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Bob Khalsa: Internet primary research tool for most home buyers

Posted: January 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: January 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Modern real estate consumers have the world at their fingers via the Internet, yet a new study stresses the importance of “local” search terms and websites.

Despite access to a universe of information, consumers rely on real estate professionals right here in the Santa Clarita Valley, for example, more than ever to interpret the data and explain how it applies to a specific home purchase or sale.

Those were just two of the findings of a study of digital trends conducted jointly by Google and the National Association of Realtors.

Over the past decade, the world in general and real estate in particular, has become increasingly digital. Real estate professionals know that their customers are über-connected and informed.

Indeed, nine out of 10 homebuyers today rely on the Internet as one of their primary research sources, and 52 percent turn to the web as their first step.

In fact, real estate related searches on Google.com have grown 253 percent over the past four years. Whether they were looking for an existing home, a newly constructed home, or an apartment, Google and N.A.R. uncovered trends and insights around digital media usage among home shoppers.

Some of the key findings include:

• Buyers use specific tools during different phases of the home search process. Buyers tend to rely on search engines and general websites when they begin their search, use maps more in the middle of the process, and engage mobile applications most toward the end of their search.

• Video and specifically YouTube play a huge role in satisfying consumers’ information needs.

• Thirty-six percent utilize a mobile device to continue the search even as they are watching television.

• They may have access to the world, but when it comes to real estate the emphasis remains where it has always been — on what’s happening locally, in the specific neighborhoods where people want to live. The study found that “local” search terms and websites were very important for buyers.

• The typical homebuyer takes three months to buy, but engages an agent earlier — by the end of the third week — in the process.

• Home shoppers rely on agents and open houses to bring their online research into the real world. Finding an agent and agent-related searches on YouTube grew 46 percent year-over-year. YouTube has hundreds of thousands of agent-related videos.

• In their online search queries, first-time buyers frequently searched terms like “FHA loan,” “home grants,” “home loan,” and “home-buyer assistance.” Last year, more than four out of 10 first-time buyers purchased their homes with a Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage.

• Both first-time and repeat buyers rely on Realtors in their home search. Multiple listing service websites and Realtor.com were the top two websites used in recent home searches. Realtor.com attracts an average of more than 20 million unique visitors per month.

“Increasingly, online technologies are driving offline behaviors, and home buying is no exception,” said Patrick Grandinetti, Google’s head of real estate. “With 90 percent of homebuyers searching online during their home buying process, the real estate industry is smart to target where these people look for and consume information.”

Technology may have transformed real estate, but rather than displacing real estate agents, the Internet is helping connect them faster with today’s homebuyers and sellers.

Bob Khalsa is President of the Santa Clarita Valley Division of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. David Walker, of Walker Associates, co-authors articles for SRAR. The column represents SRAR’s views and not necessarily those of The Signal. The column contains general information about the real estate market and is not intended to replace advice from your Realtor or other realty related professionals.

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