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Workout spaces are becoming increasingly important for potential buyers as the COVID-19 pandemic enters its second year.

Peloton Interactive Inc.

Real estate agents staging homes for sale have long had a checklist of table-stakes features mainstream buyers will be looking for, but as we enter year two of living under the pandemic there’s a new must-have: A Peloton.

But it’s not only the high-end stationary exercise bicycle and home fitness subscription service appearing in Toronto-area listings with increasing frequency, all manner of workout spaces are now being prioritized. Instead of removing bulky exercise equipment to free up more space, this gear increasingly gets pride of placement.

“It’s something we would have been more inclined to remove for photos pre-pandemic,” said Carol Lome, broker with Lome Irwin Real Estate Team., whose listing at 41 St. Andrews Gardens in Toronto’s tony Rosedale neighbourhood features an artfully arranged Peloton in a basement entertainment area. “We are finding it more important than ever to showcase the flexibility of living spaces – particularly ‘bonus’ rooms,” says Ms. Lome. “Buyers need to know that a home could accommodate fitness, schooling, work from home, etc.”

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Rochelle DeClute, Broker of Record for Union Realty Brokerage Inc., has a 12,000 square-foot warehouse packed with furniture and décor items for staging the homes her company lists for sale. A team of five designers does some level of staging in about 175 to 200 homes a year. Until 2020, the warehouse did not contain any gym equipment.

“We really kind of noticed it more around August, September. We heard that people were saying ‘I’m missing the gym, I need a space to work out,’” said Ms. DeClute. “We bought an Echelon bike [a Peloton competitor]. It has a big screen as well. We bought the foam pads to go on the floor; we picked up a couple smaller flat-screen TVs we can mount on a wall to create that kind of workout space. We’ve invested in all that stuff. Every opportunity we get, we’re adding that to houses we stage. These are things we never would have put in photos before, let alone added to a stage.”

Recently, Ms. DeClute’s team created a hybrid office/exercise model room, where the desk can be raised so you can ride a stationary bike while continuing your Zoom calls.

Ms. DeClute has noted another change; clients are calling her for suggestions on where to spend their renovation budget. In hopes of maximizing resale value down the road, people are thinking differently about the ’must-haves’. All the traditional design flourishes you’d see on HGTV are still on the list: pale walls, big islands in the kitchen, two-tone cabinets (dark on the lowers, light on the uppers), brass finishes, angled steel-tube light chandeliers, dramatic tile and a stand-alone soaker tub in the bathroom, open staircases (maybe a glass wall instead of a railing), some sort of outdoor oasis (deck or patio, firepit optional). But now, in addition to making sure you have a main-floor powder room, you need a room for sweating.

Prior to the pandemic, “we would have said, nobody is going to pay more for your house because you have a gym. Do a home theatre, or a wine cellar with a tasting table. Now, we have clients building outdoor yoga studios, ‘she-sheds’ [the opposite of a man-cave] or three-season offices,” she said.

Sharp-eyed house-hunters can spot the changes: where once there might have been a rolled-up yoga mat in the corner, now it’s unrolled next to some blocks and a careful stack of dumbbells. And while it’s not ubiquitous, there’s often a Peloton, with its distinctive black-frame, red accents and handle-bar-mounted screen.

“It’s Peloton that owns the market, it’s got a huge community,” said Myles Slocombe, senior vice president of sales with Sotheby’s International Realty Canada. “Everyone I know – clients and friends – swear by them. And unless they are blowing smoke, they are using them every day.” Mr. Slocombe has one current listing featuring a Peloton (134 Roxborough St. in Toronto’s Summerhill neighbourhood) and more in the works. And Pelotons are not just found in multi-million-dollar houses. “A couple times when I’ve been doing condo showings there were deliveries of Pelotons while I was in the lobby,” he said.

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Peloton was founded in 2012, went public in 2019 and has seen its shares jump more than 300 per cent from a year ago, giving it a market capitalization close to $46-billion. The company has 1.6-million subscribers to its connected fitness platform (up 134 per cent from a year ago) and projects that number to surpass 2-million by year end. The screen serves as a video portal to an array of exceptionally earnest trainers and training programs, as featured in the near-constant TV advertisements (featuring the driving beat of the Grammy-winning remix of the Saint Jhn song Roses. Its commercials have been mocked at times by social media wags and Saturday Night Live, but the ubiquity of the devices makes the joke relatable.

“It’s kind of a new club, in a way,” said Mr. Slocombe. “Friends can ride together, so people are joining because of a sense of community. And I think for some people there’s an element of status. A few of us have joked, it would have been nice to have invested in Peloton last year.”

Ms. DeClute has also noted that the workout area is getting a promotion. While, pre-pandemic, a high-end home might have had a separate workout room, it was typically in the basement. These days, people want more natural light while they grind out that last mile.

“We saw that change where they wanted to be above-ground,” she said, meaning that instead of putting an office in an upstairs extra bedroom that might be a parking spot for the bike. “A Peloton is an addition to a room that shows affluence or lifestyle. People like to put it in a corner window.”

But houses aren’t necessarily getting bigger, and something has to give. Ms. DeClute says the formal dining room may be going the way of the buggy whip.

“That’s a space people are not paying any attention to, they look to the eat-in space in the kitchen,” and prioritize a workspace for them or their kids on the main floor.

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“What we’re seeing overall is people are placing a value on their home, not in terms of investment and location … people see it more how they are going to live in it with their families, of how they plan on spending more time there,” Ms. DeClute says. “I don’t think that’s going to change. People see the space differently now, and I don’t know if they can unsee that.”

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