Here at 4 Buyers Real Estate, the year 2020 will go down in history as the year when our summer, fall, and winter buyers chose to buy because they hate where they are living now.
In normal times, purchases feel more optional. This year, they had a special urgency. After the lockdown in the spring, prospective buyers came out in large numbers, competing with one another for the houses that were available to buy.
One of the features that people wanted, more than usual, was a big bedroom, preferably with an attached bathroom. I have some ideas about why.
Bedrooms are multi-tasking in 2020
Home office: When physical school closed last March, students and their parents scrambled for spaces where online work and online school could happen in relative sound privacy. Many parents found that bedrooms were now doubling as home offices, especially the parents’ bedroom,because that tends to be the biggest one.
Children’s bedrooms also got desks squeezed into them, as did living rooms, and dining rooms.
Pandemic guest bedroom: Parents who had work outside their houses, while school buildings were shuttered, had to find childcare. Some parents who were working from home needed childcare, too.
The safest childcare was live-in. Extended family pitched in, and moved in. Guest rooms came in very handy, since tensions ran high if an extra adult was sleeping on the living room sofa bed.
Peace and quiet: More rooms, generally, mattered in 2020. Closed doors create privacy. In 2020, bedrooms became sanctuaries. Family members or roommates needed to get away from one another.
For households with more than two people, more than two rooms were needed. Question for couples in studio apartments or condos: Who worked in the bathroom?
Isolation wards: During Covid-19, health officials urged us to isolate from our families, if we thought we might be exposed. Bedrooms with an en suite (attached) bathroom make this much easier. Sharing bathrooms creates greater risk of spreading the disease to everyone who lives there.
What about people who can’t buy the “right” place?
The Brookings Institute published on it before the pandemic really got rolling in America. Their conclusion: “America’s inequitable housing system is completely unprepared for coronavirus.”
It took a New York minute for outbreaks of the disease to show up in crowded living environments, like nursing homes, assisted living facilities, prisons, and crowded urban apartments. Some of the first U.S. fatalities from COVID-19 occurred in a nursing home outside Seattle. Contagious diseases spread rapidly in these types of group quarters, with residents living in close contact, sharing bathrooms, and eating together.
Nearly 4 million Americans live in institutional group quarters such as nursing homes and correctional facilities. Another 4 million live in non-institutional facilities, including college dorms, military barracks, and group foster homes. While colleges and universities can close dorms to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, that’s not an option for nursing homes or prisons. [source]
One of the truisms about Covid-19 spread was that household spread was highest when the number of occupants was greater than the number of bedrooms. Housing makes all the difference for safety during the pandemic.
More up-to-date information shows just how deep the economic inequality has been during 2020.
What’s in a name? The Master Bedroom
Did you notice that I managed to discuss the big bedroom – the one that parents sleep in – that one with the extra bathroom — without using the antiquated term, “master bedroom”? This is a minor point, in light of how housing affects everyone’s life.
Is “Master bedroom” a racist term that needs to go away? Is it sexist? For the National Association of Realtors®, the use of “master bedroom” in property descriptions came up again in 2020 (this comes up, over and over). Most Realtors® surveyed want to keep the term.
Instead of “master bedroom” what can we call that big bedroom? The choices on the Realtor® survey were, “Primary, Main, Owner’s Suite, Bedroom 1, and Other”. Many respondents chose “other” and made up their own way to describe that big bedroom. The comments were interesting.
The question is really about whether “master” is a problem. Does it hark back to slave days? Probably not. “The Master” may have had a bedroom during slavery times, but was it called “the master bedroom”? Probably not. The term “master bedroom” came into use in 1926, as a real estate marketing term.
But, how hard is it to modify our language? Can we break the assumption that all houses are owned by men, and historically, white men in American owned humans for labor?
Best to you and yours for a healthy and happy 2021.