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Column: Pandemic may shape ‘wants’ and ‘must haves’ for homes

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Home is not just a place. It is a personal sanctuary where we can rest, heal, love, grow, learn, feel safe, create memories and shape our children’s lives.

My family has lived in our current house for about a decade, and like everyone else in Hawaii, we have never spent so much time at home as in the past three months amid the coronavirus pandemic that forced the lockdown of Hawaii and residents to retreat to their homes.

As we sheltered in place, our family had our share of challenges and flare-ups. It’s been said that “people usually are the happiest at home.” But whoever said that probably didn’t have to deal with virtual schooling their kids while trying to work from home.

It hasn’t been all bad. We enjoyed more family time, talks and dinners. We tried to Marie Kondo our house (just to have it cluttered again). We walk our neighborhood more, which allowed us to get to know our neighbors better.

Being quarantined at home 24/7 can quickly reveal what you love or dislike about your living quarters. Whether you are in the market for a new home or considering a redesign and remodel, here are some features that may become “must haves” or strong considerations as we move forward and spend more time in our homes:

Home offices

Many Americans are finding out they can and must be able to work from home efficiently. Some may continue working from home and telecommuting for the foreseeable future or even permanently as companies try to cut costs and people realize spending a couple of hours commuting each day isn’t healthy or productive.

So, having a den or defined area for an office, workstation or simply a small, quiet, private space to take work or Zoom calls will be important for many people, even after this pandemic is over. Some also may consider workspaces for children to study or conduct their virtual classes.


The walkability, accessibility, safety, convenience and overall feel of a neighborhood always have been critical in choosing a home to buy or rent. The importance has been highlighted in this pandemic.

Hopefully, we won’t have to shelter at home again for a second round, but living near parks, trails, beaches and shops always will be desirable.

And neighbors are so important. Your good (or bad) neighbors can make all the difference when it comes to the enjoyment of your home and neighborhood.

Open spaces

Open-concept floor plans where kitchens flow into living rooms are not new. These areas serve as hubs for families to gather, eat and entertain. In the future, people may be hesitant to dine out or watch movies, so these areas may become more in demand.

There will be more of a desire to expand and incorporate outdoor spaces as well. This outdoor-indoor living is ideal in Hawaii, where we have the best weather in the world.

My family never appreciated or used our backyard as much as we have in this pandemic. We need to be outdoors. We need fresh air. We need to move. We need an area to sit down and relax.

Storage space

Where are people going to store all the toilet paper and paper towels that’s been hoarded?

Joking aside, if we stay and work from home more, we may need to store more food in our pantries and more office supplies in our closets.

Energy efficiency

I cringe when I think of what our Hawaiian Electric bills would have been if we didn’t have photovoltaic powering our house as we stay home in the daytime, cook more and continuously use air conditioning to stay comfortable. The next step for us would be the electric vehicle to share in the goal of sustainability and reducing carbon emissions.

There are generous federal and state tax credits available to homeowners who install solar on their rooftops. Hawaii State Federal Credit Union is also offering an attractive loan program with a 0% interest rate and no payments for 24 months for PV systems.

Other than PV, other ways homeowners can use Mother Nature in their home design include taking advantage of natural sunlight and utilizing the tropical tradewinds.

These aren’t necessarily new features or ideas, but they only will be underscored during the pandemic and as we eventually adjust to the new normal in the years to come.

Jaymes Song is a top-­producing agent with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Advantage Realty in Kahala. He can be reached at 228-3332 or

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