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Where are the happiest new homeowners in the UK?

By Pete Mugleston

Published: 3rd September 2021 Last updated: 6th September 2021
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Buying a new home is an amazing feeling, but choosing the location is a big decision. Whether it’s your first step on the property ladder, a holiday bolthole by the seaside, or time to upsize, one factor most of us will consider is ‘where will purchasing a home bring me the most happiness?’

In a quest to help answer this question, we have turned to social media to analyse the happiness levels of locals, tourists, and recent homebuyers in various locations in the UK and around the world.

How we measured the happiness of people in each location

We began our study by sorting through hundreds of thousands of geotagged Instagram posts from all over the world to find out how the happiness levels of the average Instagram user compared to those who have recently purchased a home.

We collected two sets of photos: one was found using the hashtag #selfie, and the other set of photos featured hashtags related to having recently purchased a home, for example #newhomeowner.

We then used an AI facial recognition tool to discover the most dominant emotions displayed in the faces in every photo.

The most popular emotions on Instagram

From our analysis, recent homebuyers are considerably happier than the average Instagram user who posts a selfie. In just over a third (35%) of the #selfies we found, the AI tool found that happiness was the dominant emotion of the faces on show. In comparison, happiness was the dominant emotion in a staggering 83% of the photos we found of recent homebuyers.

Emotionally neutral faces were more commonly found in the general selfies category, and negative emotions (like sadness or anger) were present in just 1% of the photos from each category.

The happiest locations in the UK

Next, we wanted to hone in on the happiest and least happy locations in the UK according to Instagram selfies in general.

With the AI tool, we scanned the faces in hundreds of thousands of #selfies geotagged in locations all around the UK, and each location in our analysis earned itself an average happiness score based on the levels of happiness in photos posted there.

We also calculated the UK’s average happiness score and could find out how much higher a particular location scored from that baseline.

We discovered that Blackpool is the happiest location in the UK according to Instagram selfies, scoring 67.5 out of 100 on the happiness scale – 71.9% over the national average. Northern Irish city Derry-Londonderry comes in second place with a score of 66.8 out of 100 (70% over the national average).

The least happy locations in the UK

Rotherham in South Yorkshire tops our ranking of the least happy towns and cities in the UK, according to the Instagram selfies posted there. The town yielded an average score of just 7 out of 100 on the happiness index, which is a whopping 82.1% below the average UK happiness score.

Having found the happiest hotspots in the UK in general on Instagram, we then set out to discover the happiest places according to the gleeful photos of recent homebuyers – giving us rankings of the happiest places in the country to buy a home (at least, according to Instagram users!).

The happiest locations in the UK for recent homebuyers

We wanted to find out the happiest places to buy a home in the UK, according to our pool of Instagram posts with hashtags relating to having recently bought a home, including #homeowner, #firsttimehomebuyer, and #newhome.

We scanned each of the photos with the AI facial recognition tool to find out where in the UK happiness was the most dominant emotion in recent homebuyer photos.

We discovered that York is the happiest city for recent homebuyers in the UK, with the faces in Instagram photos there averaging a happiness score of 95.2 out of 100. That’s 11.8% over the UK happiness average of recent homebuyers.

The Lancashire city of Preston comes in second place, with an average happiness score of 93.5 out of 100, which is 9.8% over the UK city and town average homebuyer happiness level.

The happiness of homebuyers in the UK’s cities vs rural locations

We also discovered that homebuyers in the UK’s rural locations are, on average, happier than a homebuyer in a city. Instagram photos of recent homebuyers tagged in rural locations yielded an average happiness score of 90 out of 100, which is 6% higher than the happiness of those taken in cities (85 out of 100).

There’s already some research to suggest that rural homeowners are happier than those in urban areas: a previous government study showed that people living in rural areas rate their wellbeing slightly higher than those living in urban areas, so it could be worth scoping out the countryside if you’re in the market for a new home.

The happiness of the UK’s homebuyers in more expensive vs less expensive areas

Naturally, some areas in the country are much more expensive than others to buy a home, but does this have an effect on new homeowner happiness?

We scanned recent homebuyer posts on Instagram geotagged in the UK’s 10 most expensive and 10 least expensive areas to buy a house. The results mirrored our rural vs city findings: homebuyers in the UK’s least expensive areas had a higher average happiness score (90 out of 100) than those in the most expensive areas (85 out of 100).

Next, we expanded our search a little further from British shores. We deep-dived into recent homeowner Instagram posts from all over the world to find out the happiest and least happy cities in which to buy a home.

The happiest cities in the world to buy a home

Coming out on top of our worldwide happiest homebuyer ranking is Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona’s homebuyer photos scored an average happiness score of 95.4 out of a possible 100, which is a whopping 15.6% over the global average happiness level of homebuyers.

The least happy cities in the world to buy a home

Some of the photos in our worldwide search were much less happy. The least happy city to buy a home according to our Instagram analysis is Mumbai, India, with an average happiness score of 68.4 out of 100. That’s 17.1% lower than the global homebuyer average.

The happiest cities in the US to buy a home

We also looked across the pond to find out where the happiest new homebuyers live in the US. We applied the same method as before, scanning hundreds of thousands of photos featuring hashtags related to a new home purchase with an AI facial recognition tool.

Louisville, Kentucky is the happiest city in the US to buy a home, according to the Instagram posts in our analysis. Photos there tagged with new homeowner-related hashtags scored an average 88.7 out of 100 on our happiness scale, which is 6.5% over the average US happiness level of homebuyers.

The least happy cities in the US to buy a home

Atlanta, Georgia is the least happy city in the US in which to buy a house. The average happiness score of the new homebuyer photos geotagged there on Instagram is 70 out of 100. That’s 15.9% lower than the average US happiness level of homebuyers.

Methodology

Our analysis was performed in August 2021 and considers two sets of Instagram posts: one was found using the hashtag #selfie and the other was found using hashtags relating to a recent home purchase, e.g. #homeowner.

Every photo in our analysis was scanned with the Microsoft Azure facial recognition tool. Microsoft Azure analyses clear photos of faces and automatically provides a score on the levels of different emotions present. The detectable emotions are: anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, surprise, and neutral. For the purposes of our analysis, we combined the negative emotions (anger, contempt, disgust, fear, sadness) into one category (‘negative’).

Only geotagged Instagram photos were considered in our analysis. Geotags were used as an indicator as to where the photo was uploaded. Our breakdown considers photos geotagged in different locations in the UK, in the US, and in cities around the world.

A UK location was only included in our analysis if at least 50 AI-detectable photos were geotagged there. For the global analysis and US analysis, cities were only included if at least 100 AI-detectable photos were geotagged there.

Data on the most and least expensive areas in the UK to buy a home was sourced from Numbeo’s price to income ratio data.

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