By Anil Pharande, Chairman – Pharande Spaces
Various real estate reports have pointed out that larger apartments are seeing the most demand from homebuyers in Pune, and developers have reduced the supply of smaller flats. One of the most recent Pune real estate reports confirms that 3 BHK flats have constituted about 17% of all new flats launched in 2021.
This is a big change from previous years when Pune’s real estate developers focused mostly on smaller flats because most buyers wanted 1 and 2 BHK flats. In fact, the same report states that the number of 1 BHK flats has come down by 50% in the last three years.
What has changed? Why are Pune homebuyers looking for larger homes now when they preferred compact flats just a few years ago? There is one reason – the Covid-19 pandemic has changed the entire residential real estate landscape in Pune.
Puneris have discovered a brand-new way to do their jobs in the last two years. Work from home and home-based schooling were not common before the pandemic – now, more and more firms are giving their employees this benefit.
Working from home and e-schooling is not possible if one lives in a small flat. Before, homebuyers in Pune wanted to live close to their offices and their children’s schools. But locations closest to the city’s main office hubs and education institutes are always more expensive.
Until now, the convenience of living close to the workplace and children’s school was the most important consideration for homebuyers. Today, after two major waves of the coronavirus, many of the biggest employers – including major software and BPO companies – have discovered that:
1. It is more cost-effective to let employees work from home. When office attendance rules allow only 50% of employees to work in the office, companies must maintain and sanitize offices in which only half the normal work can get done.
- When they insist that their employees come to the office, they put them at greater risk. More than 50% of employees in Pune have to use public transport to reach their offices and get back home, which puts them at a very high risk of infection.
- Most employees are grateful for being allowed to work from home and ensure their productivity does not suffer. On the other hand, when companies insist that their employees work from the office during a pandemic, they will see more resignations.
As a result, Puneris have been looking for bigger homes that allow them to operate home offices and give space to their children to attend e-schooling in peace. Because living close to the office is no longer necessary, they can look for larger homes in less expensive areas.
In 2021, the second pandemic year, most inquiries and sales at Pharande Spaces were for 2, 3, and 4 BHK homes. In the last two years, the Puneville township in the Punawale area of West Pune saw an over 50% increase in sales over 2019.
Another new priority for homebuyers today is health. Previously, health mostly meant that the project should have a gymnasium and a swimming pool. However, homeowners could not use such facilities during the first and second waves of the coronavirus pandemic. If they did not have access to a jogging track and open green spaces, looking after the family’s health became a major concern.
Meanwhile, research also confirmed that air pollution particles increase the chances of Covid-19 transmission. According to a BBC News article published in April 2020, the T.H. Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University found that even a small increase of 1 microgram of fine particulate matter per cubic meter causes a 15% increase in deaths by Covid-19. This report also stated that heavy air pollution played a big role in the huge number of deaths due to Covid-19 in New York State.
This article quoted Aaron Bernstein, the director of the Center for Climate, Health, and Global Environment at Harvard University, saying that people living in highly polluted places over time are more likely to die from coronavirus.
The news that air pollution plays a big role in Covid-19 transmission hit hard and became a big concern in cities like Pune, which has a significant air pollution problem. It is not a coincidence that more and more Puneris looked for township properties in West Pune, away from the congested, polluted inner-city areas. Not surprisingly, Vaarivana – a luxury golf-centric township in the green scenic area of Urse Central – has become one of the best-selling projects by Pharande Spaces since its launch in 2019.
As we begin 2022 with hope despite the troubling spread of the Omicron virus, we at least know that we have learned valuable lessons from this pandemic. As they say, every cloud has a silver lining. Today, we know that life, including work life, goes on even in the face of a major health crisis like Covid-19. And we also know that health is by far the greatest blessing we can have.