The pool of buyers is changing as are their habits
Although the housing market has changed considerably, the 2011 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers which surveyed 5,708 home buyers and sellers shows that home buyer search trends have only adjusted, but not nearly as dramatically as the shift in buyer demographics this year. We recently reported that this year, home buyers spend an average of 12 weeks searching and tour an average of 12 homes, and that home buyers use the web as a starting point less this year (88 percent) than last year (91 percent).
As indicated in the report, most buyers begin their search online, and a popular belief is that web surfers are more likely to try to transact without a Realtor, but the opposite is true- the NAR report shows that buyers that search for a home online are actually more likely to use an agent – 91 percent of house hunters using the web use a Realtor.
How do buyers find their homes now?
Of buyers who used the web as a starting point for their search, 45 percent found the home they ultimately purchased online, up nine percent from 2009. Out of the buyers that used the web, 34 percent found their home through their agent, while 45 percent of buyers that did not use the web found their home through their agent, otherwise, they were more likely to find their home through a yard sign, friend, relative, neighbor or directly from the seller.
The NAR report focuses in on the critical nature of photography, with 85 percent of home buyers finding property photos to be “very useful” on websites and 81 percent of buyers finding detailed information about a property “very useful” when searching for a home. Virtual tours were found to be useful by 58 percent of buyers and interactive maps by 44 percent. The major search sites know this and are developing tools to use full page photos that take up the entire screen, especially on tablets.
Where did consumers find their home when they shopped online? It wasn’t the latest startup you’re thinking about, no, 56 percent of buyers used the Multiple Listing Service Website in their area, with Realtor.com, Realtors’ independent websites and brokerage sites used by at least 40 percent of all buyers. The major search engines would likely argue otherwise, given that their web traffic is higher than most other sources, but we haven’t seen the actual question asked to ascertain this answer, so we will leave it up to you to decide where consumers find their homes as it varies regionally regardless.