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It is still difficult to fathom that we have just crossed the one-year mark since the novel coronavirus was declared a pandemic. Over the course of the past year, stay-at-home orders have been mandated throughout California. Most of us would have never expected that in April 2021, many would still be working from home and that our children would still be attending their Zoom classrooms.

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Ronda Newport 

Yet, with spring in the air and vaccinations on the rise, there is hope! There is chatter about full reopening in our communities and a return to normalcy on the horizon. Yet, it goes without saying that “normal” will likely never be the same again.

One clear example of this is how the concept of home has changed dramatically over the past year. Home has become so much more than home. Homes have become schools, offices, recreational playgrounds, gardens and gyms. As a result, families have been forced in many ways to reevaluate their current homes, their priorities and their lifestyles — mainly where they live, both homes and communities.

Months and months under the executive stay-at-home orders, requiring most families to spend nearly all their time at their home, pushed families to evaluate their homes and needs. If you can work remotely and you do not love where you live, it makes perfect sense that you would take inventory of all your options. Sky-high living expenses in big cities in small apartments are no longer easy to justify without city life incentives. Early in the pandemic, those with the financial ability soon started to compete for homes with more square footage, outdoor spaces, home offices and larger kitchens.

It is no secret that as young people start families, they’re more likely to move to the suburbs or where they can find more space and affordability. COVID-19 hastened this trend from the beginning. First-time homebuyers entered the market at the highest rates in a decade. Second homes have also remained in high demand. Funds set aside for vacations and travel expenses are being allocated elsewhere.

Some employers have already set policies allowing some or all employees to work remotely for good, offering more encouragement for people to seek out larger, more affordable homes. We have seen this trend first-hand in our community because of the affordability Bakersfield still has to offer. There has been a significant migration into our area where people have committed and bought a home in a more affordable location.

Offices, hair salons, gyms, schools, restaurants and other businesses slowly take baby steps toward a full reopening. However, the lessons that we have learned this past year from experiencing the ups and downs, rule changes, uncertainty, reopenings and closings have taught us that home is more important than ever through the stability and comfort it provides. Homes with an abundant amount of space to work, go to school, exercise and find leisure remain crucial, as things can change in a blink of an eye.