How is the residential sector changing after the health emergency? We discussed it with Francesca Zirnstein, General Manager of Real Estate Scenarios, an independent institute of studies and research that analyzes the markets and the economy of the territory in Italy and in Europe

The forecasts for the last months of 2020 are decidedly less negative than those, catastrophic, expected for the first quarter”. Francesca Zirnstein, General Manager of the independent research institute Scenari Immobiliari, is sure: “after the various lockdowns, the sector has resumed modest activity in Europe and in the fourth quarter it should return to normal trends in all EU countries. There is no doubt, however, that what has happened will profoundly change real estate and the expectations of investors and users”.

With, a real estate portal that brings together the offer of over 14,300 affiliated real estate agencies, Scenari Immobiliari organized next October 1st, the first national day dedicated to the home in which the market data will be assessed. There are three in-depth topics: associations, political strategies for the future, the financial market to support the purchase of new technologies.

What happened during the market shock, how did it go by residential asset class?

The residential one is probably the asset that has suffered less than what we expected. The year will close with a decrease in trade that is around 23%, but with a decrease in turnover of 10%. We lost a quarter; in March, those who wanted to buy a house were still attentive to the proposals on digital platforms. Subsequently, having entered into lockdown, which did not seem to have a certain termination date, customers moved away from these needs which were 'frozen'. The agency networks confirmed that real estate development had a very positive start to the third quarter; June and July confirmed good increases. Families who were trying to move houses before the onset of the pandemic have returned to seek new solutions. If we manage to reach the end of the year by containing the loss to around 25%, it will mean that three quarters out of four have complied with estimates, or have given better results than in 2019.

Now what is expected? There is talk of a recovery and how the market has changed.

In 2021, we expect a small rebound of around 9% more, precisely in the residential sector.

Much has been said in recent months about how lifestyles and therefore the demands of buyers would change. For now we do not yet know how these pushes for change will materialize, although it is certain that this situation has been an accelerator of dynamics underway. I don't think we will see big news in the immediate future. But the trends we had already intercepted pre-Covid will be emphasized. Among these an increasing attention to the scale of the neighborhood, to proximity. The qualities of the urban space and the services available will become discriminatory value elements; the return to neighborhood shops is confirming this trend and also reminding us of their social role. In suburban and peripheral areas, shopping malls functioned well and performed this function. The presence of green spaces, gardens and parks has also become substantial.

Some observers indicate the trend towards a return to life in small urban centers; it is possible but it will depend on how the labor market and the infrastructure, especially digital, of the territories will change. It would be a development in full contrast to what has been affirmed for many years on the consolidation and growth of urbanization in large urban centers (in 2030 it was expected that 50% of the global population would live in cities).

With respect to individual accommodations, what are buyers asking for?

The size of the houses has once again become a primary element. It is true that technology, also applied to furnishings, allows us to transform the spaces we live in - from living to office, from terrace to gym - but it is also true that spatial confinement has made us desire more comfortable spaces. We are more at home, and it is not a fact linked only to home working; we are back to using domestic spaces. And if it's no longer just the place to go back to sleep, we want the house to be more comfortable. We therefore also foresee a contraction in the small housing market.

Has the desire to live en plein air been confirmed to you?

Yes, the demand for houses with gardens and terraces has increased. Also for houses with livable balconies. But first of all the request is for an extra room. We don't want to concentrate multiple functions in the same place, which we have been forced to do for many months; the desire is to be able to create a personal space or to be able to distinguish the functions within the same house. Not having a solution of continuity between one activity and another is no longer desirable. Even when you work from home you want a place characterized by this function and distinct from other spaces.

Weren't rental houses affected by the market crisis?

For many years it has been said that the tendency of young people and families to choose rental houses would be the great challenge of this decade, knowing that Milan would play the role of forerunner and then be followed by other cities. This situation, from my point of view, even if we are doing further analysis, will not change the balance. Always, during difficult times, the number of rented accommodation increases but it is a demand dictated by the crisis. The same thing happened in the 2008-2010 three-year period. A part of the rental demand that would have turned into a purchase, with the situation of economic uncertainty we are experiencing, will remain unexpressed. In the three-year period 2020-2022, therefore, a growth in leases is confirmed, which does not however correspond to a choice of life but to a state of necessity.

The location also gives greater flexibility in case you want/have to move...

Of course, this could be one of the reasons that will support the demand for rental homes. The tendency to move to more peripheral areas, to find larger spaces, is already underway, both for renting and for purchase, and will probably strengthen. This is one of the most dynamic themes of the market.

In the images, PostHome, a concept of contemporary residence that investigates today's living and working experiences from the perspective of smart living. Set in an apartment in a 1930s building in via Teodosio 15 in Milan, the project was conceived during the lockdown by Claudia Campone, founder of the ThirtyOne Design studio.