reporting greater demand for homes with an extra bedroom. Lennar Homes has seen increased demand for its NextGen houses, which are designed for multigenerational living, but that people have also been buying in order to turn the extra space into a dedicated home office.
The one thing that has been lacking is the ability to personalize the office space, and to make that room work better as an office than an extra bedroom, a garage apartment, or a dining room table does. I have been counseling my builder clients recently to figure out a way to differentiate their homes from those of their competitors by hitting this need head-on and bring something fresh to the market.
As of this weekend, national homebuilder KB Home KBH is rolling out a semi-customizable home office “package,” which can be built into the home according to the needs of the person ordering the home. “At first, people saw the need to work from home as likely to be temporary, but now it’s clearly not a temporary shift. As many people adjust to working from home permanently, they desire a dedicated, personalized room for their office, and that’s what we have designed into our floorplans,” said Jeff Mezger, Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer of KB Home.
Approximately 40% of Americans are working remotely now, up from 5% historically, and long after the pandemic is over, we might see 20% of the workforce continuing to work from home. A notable case-in-point: Google GOOGL has said that employees will be allowed to work from home until at least July 2021.
In addition, many people who were furloughed during this crisis have sought out ways to be more in control of their destiny, going independent as opposed to working for a company and counting on a steady paycheck. A large number of them are becoming real estate agents, and some are fueling growth of newly-emerging ways to make a living (becoming YouTubers, who live or die by the number of subscribers and related ad revenue, or selling products on Amazon (and then there are the YouTubers who make a living teaching people how to sell products on Amazon!). Old-economy or new-economy, the trend is toward working from home.
To meet the needs of a wide range of these folks, the “KB Home Office” package includes built-in workstations and cabinetry, an upgraded electrical package, ultra-high-speed USB outlets, charging outlets and additional data connections on the desktop, custom lighting, additional windows, soundproofing, and a beverage center. Additional options can include a half bath, and doors that go directly outside the house.
These features will be useful to business professionals who hold meetings via the web, as well as students who need to attend school virtually. Demand for green screens and other backdrops is absolutely exploding as people set up their in-home web-conference room.
The packages can be quite affordable. KB’s base office package is in the $2,000-$3,000 range. That adds about $12-$15 per month to the monthly payment, which is easily justifiable as a business expense.
KB’s approach has been to re-work the floorplan for a home that is already in their catalog, moving interior walls and reconfiguring the space, but keeping the overall square footage and footprint of the homes the same. This is in order to keep the home in an affordable price range. KB’s homes nationwide have an average base price of about $400,000, which is lower than many of the other public homebuilding companies.
The KB Home Office package is available not only in their larger high-bedroom-count designs, but also in homes as small as 1,500 square feet.
Mezger said that KB Home is starting to offer its new home office concept this week at its Carmel Ridge at Spring Mountain Ranch community in Riverside, California and Talavera community in Menifee, California. He said the home office concept will be rolled out to the entirety of KB Home’s national footprint in the next 30 to 60 days.
KB is at the vanguard of this movement, but I expect to see homebuilders as a group start to embrace this cultural shift, and do what they can to make life more efficient and more comfortable for people who plan to continue working from home.