The COVID-19 outbreak has forced developers to alter their products and marketing strategies to cater to customers' burgeoning demand. Therefore, the year 2021 will unleash new trends for buying and selling homes in India.

The year 2021 marks the beginning of a new decade and pandemic-driven shifts in consumer expectations and buying behaviour across industries, geographies and categories. However, homebuying decisions continue to be based primarily on the inherent value of goods and services, with convenience and accessibility emerging as other key drivers.

In no other category has this concept of ‘value’- the satisfaction a consumer experiences from a purchase, relative to its cost-reasserted itself as prominently as in the real estate sector. Extended home confinements and the new work from home trend have reinforced the multiplier benefits of homeownership . Not only has the ‘home’ emerged as a haven, but it has also doubled up as a workplace, recreation area, fitness zone and entertainment hub all rolled into one. Consumers have again realised the benefits of well-planned interior and exterior spaces. 

Indeed, the concept of ‘space’ itself has come to command a premium, especially when enhanced with functionality and flexibility. And yet, India’s real estate industry has miles to go on its journey from hitherto quasi-commodity to an ecosystem of consumer brands with strong associations and recall a somewhat counterintuitive state of affairs. Given how each one of us ‘consumes’ real estate all through our lives. The sector’s history reflects this trajectory-India’s liberalisation spawned the entry of established corporates into the housing sector and marked the beginning of consolidation favouring trusted brands with a legacy of creating value. However, India's real estate industry needs to accelerate its adoption of ‘glocal’ marketing practices to deliver tangible, functional value and the intangible value that is the implied guarantee of all branded products. The first and most crucial step will be to accept and internalise homebuyers' continually evolving needs by going beyond the rudimentary attributes of price, unit size, and location.  

Real estate is probably the only category where a consumer incurs a life-long debt (in most cases) to own the product. That reality, combined with the evolved, demanding consumer attitude, forces developers to increase trust and transparency to homebuyers. This has been easier because COVID-19 has not only deepened the use of digital platforms by consumers but has also resulted in a sharp increase in the percentage of first-time online transactions across categories. A case in point is- developers for the first time sold homes entirely online without any site visits or physical meetings. This digital adoption by consumers has unleashed a wave of transformation, resulting in the adoption of technology solutions and data-driven insights across the product lifecycle.

At the same time, developers need to continually create value with each project, keeping in mind how consumer needs vary across the product lifecycle. Real estate brands have to find ways to differentiate their offerings by adding value to consumers' lives, and how this value will be delivered. Unchanged for decades, the fundamental design of homes will need a radical rehaul and will be determined by a combination of standard practices, local culture, community values, and changing user habits and demographics. Some of this change is already underway as designs that accommodate home offices are already visible. Marketers are revisiting and highlighting both the utilitarian and emotional value of internal and external spaces. 

Finally, real estate marketers must create ecosystems where they identify and bundle relevant product and service differentiators and communicate their brand value proposition strongly and consistently. The focus needs to shift to how well-designed homes have a large ‘multiplier’ effect in the lives of its residents. Developers should consider consumer psyche and the growing consciousness towards environmental factors to communicate both the tangible and intangible benefits of ‘green’ certified homes. All the while, business capabilities must reinforce and defend brands and their underlying sources of differentiation. This will help create consumer relationships that are both broad and deep, and based on shared goals and common values.