What you need to know

The pandemic shed new light on traditional benefits of owning a home and upended the home buying process in ways that will likely stay relevant for years. Work-from-home flexibility created new types of housing demand, and the need to stay isolated expedited trends taking more of the buying process online.

The housing market is very active in 2021, with prices booming and over one third of consumers likely to buy or sell a home in the next year (including 15% who are very likely). The prospective homebuyer engages in the process with a diverse set of needs based on their situation; yet in most cases, buying a home remains a significant and stressful experience. Marketers that can meet the needs of consumers in this new environment and make the home buying process easier will stand out.

This Report looks at the following areas

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the housing market.

  • Online search tools and how it has impacted the home buying process.

  • Reasons why (and why not) consumers decide to move, and what features they are looking for.

  • Differences in the buying process between first-time homebuyers and existing homeowners


For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

This Report analyzes behaviors and attitudes towards buying a home, including types of homes searched for, home buying preferences and lifestyle priorities. For the purposes of this Report, “home” is used to mean any dwelling – apartment, condominium, house or mobile home.

Market context

Despite huge economic uncertainty, home ownership rates increased to 65.8% in 2020, a ten-year high. Median home prices have seen solid year-over-year gains, and the housing market overall appears very healthy with homes in high demand.

Economic and other assumptions

Mintel’s economic assumptions are based on CBO estimates released on February 1, 2021. The CBO’s previous forecast for US GDP to fall by 5.8% in 2020 was revised after a stronger second half of the year and the updated estimate indicates negative 3.5% GDP for the year. The CBO forecasts for GDP to grow by 4.6% in 2021 and unemployment to continue to fall to average 5.7% for the year do not take into consideration the impact of the $1.9 trillion economic relief package, which is expected to further boost growth.

COVID-19: US context

The first COVID-19 case was confirmed in the US in January 2020. It was declared a global health pandemic and national emergency in early March 2020. Across the US, various stay-at-home orders were put in place in spring 2020, and non-essential businesses and school districts closed or shifted to remote operations. The remainder of 2020 saw rolling orders, as states and local governments relaxed and reinforced guidelines according to the spread of the virus in each region.

Vaccine rollout began in December 2020. Mintel anticipates business operations in the US will remain in a state of flux through 2021 as vaccines are widely administered and social distancing restrictions and capacity limitations gradually relaxed.

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