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New must-have for home buyers: An office

By John Seelmeyer
Published: Last Updated on

The coronavirus pandemic is beginning to influence the kinds of homes that buyers want in Reno and Sparks.

But record-low interest rates on home mortgages are a far bigger factor these days, real estate professionals say.

With the sharp increase in the number of people working from home — one study estimates 42 percent of Americans were working exclusively at home offices this summer — dedicated spaces for work are increasingly important.

“According to an internal survey conducted by Reno-Sparks Association of Realtors, most buyers are now looking for a deliberate workspace with privacy to allow them to work from home,” says Erika Lamb, president of the association.

Christy Klingler, a Realtor with Dickson Realty, says the subject clearly has been on the minds of some of the buyers with whom she’s been working.

“I have had several comment on needing an office or looking specifically at places that have a room that could be an office because of the uncertainty of when they will return to work,” Klingler says.

Facing the prospect that they’ll be housebound for a while longer, buyers also are giving greater importance to backyard space that’s completed and ready for outdoor entertainment or play, says Lamb.

But they’re not necessarily looking for a bigger house.

“We have not had buyers specifically searching for a larger home as a result of the pandemic,” says Dan Smith, a branch manager and broker with Dickson Realty.

But he says remarkably low mortgage rates — a 30-year conventional loan has been running just a tad over 3% lately — allow buyers to purchase more home without taking on a larger monthly payment.

On the other hand, Smith says the inventory of homes for sale in Reno and Sparks is so tight these days that buyers don’t have a lot of opportunity to be picky about square footage.

How tight are inventories? The Realtors association said in June that the number of homes on the market represented 1.3 months of sales.  A balanced market typically offers inventories equal to five or six months of sales. The association said inventory levels tightened by 41% from May to June.

Those tight supplies, coupled with buyers’ eagerness to take advantage of low interest rates, are keeping prices afloat even during the pandemic.

During June, the Reno-Sparks Association of Realtors said 537 existing homes were sold through its Multiple Listing Service. That’s a decline of 6% in sales volume from the same month a year ago. The median price of an existing home in the region, however, was stable at $407,000.

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