COVID-19 has forced us to reassess the way we live and build in the future. As our homes become everything from office to gym during lockdown, many people have realised the growing need of having a versatile home to live comfortably.

Although working from home is an emerging trend during this pandemic, it will become a new normal as the workforce is given more flexibility where people can choose to work. Once the pandemic subsides, each household may have at least one person that want to work from home in the foreseeable future.

While some people enjoy working from home, many people struggle as they have found themselves working at home without an ideal space dedicated to work. Kitchen benchtops and dining tables have been turned into makeshifts home office, yet they quickly become inadequate as they are not productive workspaces.

Many people have started re-evaluating their housing options as they have realised the importance of having a home that needs to be both liveable and functional for work purposes. Data recently released by Domain shows property searches with key word for home offices has doubled across several states in Australia, while in Victoria the searches activity increased significantly by 830% in April and May compared to February and March this year. Property buyers are looking for a dedicated space for them to carry out tasks without compromising productivity at home.

Unsurprisingly, people are not only just looking for a home that accommodates for work needs but they are demanding multi-purpose functional spaces as they spend more time at home. As people work, study, exercise, socialise and relax at home, they are looking for versatile designs in a home where spaces can be easily and comfortably configured into workspaces, gym, reading rooms and retreats. Many young families are also keen to have a second living room or a designated play area for their kids to segregate the spaces at home.

Another interesting shift in home preference has been liveable outdoor spaces where people can easily access nature from their own home. After weeks of being cooped up during lockdown, people desperately crave for more outdoor space to breath fresh air and enjoy the natural sunlight from the comfort of their own home. According to REA’s data on Searches for COVID- Related Keywords, searches for ‘outdoor’ has increased nationally by 41% compared to the past pre-COVID year.

Especially for apartment dwellers, life in lockdown has proven to be very challenging and it has triggered people to demand for more liveability in their home. Since the pandemic, larger balconies and rooftop gardens have become essential items that people look for in an apartment.

With a complete shift in buyers’ needs and preferences, property developers and architects must be flexible with their product offering – particularly in new apartment designs where their functionality and purposes have been redefined during COVID-19.

As new projects are designed and marketed, innovative designs incorporating multi-purpose spaces will be highly sought after by buyers. One brand new residential project that is specifically designed for flexible living arrangements is The Seasons in Melbourne’s leafy suburb Doncaster East. Developed by JD Group, the last stage release of these brand new apartments at The Seasons offers a diverse range of one to four-bedroom options across four buildings.

Numbers of enquiries from first home buyers and local downsizers has increased during the pandemic as people have more time on their hands to do more research and make an informed decision on what is the best housing option for them. As expected, big and spacious apartments with flexible home office option layouts have gained popularity as the growing need to work from home drives demand.

In particular, the large two-bedroom two bathroom plus multi-purpose room configuration at The Seasons has drawn the most attention from buyers. These multi-purpose spaces are cleverly designed as a flexible living option, most are located behind the kitchen or adjacent to the living room to create a natural extension from living spaces.

Equipped with NBN connection sockets and European Oak floorboards, these 10-12 sqm spaces are exceptionally versatile and can be easily converted into a home office or a second living or dining room, kids’ playroom, home theatre, wine bar or mini home gym. For astute investors, many will convert this space into a third bedroom to increase rental return and they also see this as an opportunity to increase the resale value of the apartment.

“Buyers love the concept of multi-purpose space as they have not seen it in any other apartment projects in the Doncaster East area before,” says Peter Hu, Sales Manager at JD Group. “The degree of flexibility and adaptability of these apartments are very appealing to buyers. Not only does this provide a solution for people that want to work from home, we have also seen buyers create a flexi-room by furnishing the space with a pull-out sofa bed. The versatility of having a second living room during daytime and a guest bedroom at night-time is a real winner.”

The interaction between the apartment and outdoor area is also well thought-out at The Seasons. All apartments come with at least one large balcony; some even consist of two balconies with different outlooks from the apartment. Ground floor apartments provide buyers with access to oversized courtyards and gardens. Above all, each building has its own rooftop garden and every resident can relax and enjoy top of the hill view from the rooftop garden.

“Buyers get to enjoy the view comfortably and safely from their own balcony while sipping on their morning coffee,” says Hu. “Interestingly many have said they particularly enjoy looking at The Pines Shopping Centre where they do their daily errands and grocery shopping at.”

JD Group has held over 250 private inspections since the lockdown and 70% of settlements have taken place in June with more buyers getting ready for settlement in July, according to Hu. “We are excited to welcoming new residents at The Seasons and we are confident our versatile apartments are more than just a home, they are everything you want them to be.”