Much like pandemics of the past, the coronavirus has dramatically shifted homebuyers’ and homeowners’ priorities. Although much of the focus this year has been on home offices and entertainment space, Zillow’s 2021 home trends forecast proves the shift goes far beyond these two amenities.

According to the study released on Thursday, Americans are looking for pet-friendly spaces, gourmet kitchens, smart home tech that provides health and safety solutions, and a handful of “vacation-home amenities” that fulfill homeowners’ and homebuyers’ wanderlust during the lockdown.

“While public health precautions continue to keep us at home, these features will only become more popular to create spaces that keep our families safe, all while providing an oasis of comfort,” the report read. “Driven by this new COVID era, [we’re sharing] trends that will not only add comfort but might even add extra value to your home.”

Zoom Rooms

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Zillow said the number of listings with the terms “home office” or “Zoom room” increased by 48.5 percent year-over-year in November, which is evidence that Americans are preparing for long-term remote working environments. More than a simple home office, the term “Zoom room” emerged this year in reference to a picture-perfect spot in a home where homeowners could attend virtual meetings.

In June, Inman published an article about marketing “Zoom rooms” and the importance of clearly defining what the room would include. As Florida-based agent Clay Hall told Inman, Zoom actually produces a Zoom Room system complete with professional cameras, noise-canceling microphone array, and speakers.

Either way, decked-out home offices and “Zoom rooms” are likely to become a mainstay in 2021 and beyond.

Vacation-worthy amenities and entertainment features

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In addition to home offices, homeowners and homebuyers have been on the prowl for home features that allow them to experience luxurious staycations amid shelter-in-place orders. Zillow said searches for keywords  “pool,” “waterfront” and “dock” have reached all-time highs, with buyers willing to pay a 5.5 percent premium for listings that included “spa-like features.”

The desire for luxurious features spilled over into the kitchen and backyard, with consumers embarking on renovations to make those two spaces more suitable for at-home entertainment.

According to a Zillow survey in May, 41 percent of Americans said a “well-equipped kitchen” was a pandemic must-have as they built their cooking skills. When it comes to outdoor spaces, Zillow said homebuyers are looking for backyards with fire pits and outdoor kitchens — and are willing to pay up to 4.5 percent above the asking price to get it.

In November, a handful of agents shared these same insights with Inman and predicted outdoor entertainment and cooking spaces will only become more important to buyers as the leaders encourage Americans to stay home to slow the pandemic.

“People want extra space no matter where it is,” House Real Estate broker and leader Tim Collom said. “I’m doing it myself. I’m creating another dwelling on our property just to have extra space, and I think that’s critical.”

“Buyers are focusing on functionality and being able to use a space in a lot of different ways,” he added. “We’ve sold well over 100 homes [this year], and a lot of them are looking for more space.”

Tech to make homes safer and healthier

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Much of smart home technology thus far has focused on improving the efficiency and safety of homes with smart thermostats, heating and lighting systems, and products like the Ring Doorbell that add a high-tech touch to home security.

While homeowners and homebuyers still value security and efficiency, they’re now looking to smart home tech to safeguard them against the coronavirus and other viruses, such as influenza. Zillow home design expert Kerrie Kelly said consumers can’t get enough of technology that makes cleaning as simple as the touch of a button.

“Our tech-driven appliances, solid surfaces and smart fixtures have come to the rescue,” Kelly said. “Features like voice-activated faucets, robotic vacuums, and electronic-assistant controlled lights have updated the traditional tasks of cooking and cleaning by incorporating thoughtful innovation into home products.”

In March, former HomeAdvisor Home Expert and Smart Home Strategist Dan DiClerico told Inman he thought the pandemic would push Americans to begin discovering smart toilets and other health-centered technologies that are a mainstay in other parts of the world.

“I didn’t put a smart toilet in the master bathroom when we renovated a couple of years ago, and it’s been one of my biggest regrets,” DiClerico said on a personal note. “I think I’m finally going to take the plunge, in large part due to everything that’s happening in the world.”

DiClerico said smart toilets and easy-to-install bidets will only become more popular as manufacturers begin pushing out more affordable options.

In addition to health-centered tech items, Zillow said homebuyers are looking for home gyms now more than ever alongside “feng shui” areas where they can have private time away from family members to meditate or take a nap.

More room for our human and furry family members

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Record unemployment pushed millennials and Gen-Zers to move back home, a trend Zillow said is likely to stick around through 2021 and beyond. Berks Homes Chief Experience Officer Katie Detwiler said builders are preparing for this to become a long-term trend by creating homes with finished basements and additional bedrooms and bathrooms.

“According to Generations United, about one in six Americans currently live in multigenerational households, and this year, the share of young people moving back home reached all-time highs as more Millennials and Gen Z’ers than ever — particularly renters — found themselves packing their bags and moving back in with their parents,” the report explained.

With more people likely comes more pets, and homebuyers and renters are looking for amenities for their furry companions. Pet showers and fenced-in backyards are the most wanted commodities, and Zillow said landlords, in particular, are responding to these wish list items.

“An increase in furry friends joining families means “pet-friendly” rentals are on the rise, as landlords entice renters with added benefits. Zillow research found that 73.1 percent of rental listings allow pets,” the report read. “Another 2020 Zillow analysis found for-sale listings mentioning a pet shower or dog wash in their listing description sold for 5.1 percent more than similar homes, while listings mentioning a fenced backyard in their listing description sold 6.8 days faster than expected.”

Although adorable, homeowners and homebuyers should think about the risks that come with owning a pet — primarily pet odors. In September, Inman readers shared some ingenious ways to clean up pet messes and properly deodorize a home.

Small towns and new builds are buyer must-haves

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The pandemic has sparked a migration from densely-packed city centers to smaller towns with more space and affordable prices. Zillow said that trend will only strengthen with metros in Texas, South Dakota, Utah, and other Midwestern and southern states experiencing a population boom.

In addition to small-town living, homebuyers are prioritizing new builds because of the customization options (25 percent) and the fact new builds are cleaner and unused (37 percent).

Email Marian McPherson

IDX Real Estate