A pandemic year had Americans reexamining how and where they lived in unprecedented ways.
In our last trend report, The State of Brand, we predicted that the extra time spent indoors during quarantine would net a greater focus on the home, wellness, and time spent with loved ones.
The data from our survey confirm it. People have spent the past year refocusing on themselves and doubling down on healthier lifestyles (physical, mental, financial, and otherwise).
More than half of respondents (55%) said they constantly focused on improving their finances during the pandemic, and 52% said they focused on physical health. About half of respondents said they constantly focused on their own mental health in the past year.
And while just over a quarter of respondents said they constantly focused on their community’s health and their carbon footprints, Millennials were much more impact-minded: 42% focused on community wellbeing and 34% focused on their own carbon footprints.
% Who Have Focused on Improving the Following Parts of Their Lives over the Past Year
The Full-Service Home
As Americans reevaluated their personal lives, they also took stock of their surroundings. While the exodus from American cities wasn’t quite as dramatic as headlines predicted2 (and some cities are even seeing rent surges as young professionals flock back to urban apartments3), the pandemic did see a rush to change living situations.4 According to our survey, whether or not they packed up and moved, one half of Americans at least considered a shake-up:
Say COVID-19 has made them consider moving to a new area
Would be willing to have a longer commute if they could work from home a few days a week (excluding “not applicable” responses)
Agree suburbs are better than big cities - even most city dwellers agree (73%)
For those who did move, motivations echoed all the self improvement efforts from the past year: family, finances, and health — plus the need for more space to fit it all under one roof.
Of Those Who Moved, Leading Reasons Why Include:
Others are choosing to spruce up their homes by taking on renovation or redecorating projects instead of moving. “Throughout 2020, the home became the office and people doubled down on creating distinct work versus entertainment areas to help restore live-work balance. We even had one customer request a putt-putt course in her basement to create a family entertainment center at home!” says Shanna Tellerman, cofounder and CEO of shoppable 3D interior design platform Modsy.
But regardless of whether or not they moved, Americans have high expectations for their next home. It needs to deliver not only on basic safety (94%) and access to essentials (93%), but also green space (88%), curb appeal (84%), and proximity to retail (82%). Despite the rise of remote work, being close to the workplace is also still important to employees (87%).
Tl;dr: Americans want their homes to have a bit of everything — but not as many homes can actually deliver. There are large gaps between what Americans want and what their current homes actually offer. Sustainability is the biggest victim: While four in five (81%) Americans consider it important when looking for a new home, just 63% say their current home at least performs well on this — an 18-point gap.
What Americans Look for in a Home vs. How Their Current Home Performs
But we can expect this sustainability gap to gradually close, as home buyers fuel demand for eco-friendly structures, both to help the environment and to save money. Sustainable features like energy efficient appliances and HVAC systems, as well as water-saving toilets, are in higher demand than granite countertops and private pools.5
While very few homes can “have it all,” we can expect to see new developments start to check more of these boxes, especially as city-dwelling Millennials used to having everything at their fingertips and with a mind for societal impact relocate to the suburbs.
When Asked to Choose Between Life's Priorities, Americans Want:
“The pandemic has definitely been a time for people to re-think what they want most from their homes and communities – a trend we call the Great Reshuffling. The ability to work remotely for many has opened up a host of new possibilities for where they can live and work, beyond what was a comfortable commute in the past. Additional time spent at home has also inspired countless renovations and remodels to maximize peoples’ current living space – and potentially bump up the home’s value.”
- Matt Kreamer
Senior Manager of Data Public Relations, Zillow
But owning a home isn’t always the end goal, especially since more U.S. households are renters than ever before.6 Costs aside, 46% of Americans — especially Gen Z (61%) and Millennials (63%) — would prefer renting a luxury apartment with great amenities than owning a home with none. And while the vast majority (85%) agree that buying a home is always a better investment than renting, Gen Zers are less convinced (74%), perhaps after seeing the home ownership dreams of their Millennial counterparts shatter.7
Renters are drawn to the convenience and low levels of responsibility of apartments, and developments are just continuing to amp up the amenities offered, creating full-service homes that feel more like hotels than rentals. So it’s no surprise that in-demand amenities among apartment dwellers reflect the same priorities as homeowners, and then some: private outdoor space (80%), building sustainability (69%), and physical health via fitness centers (65%) are among the top of the list. But at #1, strong WiFi (85%) shows that being plugged-in is non negotiable, and half (53%) of apartment dwellers would consider car sharing services an important consideration.
Philippe Lanier, principal at Eastbanc — an international real estate development firm based in Washington, D.C. — predicts that unit sizes will grow in future developments as tenants look for homes that accommodate their lifestyles. And he says the pre-pandemic push for amenities in urban multifamily developments will only accelerate, likely outstripping emphasis on high-end services.
“Amenities are easier to advertise, and easier to deliver, so properties and owners that succeed in great service will also succeed in standing out and earning a premium,” Lanier says.
“Properties and owners that succeed in great service will also succeed in standing out and earning a premium.”
Importance of Amenities When Looking for New Apartment or Condo
Very/somewhat important among those who live in apartments/condos
[The] expectation is beyond [the] traditional ‘career, retire, die’ model of the past. Today, the market doesn’t just want condos, apartments, and offices – the market wants a more dynamic lifestyle. So our developments take a holistic approach of optimizing everyone’s time, engaging an accretive community, and enhancing the quality of life.
The Brand Guild is a fully integrated agency that builds and grows the most powerful brands in consumer lifestyle, food & beverage, and real estate. Our holistic approach to brand creation, strategy and storytelling creates critical momentum for our client-partners through a comprehensive suite of services that includes public relations, marketing, content, design, experiential and branding.
Live, Play, Work Insights To Go
Download our top work-life balance intel and insights by key U.S. market here.