It would be an understatement to say that we spent a LOT of time in our homes during the coronavirus pandemic. But while we were busy binge-watching vintage TV shows, baking bread and finally going through cupboards and closets to take excess items to a self-storage facility, many of us discovered something. Our house may not be exactly suited to what we need in the “new normal.”

If you’re thinking about changing your housing situation—whether moving or upgrading what you have—you’re hardly alone. We talked to those in the know in the real estate industry to find out what features are making “home sweet home” a little sweeter in the COVID-19 environment.

Home Office Space

It probably comes as no surprise that this is the most sought after space; in fact, a survey from HomeLight names the home office as the most-requested upgrade. With millions of people now working remotely, home office space is becoming essential, notes Ashley Baskin, licensed real estate agent, who serves on the advisory board for Home Life Digest.

“A large part of building a work routine at home is feeling you have a dedicated place,” she says, which is why a separate room, including a door to “close off” your workday, is becoming a must. Gitika Kaul with Compass Real Estate, Kaul Home Group in Washington, D.C., says you don’t even have to go “big.”

“Some new construction in our area has small, private rooms that can literally function as ‘phone booths’ inside the home,” Kaul says, so you can take that call away from the chaos.

Upgraded Kitchens

Yep, we churned out batch after batch of quarantine cookies and sourdough bread, but we also made real meals, given that our favorite restaurants were closed. And even as they begin to re-open, many people are sticking with the joy of cooking, both because they fear eating out but also because they found (surprise!) that it’s fun. In fact, a survey from PwC found that nearly 70% of those had rediscovered home cooking found that this new habit had improved their quality of life.

“Cooking was essential for awhile, but it is also a new avenue for stress relief and socialization,” says Baskin, who finds homeowners are looking for upgraded kitchens, specifically with more gathering space and cooking appliances.

Outdoor Space

When you can’t escape to a resort (or even a playground), it’s important to have ample outdoor space for playing, entertaining and just “living.” In fact, Grant Muller, who owns and operates Denver-based real estate agency Spaces Real Estatesays that outdoor living spaces and upgraded landscaping have become one of the most coveted home features.

“When buyers see a patio, deck or outdoor kitchen, they’ll envision themselves enjoying summer barbecues, family get-togethers and even afternoon sun-bathing sessions out in that quaint space,” Muller says.

Of course, don’t forget the play structures, trampolines, sport courts and other activity spaces to keep kids entertained and busy.

Sarah Kruse, a broker with Weichert Realtors in Oregon, says that recent amenities or “bonus items” that buyers weren’t necessarily looking for but became the deciding factor in their purchase have included a treehouse, a chicken coop and vegetable gardens.

Another item making a big comeback is the swimming pool, says Kaul. “Before they were often considered a deterrent for buyers, but they are back in vogue, and homes with pools are selling at a faster clip.”

Home Gym Space

As spinning and yoga studios closed their doors along with big box gyms, consumers had to look elsewhere for their workout, says Baskin.

“Gym space is a very popular feature since it is helping many cope with the mental challenges created by staying at home, along with maintaining fitness when we are all focused on health,” Baskin says.

The size and scope of the space varies, depending on the individual, she says. It could be indoor or outdoor space—large enough for a stationary bike and weight set, down to a nook that fits a mat, some free weights and bands and a TV.

Ample Storage Areas

Walk-in pantries have become increasingly in demand for many homebuyers, as they want to have a separate space to store all of their new cooking essentials and bulk buys, Muller says.

But storage spaces in general are in favor, finds survey data from Realogy, the largest full-service residential real estate services company in the United States: 43% of respondents said they craved additional storage space. Of course, if it’s not readily available in your existing home, securing a local self-storage space can be a simple alternative—keeping your items out of sight, but not out of reach.

Cathie Ericson