Featured | July 28, 2020

COVID-19 and Property. What’s Happening?

COVID-19 and Property. What’s Happening? Image

A global pandemic forced millions of us into our homes for months on end, and with us only allowed to venture outside for the bare necessities surely the property industry took a big hit? Here's what happened.

On the 23rd of March, Boris Johnson announced a nationwide lockdown forcing millions of us into the four corners of our homes for the foreseeable future. And what did we all do? We took on all those projects at home that we’d been meaning to do but never had the time to fix. B&Q had queues to access their website that lasted hours (I know, I queued) and shops classified as essential like The Range and B&M had to manage mass crowds following the social distancing rules.

But whilst we were all confined to our homes, did we fall in or out of love with them?

If you’re a marketer within the property industry, keep reading. There’s lots here for you to take advantage of!

Top of the Funnel Search Trends

In this section, we’ll be looking at the trends of typical searches somebody considering buying/selling/moving may make to see what impact coronavirus has had on the property market.

Property portals

As is expected, we see a gradual decline in the graph as we approach the winter months with a sharp incline in January when the next buying circle kick-starts. The growth is fairly consistent with previous years, until we reach the end of March where there’s a sharp decline of searches.

Obviously, in the early days of lockdown the nation had other things on their mind! Regardless, valuations, viewings and other “in-person” appointments were halted, putting a stop to buying and selling property.

What’s most interesting here is the sharp incline that soars in popularity, making June 2020 the most popular period for searching “rightmove” for a whole 12 months. Interestingly, there’s a +23% increase of searches year-on-year for June… Perhaps we did fall out of love with our homes after all.

Mortgages and mortgage terms

Moving into the consideration stage of the funnel, as is echoed above, we see a decline in March shortly after lockdown was announced.

However, in comparison, the search term “mortgage” soared in popularity.

This is no surprise really, with a lockdown on the horizon and fear of the unknown coming over us like a wave, it’s only natural that we turn to our finances first. Mortgages, are (typically) the biggest and most important loan taken on and if mortgage repayments are not made then a bank is well within its rights to repossess your home, so of course we looked to understand how to protect our mortgages right away.

But the trend continues; in May and June there was an increase in searches year-on-year, with a difference of around 20k. Are we coming out of “protect” mode and into “flight“? (i.e. stepping away from keeping a tight grip on our finances to considering making a big change.)

Searches for “mortgage calculator” would assume so.

And, it’s heightened still by the soaring popularity for “first time buyer mortgage” searches. There’s currently twice as many searches for this search term than was searched this time last year.

Now looking at those with an existing mortgage, if we ignore the decline in March, it appears that we’re also interested in what comes after purchasing a house. Putting us firmly in “flight” mode.

So what effect has this had on banks?

Banks

Along with the search trend for “mortgage”, there was a sharp incline for mortgage-based bank searches as we approached lockdown which quickly settled.

But what we can faintly see above (if you look closely), is that recent search trends for banks and mortgages is mimicking the activity of January – a period after the New Year commonly known for people wanting to move home. What’s mind-boggling is in comparison to last year, if we take the most popular searched bank “nationwide mortgages” and analyse the keyword, the number of searches for the term more than doubles from 65k to 135k searches in June 2020.

The legal stuff

And the data continues to show the increasing popularity of wanting to buy or move home. This portrays the trend for searches of “conveyancing” showing the surge in popularity at present.

Solicitors need to be in place to finalise the sale/purchase, and typically they’re instructed last. This graph is concrete evidence that the property market is booming, and we’re all slowly coming out of lockdown with an intense desire to move.

And if that doesn’t prove it to you, here is the rising searches for “removal companies”.

How Has The Market Reacted To The Increased Threshold For Paying Tax On Property Purchases?

In England, whose restrictions were lifted and threshold increase announced before any other of the British countries, the country has seen the number of sales agreed jump by an annual 35% in the five days after Sunak’s announcement on July 8, says Rightmove.

Rightmove also said prices sought by home sellers between June 7th and July 11th rose by an annual 3.7% to hit a record high average of £312,625. Prices were 2.4% higher than before the coronavirus lockdown began in March. And, on Friday 17th of July, Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey confirmed the reports by saying there were signs of activity returning “quite strongly” in the housing market.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research, a consultancy, has forecast that the stamp duty holiday savings will trigger a 6% rise in transactions, equivalent to 41,000 extra purchases.

Credit availability is also improving. When lenders withdrew low deposit mortgages en masse, it sparked fears of further price drops. But now, in the wake of the stamp duty holiday announcement, several lenders including Nationwide, Platform (part of The Co-op), and Metrobank are offering 10% deposit mortgages again.

What Does This Mean For Marketers?

It’s clear that the property industry, like skincare a little while back, is going through a boom and it’s essential for marketers to act now whilst there is substantially higher than normal search volume uncovering what is believed to be a high purchase intent.

Luckily, we’ve already offered some advice covering how best to target people during lockdown, which is relevant here too. In a nutshell:

  1. Utilise social media. Traffic from social channels has risen considerably, across all demographics, making social media a platform to be targeted – especially since costs for ads are down!
  2. Ensure that you’re using automated bidding on PPC campaigns to make sure that your ads are adapting to ever-changing browsing habits.
  3. Update your body copy and ad copy to reflect the current situation, especially if there are delays responding or services have become unavailable, because this is a key concern for people when searching. 
  4. Get your local listings in order. If you have physical locations now is an opportune time to ensure that your Google My Business and Local Listings are all in order.

As buying/selling/moving home becomes the latest trend to come out of lockdown, marketers are presented with an unexpected opportunity to capitalise on the nation’s growing desire to live elsewhere. What’s more Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer, made an announcement this week that will have an even greater impact on movers with a stamp duty holiday that is set to last until 2021, pushing those still pondering a move from ‘consideration’ into ‘conversion’.

Now it’s time to capture them.

*Data sources for this article: Google Trends, SEOmonitor, The Telegraph and Reuters.

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