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Average home buyers find an agent by word of mouth, interviews only one agent

Home buyers seeking agents

The 2011 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers surveyed 5,708 home buyers and sellers, and report that almost all Americans now use a Realtor (89 percent); the percentage is at a ten year high, rising twenty percent in the last decade alone.

But how did consumers come to find their agent? Realtor ratings are all the rage as some insist consumers find their agent through the web, while others assert that old school word of mouth is how the business of real estate referral is done, so who is right? Both.

How consumers found their agent

Two in every five buyers found their real estate agent through a referral from a friend, neighbor or relative, but half of all first time buyers rely on word of mouth referrals while 36 percent of repeat buyers doing the same. Shockingly, only 14 percent of repeat buyers use the agent they used on the last transaction – not exactly a glowing endorsement of the industry.

Nine percent of home buyers found their agent through a website, only two percent more than finding their agent at an open house. First time buyers were substantially more likely to find their agent through the web (12 percent) whereas only 7 percent of repeat buyers finding their Realtor online.

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Unmarried couples relied on referrals slightly more than married couples or single buyers and married couples are more likely to use the agent they used on a previous transaction.

The interview process

While the process of discovering an agent is diverse as seen above, it must be asked if the interview process is as diverse. Only 16 percent of home buyers interviewed three or more Realtors before hiring one, while 65 percent only interviewed one agent in their search. Could this be because of the rising number of consumers in research mode, empowered by the web, or do first impressions matter so much that it can land an agent a relationship with a buyer? Perhaps because so many consumers rely on word of mouth, they are already trusting of their agent without even meeting them.

Fully 68 percent of repeat buyers only interview one agent, often using their previously hired agent, while 42 percent of first time buyers interview two or more agents.

The takeaway

The web is important, and more and more consumers are flocking to the web, but old school word of mouth still reigns supreme and consumers often hire the first agent they interview without even interviewing another agents. Given these statistics, real estate practitioners should be asking their network face to face for referrals and continuing to drip market to past clients (and keep in touch with them) while maintaining an online presence. These statistics likely vary per region as a tech-centric city would likely rely more on the web, but first time buyers are researching and both repeat and first timers are looking to trust an agent, so first impressions matter deeply.

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  1. Pingback: How Home Sellers Find Real Estate Agents - GoBC Real Estate School

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