A housing professional’s guide on using content to connect with consumers during COVID-19

A housing professional’s guide on using content to connect with consumers during COVID-19
Many of my friends are in the entertainment industry, which has taken a huge hit by the pandemic. They went from making a safe $150k a year to picking up delivery service gigs between newfound hobbies like candle-making to keep their sanity. (My candles are “curing” as we speak). 

One friend, Davey Martinez, was furloughed just before taking off on an 18-month world tour in his role as a lighting designer. He and his fiance were in the process of looking for a house when suddenly their finances took a big turn. “I’m rethinking everything now.”

Kristin MesserliColumnist

Last week at Cultural Outreach, we surveyed 1,000 millennial homebuyers (in a study sponsored by National MI) to identify some of their top hopes and fears related to home buying, and specifically how COVID-19 had affected these plans. Unsurprisingly, 74% of all respondents said they are more stressed about their finances as a result of COVID-19, and 40% said it had halted their home shopping. 

While some cities begin to relax social distancing requirements, it’s clear that the pandemic has established a new normal in the housing industry. And as leaders in one of the most important economic and social aspects of our society, consumers are desperate for your advice. 

Below, I have gathered some of the initial insights from the survey and other interviews, along with trending content related to the topic to provide some guidance as to content to create or curate that will resonate with your clients.

Top consumer priorities in the new normal: 

Managing Job Instability and Financial Challenges

For Millennials who bought a home in the last two years, job stability was ranked last in “fears related to home buying.” However, that fear jumps to number two, just behind “affordability” for respondents who were planning to buy a home in the coming months. 

Trending Content: With over 75,000 in total engagement, this article from CNN describes the historic unemployment in the headline, “A 3,000% jump in jobless claims has devastated the US job market.”

Ideas for Content: Create, curate and share content that provides ways to save and ideas for a good side hustle during a stay-at-home era. Basic financial advice goes a long way during this time.

Fears (and hopes) for a Housing Market Crash

For Millennials who entered adulthood during or immediately following the biggest housing market crash in history, this was already a permeating fear of our generation. But looking at trending content online and survey data, this fear has risen significantly. According to the survey, 14% of Millennials said fear of another housing market crash was their biggest non-financial hurdle to homeownership. 

Trending Content: Trending content online certainly feeds into these fears. The least crazy-sounding article I could find in the top ten trending list of articles on this topic is one from Bloomberg, “U.S. Mortgage Rates Fall While Housing Market Grinds to a Halt.” 

As an aside, the No. 1 trending article on this topic was, “These Entitled Millennials Are Cheering for a Housing Market Crash.” Hoping for affordability in a time when housing transactions are slowing down is not the same as entitled. Of course, this is coming from my snowflake mindset, but I digress. 

Ideas for Content: While I certainly don’t recommend sharing the trending articles in this category, there is clearly an opportunity for leadership in response to these consumer fears. Share regular market updates and explanations of trends (many of which are freely available to you through contributors on HousingWire).

It is in the hands of housing professionals to share sound leadership and interpret market trends during this time.

Small Business 

Director of Product Management at SoFi, Aaron LaRue, recently led the launch of the company’s SMB marketplace, which now includes the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “While relief efforts like the paycheck program go a long way,” he said in an interview. “We’re seeing demand that far exceeds the available funds. The first wave of PPP stimulus lasted less than two weeks and there’s a chance the funds from the most recent bill go in even less time.” 

He explained that the historic unemployment and pressure on small businesses has forced many people to rethink their financial plan. “Those who own or work for a small business might be worried about where their next paychecks will come from and are taking a serious look at their personal finances.”

Trending Content: As you can imagine, there are many trending political posts on this topic. Here is one article by CNBC that hits the top ten trending without much of the politics. The headline states, “Small business rescue loan program hits $349 billion limit and is now out of money.” 

Ideas for Content: Share resources related to understanding government programs that support small businesses and ways to apply for them. Since we know that won’t cover many of those in need, share ways that your audience can support local small businesses, and share more tips on general financial advice.

Virtual Home Shopping

According to the survey, only 33% of homebuyer respondents said they had taken advantage of new virtual features like virtual open houses or Zoom meetings with housing professionals. This is a huge gap in consumer education and a market opportunity to bring leadership to consumers and potential partners. 

Trending Content: This article from Curbed was one of the top 10 most trending articles on Facebook overall in the last month: “From virtual showings to online notaries, the home buying process is finally going digital.”

Ideas for Content: If you’re a real estate agent, consider going live with exclusive home tours, and invite prospective buyers to join you to ask questions during the tour. Depending on local regulations, share content on how the homebuying process works during social distancing (i.e. closings, appraisals, etc.). If you’re a loan officer, come up with some creative ideas to partner with your agents over Zoom happy hours and create a digital campaign together. 

Homemaking

Speaking from personal experience, we’re spending quite a bit of time at home and probably realizing how many things need to improve around the house. We are likely going to remain pretty cozy at home for a while, so the occasional homemaking, home decorating, DIY, etc. article is likely to strike a chord with your audience. 

Trending Content: Among the top 20 articles trending on BuzzFeed overall, here are a couple fun ones that reflect an audience hungry for nature, home office support, and DIY activities: 

“22 Products That’ll Bring A Little Nature Into Your Home”“28 Things You May Want For Your Home Office Now That You’re Working From Home”“I tried the $0 date night challenge”

Ideas for Content: This is a place to really get creative. In addition to typical housing-related content like decorating tips, think about the hobbies you enjoy during quarantine. A few on my list include: making my own sourdough starter, DIY lotion, and sewing masks.

Depending on your own personal brand (i.e. your personality, values, and activities), make a list of the ones you can share with your audience that will connect in this weird time. This kind of light-hearted content can remind everyone to take a breather and that we’re all in this together.
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