Much has changed in U.S. society following the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting widespread lockdowns that forced Americans to completely realign their lifestyles to operate from within the home. In a collaboration between Kantar MONITOR and the America at Home Study, a nationally representative survey of U.S. adults was conducted in 2020 and 2022 to help uncover insights about people and their homes in response to COVID-19, including which home design and lifestyle changes people adapted and still seek even now.
The most recent America at Home Study research (Q4 2022) uncovered key trends that will drive future home purchase decisions, documenting that half of non-homeowners (51%) said they intend to buy a home in the next three years, with women being nearly twice as likely (18% vs. 11%) to want to purchase within the next year. The findings reveal three critical drivers for prospective home buyers: integrated wellness, risk resilience and enhanced community.
Focusing on Wellness
Americans have traditionally viewed their home as a place of safety, relaxation and comfort, but in the wake of COVID-19 they are shifting gears from more passively enjoying their home to actively creating a home environment that contributes to their overall wellbeing. In fact, the America at Home Study finds Americans’ #1 motivation when making home-related purchases/choices is that it ‘improves my health and wellness.’ This is consistent with Kantar’s U.S. MONITOR 2022 research on the same cohort (25-74 year olds with $50K+ incomes) where 82% of both homeowners and non-homeowners say that “prioritizing their physical and mental wellbeing is an extremely / very important personal value”. Marketers who understand the value of this intense and expanded focus on wellness can consider how the home products/services they offer can be positioned to meet individuals’ desire to enhance their wellbeing.
Enhancing Resilience to Manage Risk
As disruptions continue to shake up consumers’ economic outlook, Americans are demonstrating a greater resilience to risk by addressing the things they can control, including investing in smart home technology, appliances and features to proactively keep their families safe. The America at Home Study found that 65% of renters who plan to purchase a home within 1 to 3 years say they are not only interested in having greater technology/energy efficiency in their next home, but they are willing to pay for it. In addition, 48% said having a whole-house air filtration system was very important to their wellness, and 43% cited a whole-house water filtration system, with Millennials reporting this at even higher rates (52% and 50%, respectively). Further, 41% of overall respondents say that germ-resistant kitchen countertops and flooring is very important to their personal wellness, while 54% said it’s very important to them that their home is free from chemicals such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from paints, finishes and other building products.
The U.S. MONITOR Dollars and Sense Study (Wave 3) fielded in January 2023 reinforces this connection to risk resilience during a time of intense economic volatility. That data states that 72% of consumers believe that the U.S. economy will get a lot worse in the next six months. Furthermore, Americans are demonstrating a greater resilience to risk by addressing the things they can control such as reducing daily expenditures over the next 12 months (33%). Nevertheless, 55% of Americans say that “It's important to splurge on something I want every once in a while, even if it's out of my budget”. Marketers who provide ways for consumers to mitigate risk, while finding opportunities to feel good in troubled times, will benefit.
Seeking Community as an Added Benefit to Wellness
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of having and supporting one’s community. The Kantar U.S. MONITOR 2022 study reports that 48% of Americans (and 62% of Millennials) say that finding a community that shares their interests or beliefs is an extremely/very important personal value, a reinforcement of the 2022 America at Home Study where 55% of respondents rate social connections and community as “very important” to their overall sense of wellbeing. When it comes to fostering community, the America at Home Study reports that consumers are seeking homes with walkable neighborhoods. Fifty-six percent of renters who plan to purchase a new home within 1 to 3 years say that community features that promote walkability and provide walkable access to communal offerings, such as bike paths, coffee shops, casual eateries, wine bars and beer gardens, will greatly influence their decision to purchase a home in that community. Likewise, 66% of non-homeowners say that providing community features such as nature and open space to hike, including trails and parks, will greatly influence their decision. The linkage of green space to both wellness and community building is inherent from our research, particularly after the extended stay-at-home orders forced us into a largely digital world. The desire to return to human interaction and a more analog lifestyle is strong, and brands and businesses that help to promote that will do well with today’s consumers.
Overall, Americans’ notion of “home” in a post-pandemic world is a safe place that not only offers comfort and relaxation but fosters positive mental and physical health for individuals and families alike. Given the continued high level of disruption in today’s society, these expectations mean that home-centered wellness, resilience and community will be especially critical focus areas when it comes to comforting Americans faced with uncertain futures.