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Many people pursue a goal to have a home that meets their needs. Though, different people quite often have different perceptions of a dream home, especially, when it comes to people in different countries. Jurga Vilkenė, Head of Real Estate Marketing and Sales of the sustainable urban development and construction company YIT Lietuva, says that housing choice trends may differ even in neighbouring countries. The analysis of housing choices in the Baltic and Nordic countries proves this.
Lithuanians opt for new construction housing
According to J. Vilkenė, talking to YIT colleagues in other countries provides with an insight of what is important for Latvians, Estonians, Finns or, for example, Czechs when buying a home. Although there are some similarities, there are a number of country-specific differences, too.
“The differences become obvious in the attitude to housing itself. It is highly important for Lithuanians to buy their own housing, that is, to have it as a property. In these terms, Lithuanians stand out from the rest of Europe. While in Lithuania about 90% of population have housing ownership, for example, in neighbouring Latvia – only 80%. In Estonia, this share is about 82%. Talking about Nordic countries, there are even fewer housing owners. For example, in Finland, their share is only 71%,” notes J. Vilkenė.
As argued by to J. Vilkenė, the Lithuanians’ aspiration to have their own homes is due to the fact that the country's residents invest considerable time and effort in choosing housing. At the initiative of YIT Lietuva, the research company Norstat conducted a survey of the Lithuanian population in January of this year. It shows that 35 percent of Lithuanians look for housing up to half a year. Another 15 percent of residents spend up to a year searching for suitable housing.
“In addition, Lithuanians give particular consideration to modern, new construction housing, the demand for which is constantly increasing in the cities of the country. For example, in Vilnius, new apartments, built in the last two years, make up about 40 percent of all housing transactions. In comparison, the Sustainable Urban Environment Barometer survey conducted by our colleagues in Finland shows that new construction housing is just a little bit more attractive to Finns than old one. 45% of residents of Finland would like to live in a newly built dwelling; 39% of population of the country would prefer an old or renovated building,” says J. Vilkenė.
The new housing options in the centre vary
According to the representative of developers, this is probably due to the Finns’ desire to live in the centre of the cities of Helsinki, Turku or Tampere, where there are no longer many opportunities to develop new housing projects. Meanwhile, Vilnius or Kaunas offers good opportunities to acquire new construction housing in the central part of the city. In recent years, the country's cities are undergoing active processes of urban compaction and conversion of abandoned areas of land. So, as Lithuanians have new construction housing options in the centre, they choose it.
"Of course, art nouveau style of old buildings which create the spirit of the Old Town in the capital of Finland is also attractive of a part of Finns. Lithuanians are probably more pragmatic in this respect and appreciate the advantages of new construction housing, such as high energy performance, cost-effectiveness, and other solutions for a comfortable life, which are often lacking in old buildings,” says J. Vilkenė.
However, as she argues, the fact that new homes are more attractive to Lithuanians does not mean that they do not care about the historical and cultural aura of a house at all. On the contrary, it becomes an important criterion for choosing housing today.
“It is important for new settlers that the housing location has certain marks on history, cultural background, and connection with a wider architectural context of the city. We see this in our relations with customer of some of our projects. They, among other things, are concerned about the history of a particular place, the surviving historical and cultural marks. This is also demonstrated by the great interest in tours around various districts of Vilnius, which were held before the quarantine, including those in which we develop our projects,” says J. Vilkenė.
The selection criteria were affected by the pandemic
In fact, despite the said differences, some aspects of housing are equally important to residents of many countries. According to J. Vilkenė, such are functional layout of a house, the feeling of space, a sufficient amount of light. It is also important for residents of almost all YIT countries to have a balcony or patio at home. The latter aspect became even more relevant during the pandemic.
“Not only we in Lithuania, but also our colleagues in Latvia, Estonia, and Finland observe that the attitude towards housing has been greatly affected by the pandemic. In particular, it has induced a demand for more spacious apartments, with a more convenient layout. Now, there is a need to set up separate spaces at home for work or study, as well as to have more space for leisure time. A spacious balcony or patio has become a sought-after advantage. Besides, the home environment, green and recreational spaces, which were paid due attention before, are even a higher priority to residents today,” says J. Vilkenė.
According to her, the latter aspect, just like for Lithuanians, is also especially important for Czechs who want a home surrounded by nature or at least a spacious yard with benches for rest, greenery and a garden. By comparison, the Sustainable Urban Environment Barometer survey conducted in Finland shows that Finns tend to choose housing in areas that are close to nature, though, that provides convenient access to services and transport infrastructure at the same time.
Looking for advantages of detached houses in the city
It appears that the pandemic has indeed induced Lithuanians and residents of other Baltic countries to think more about nature. This is evidenced by the statistics of the Lithuanian Centre of Registers. It shows that in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year, there were 25 percent more detached houses sold in Lithuania. However, according to J. Vilkenė, this did not affected the residents' desire to enjoy the advantages provided by the city centre.
“Lithuanians also pursue the advantages of detached houses in the city centre. So, they look for houses surrounded by nature, but not far from the downtown. For example, this is possible for the residential areas located on the banks of the Neris River in the central part of Vilnius. In fact, there almost no possibilities left to develop new projects in such areas, so, it is not surprising that existing housing in such areas is in high demand. For example, second-phase apartments under the project “Raitininkų sodas” on the bank of the Neris River were sold out before the construction was completed,” notes J. Vilkenė.
The representative of developers argues that people are also paying more and more attention to the quality of housing and smart solutions. In this respect, the needs of Lithuanians became close to Scandinavian standards. According to J. Vilkenė, another trend coming from the North is the concern of buyers about the sustainability of housing and environmentally friendly solutions. The representative of YIT Lietuva says that this is a welcomed trend, as it encourages the entire construction sector to try harder in the field of sustainability.