New Homes Index – 2021 review -

New Homes Index – 2021 review

The index lines of both 2021 & 2020 were shaped by extrinsic market events around March in each year. While very different in nature, both of these events were extremely significant in scale, influencing the market for the remainder of the year.

Consumer engagement with new homes websites struck a nine-month high last March, coinciding with the Spring Budget and anouncement of the stamp duty holiday extension until the end of June with a gradual transition back to normal rate bands by October.

In the grip of the first UK-wide lockdown in March 2020, the government effectively closed the market until mid-May when moving home and viewing properties became allowable activities again. Pent-up demand from then onwards, supported by the start of the stamp duty holiday in July put web sessions and high intent goal measurement (those focused on booking viewings) at their highest ever levels.

 

Year on year

Monthly tracker: Web sessions 2021 vs 2020

With a negative event in 2020 mirrored a year later by a positive one, the rough symmetry of the indexed session volume is clear to see.

The percentages used in the Index are relative to the month with highest value in each year. In December 2021, web sessions were only 56% of the volume of the peak in March (100%) at the two ends of the scale. In December 2020, web sessions were at 65% of the July peak, so effectively dropping off less from the busiest point of the year.

Monthly tracker: Web sessions & high intent goals 2021

In terms of absolute volumes, 2021 web sessions were down -9.4% on the previous year, but there are a number of factors that make it difficult to provide meaningful comparison.

This is because the intervention of marketeers and paid media investment can turn relative sessions volume into both a cause and an effect. There are also supply factors impacting on web performance. The YoY figures are almost commensurate with the obvious constraint of new homes supply (running at a reduction of 11% on 2019-20) and, from a marketing persepective, less of a need to apply both broad prospecting activity and remarketing strategies to developments and plots for sustained periods as would be necessary in less of a seller’s market.

Additionally, two years is a long time in tech and analytics, and it’s rare to find that a new homes developer’s website is entirely the same entity it was this time last year. Since the start of 2020, two thirds of our medium to large clients had significant website restructures or measurement overhauls. Sessions can increase or decrease depending on changes to design, user journey structures and available content. Tracking high-intent goal conversions is subject to tracking improvements which can reduce lead quantity, but improve quality.

December 2021, was -22% down on sessions volume when compared to December 2020 and didn’t have as much of a punchy Christmas Week bounce into the New Year: daily average sessions were 1.22 as much as the December average during the last week of Dec 2021. That figure was 1.48 for Christmas week 2020 and, looking back further, 1.15 in 2019, suggesting that 2020 was the outlier and 2021 represents a regression towards the mean in this regard.

However, if Christmas week was slightly underwhelming, there remains a lot of encouragement to be had early on in 2022 as, based on January’s available data, web sessions are currently up 35% MoM, and high-intent goals are forecast to double compared to December ‘21. As you might deduce from those two figures, the conversion rate is also strong: conversion of web traffic to high-intent goals is at a higher rate than any month of 2021, indicating that there is good quality in what’s being driven to websites: a high level of consumer intent which can scale readily with increased product supply and associated advertising.

 

Media Mix

Web sessions: Percentage share of total by channel, 2021

 

Channel mix and the changes in the relative share YoY offer further evidence of a strong market.

Whether these percentage changes were driven by a growth in users arriving under their own steam or a drop in the need to chase traffic through investment, the narrative is the same. In most cases it was likely some of each. Direct traffic rose by 2%, organic search traffic was up by 5%, while PPC fell by 6%, and display fell 1%. We also saw a drop in remarketing visits as a share of traffic, likely corresponding with a growth of new entrants to the market, coupled with more modest investment into this activity.

Channel classification is one area that will undergo significant change in the coming months. GA4 was made the default option for new GA assets in October, and its take up has increased significantly as a result. Under the protocols of this new platform, a greater area of more precise channel groupings are offered out of the box, allowing marketeers to differentiate, for example, YouTube from Google Search at channel level, and to differentiate between paid and organic video traffic.

 

The rise of young FTBs?

That 2021 was the year of the first time buyer is not new news. However with two full calendar years now under our belts, it’s possible to see two discreet sets of YoY data and so gain perspective on whether the influx of younger consumers during 2021 was a blip or a sea change.

This chart depicts % change for the absolute volume of users in each age range compared to the previous year, not the relative % that each made up of the total in either year. Visualised this way we can see that the volume of 18-24s engaging with our pool went up fourfold during 2020 (405%) and then fell back just 11% in 2021. Even accounting for the fact that this 11% was of a larger base, it’s evident that this sizeable change in demographics witnessed during 2020 has persisted into 2021.

We can see that, unlike the youngest age range, the growth in the oldest does seem to have been a blip rather than a new normal: while the 65+ audience grew 6% during 2020, in 2021 it fell back by 30%, to below pre-covid levels.

Taken in aggregate, the dip in volumes across all age ranges represent the relative shrinking of the user pool YoY ‘20-’21, as an exceptionally bullish post-COVID market began gently to regress towards the mean throughout 2021.