Is Social Media Affecting the Homes we Choose to Buy?

It is well established and widely documented that social media has come to have a huge impact on how many of us live, behave and spend. Undoubtedly it has become a powerful influence, allowing us access to brands, trends and news 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Often, this influence is stronger coming from those profiles with the little blue tick – the content and conversations of the celebrities we follow will influence our purchase decisions about fashion, cosmetics, gadgets, online services and more. Decisions and purchases at a price point that means this endorsement – that feels personal – sufficiently outweighs the risk attached to the purchase to help make our minds up. However, I think social media also influences much larger, much more expensive and much more life-changing purchase decisions.

Buying a house is often a monumental milestone in life, one that commonly represents a significant life stage change. Unlike buying disposable goods such as shoes or accessories, the average person will only buy a new house four times in their entire life. You could say, buying a house is a pretty big deal. So, you’d think careful, practical and rational consideration would take place during the home buying process. However, a significant proportion of the decision is led by emotion and I think there’s an argument for how social media is affecting the way we purchase houses.

Perhaps it’s most apparent as we make plans for interior design. As we move through the homebuying process, the importance of ‘making it my own’ grows – can I quickly make my mark on this house and turn it into a home? No longer relying solely on monthly home décor magazines or DIY television programmes, home movers can find their home interior influence anywhere – with Pinterest and Instagram fast becoming the ‘inspiration go-to’. Some of the top interior design accounts on Instagram, such as Mad About the House and Vogue Living, boast hundreds of thousands of followers. Indeed, with Home Décor the third and DIY and Crafts the second most popular category on Pinterest, following closely behind Food and Drink, consumers can fully submerge themselves in trendy home ideas at the tap of a screen.

I am currently in the process of buying a house. A few weeks ago, after speaking with my IFA, I entered the ‘research stage’ – one that should have seen me view several houses in my chosen area to weigh up practicalities and get a feel for the size and style I could afford. However, instead of attending house viewings on the lookout for practicalities such as storage, layout or room configuration, I pitched up preoccupied with questions like ‘would a hammock fit in the spare room’ and ‘does the lounge have a mantelpiece on which I could display an obscene number of cacti?’ (Don’t worry, I’d roll my eyes at me too).

I’m a millennial and I work in marketing, so admittedly, I may be more immersed in, and thus influenced by social media than others (although the average age for a Pinterest user is 40). My consideration mindset for a home purchase decision was definitely influenced by what I’ve seen on Instagram and Pinterest. Instead of looking out for a good amount of plug sockets or checking for damp, I looked for picture perfect angles and Instagramable snapshots.

Instead of looking out for a good amount of plug sockets or checking for damp, I looked for picture perfect angles and Instagramable snapshots

At one viewing, the garden was perfect (ideal for that summer BBQ Instagram photo), the kitchen backsplash would really compliment copper utensils, the lounge boasted wide enough walls for a giant projector and I could indeed fit a trendy hammock in the spare room… so needless to say, I bought the house! Ok, I did consider some practicalities, like parking and all that boring stuff too, but ultimately, I had just made the biggest purchase decision in my life to date, heavily influenced by the likes of Instagram and Pinterest. I valued shareability over practicality, fun over function, lifestyle over life lessons – heart over head.

I think social media is affecting the way we buy homes, whether we are aware of it or not. The explosion of visual content grouped around interest areas, created and curated by peers and professionals alike, is the perfect breeding ground for instant inspiration at our fingertips. We’ve moved away from waiting weeks for the latest publication release of home inspiration magazines such as House Beautiful, and the stats prove it. In 2016, home interior publications such as House Beautiful (-11.8%), Homes & Garden (-6.9%) and Style At Home (-9.6%) all experienced drops in circulation. Why? Because in 2 taps of a phone screen we can be lost in a world or inspiration, aspiration, ideas and dreams. The emotional impact can be so strong it influences the smallest and largest purchases we ever make.


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