13th May marked a significant day on our New Homes Index as moving home and viewing properties were declared ‘allowable’ activities – in England initially – by the government. We’re still awaiting further updates for Wales and Scotland in terms of specific dates for the reopening of sites in these countries.

A deluge of tracked appointment and viewing bookings – over 8 times the volume of the day before – signalled the unlocking of significant pent-up demand and evidence of a genuine desire by potential buyers to get to developments and show homes at the earliest opportunity.

In the weeks since ‘reopening’ the daily average of high intent conversions was over 200% higher than the fortnight at the start of March (pre-lockdown).

Daily tracker – request viewing / book appointment goal completion types

Daily tracker – web sessions and all goal completions

Web traffic in the past two weeks had a more modest increase of 36% compared to the two weeks prior to the 13th May. Sessions had been steadily climbing since mid-April and the latest figures put us just marginally short (-3%) of being back to where we were in early March.

Percentage of total web sessions by channel

Share of traffic by channel has seen some very subtle shifts – unless you’re regularly testing your eyesight with drives to castles you may miss it. Social is gaining share as clients increase reach and remarketing activity and organic is also on the rise, partly helped by Google My Business listings encouraging clicks through to site again.

Percentage of total web sessions by channel

The under-35 age group continues to grow in terms of their share of total web sessions to developer websites when compared to the pre-lockdown period in March – shoring up predictions that had been made by many in the new homes sector.

Google performance

The chart below tracks indexed ‘real estate’ search volume over the last twelve months. Search dipped from the week that lockdown began but there has been a significant upturn in May, particularly since the easing of lockdown restrictions was announced.

This channel has started to perform ahead of pre-lockdown activity for property advertisers and continues to provide a good opportunity to reach in-market traffic at a low CPC.

  • May CPC £0.52, 21% below April (£0.66) and 42% below March (£0.90)
  • May CTR 12.15%, 12% increase from April (10.80%) and 9% from March (11.19%)

Google Search Property CPC and CTR

Paid social performance

Compared to Google, Facebook can be said to provide less clarity in terms of the intent of the audience reached. That said, April provided a real opportunity to increase reach and traffic volumes, delivering a much lower CPM and CPC.

May has seen these metrics start to rise alongside an increase in competition in the marketplace, albeit this channel is still performing ahead of pre-lockdown prices.

  • May CPM £3.46, 13% increase from April (£3.06) and 5% lower than March (£3.65)
  • May CPC £0.38, 3% below April (£0.39) and 32% below March (£0.56)

Paid Social Property CPM and Property CPC

Changed media consumption

These are encouraging signs in terms of the anticipated pent-up demand being there, as well as the indicators of which buyers are most likely to return to market first. Audiences are there so developers will continue to take advantage of any opportunities to engage with them through search, social and other (primarily) digital channels.

The house building (and buying) process will inevitably be slowed by social distancing so there will be a requirement to attract and qualify new prospects in the weeks to come. While we know there is a desire to move among many consumers and most are spending more time online, research by advertising bodies like the IPA suggest significant changes in media consumption across the board, so ‘traditional’ development marketing strategies will need to be adapted to reach and communicate with potential buyers.

Some key findings from the IPA’s recent TouchPoints research suggest:

  • Use of phones and email is down compared to pre-lockdown, but mobile usage and the use of video-calling solutions is up
  • Time spent on social media is up 20% – including use during normal ‘working’ hours (9am-5pm)
  • Twice as many of us are using video calling now (these increases are coming mostly via an older, age 55+ audience), and we’re doing it for much longer
  • Not surprisingly, TV viewing is up – with the biggest increase in reach coming via streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime
  • Radio listening is up, but not at the traditional times or in the same way – as we’ve all been in our homes rather than commuting to our places of work or doing the school run
  • Traditional newsbrand reach has grown online – due to the appetite for daily updates on an ever-changing set of circumstances – and weekend newspaper sales have roundly been relatively stable

We’ve all faced fundamental changes to our way of life under lockdown and these changes are set to stay with us for some time to come.

While this research has its limitations – and there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution for the challenges many businesses continue to face – we’ll continue to monitor the data available via the New Homes Index and wider media trends and will publish regular updates in the weeks to come.

Insights Team, Space & Time