As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to affect all industries, Australia’s real estate industry has adapted to the challenges associated with restrictions. It did so by leveraging digital alternatives to in-person efforts, such as online auctions and virtual walkthroughs.
Despite the uncertain road combined with the fall of national rent values 0.3% in the month of June, Nielsen Digital Content Ratings data found that Australians spent 48%1 more time on real estate websites for the month of June 2020 when compared to the same month last year. As lockdown restrictions have eased to allow open houses and on-site auctions, audiences have spent an average of 27%2 more time on real estate sites each week in comparison to the national lockdown period (WC 11/05/20-WC 26/07/20, vs WC 23/03/20-WC11/05/2020).
Real estate sites have seen record audiences and time spent on their online titles. When looking at the audiences time spent each week, 2020 started off strong, outperforming any period from the previous year.
Despite the significant drop in mid-March, peaking during the first week of Australia’s COVID-19 lockdown, time spent on the sites grew quickly from mid-April as the restrictions started to ease. Since these restrictions were eased 11 weeks ago, audiences have collectively been spending over 3 million hours3 per week in the sub-category, levels not achieved for any week of 2019.
There is no doubt that the events surrounding COVID-19 swiftly transformed all aspects of daily life, and when it comes to purchasing a new forever home, audiences increased their interest in real estate websites not just because of the lockdown restrictions.
Nielsen Digital Content ratings data shows that the increases were driven by Australians aged 25-34 and 35-44, which saw a year-on-year increase in engagement of 55% and 62%, respectively. These increases were largely driven by these audiences spending substantially more time engaging in real estate/apartment content via computers, with an 80% year-on-year increase.
While consumer confidence may be low as a result of COVID-19, Australians continue to engage with real estate content at unprecedented levels as they begin their research for a future purchase, sale or rental with the intention of doing so in the longer term. Purchasing or moving to a new home is a big decision, and one which Australians take their time to research and plan over an extended period.
emmaCMV data reveals that 5.4 million4 Australians who engage with the real estate/apartment category intend on moving houses in the short to long term (Intention to move house, 12 months ending March 2020, Nielsen Digital Panel data calibrated to Digital Content Ratings March 2020). Of those Australians who intend on moving in the future who engage with the sub category, 65% agree that they intend to do so more than a year from now.
Nielsen’s reporting of the record level of time spent on real estate-related sites is also parallel to the Reserve Bank of Australia’s announcement to cut the cash rate to a new record low of 0.5% back in March 2020 and lifted restrictions by the Federal Government on open houses and on-site actions (9 and 13 May, 2020 for New South Wales and Victoria, respectively). And most recently, the government announced allocations of grants for housing construction and renovations on 3 June to boost demand in the construction sector.
Audience behaviour is shifting, requiring real estate websites to adjust their engagement strategies. As lockdown restrictions are easing in some states, many consumers will cling to the mindsets they developed over the past months. Making a real estate purchase or moving home is a long process of careful consideration and research. While consumer confidence may be low at the moment, Australians engaging with real estate content are researching and planning for their purchase or move in the medium to longer term. Marketers need to carefully balance brand messaging with current social sentiment and market conditions and be mindful that Australians are thinking more long term when it comes to real estate.
- Source: Nielsen Digital Content Ratings, Monthly Tagged, June 2020 vs. June 2019, Real Estate/Apartment, People 2+, Digital (C/M), Total Time Spent, Text.
- Source: Nielsen Digital Content Ratings, Weekly, WC 11/05/20-WC 26/07/20, vs WC 23/03/20-WC11/05/2020 , Real Estate/Apartment, People 2+, Digital (C/M), Total Time Spent, Text.
- Source: Nielsen Digital Content Ratings, Weekly, WC 11/05/20 – WC 20/07/20, Real Estate/Apartment, People 2+, Digital (C/M), Total Time Spent, Text.
- Source: emma conducted by Ipsos Connect, People 14+, Intention to move house, 12 months ending March 2020, Nielsen Digital Panel data calibrated to Digital Content Ratings March 2020