The Internet’s Influence For Home Buyers

    June 12, 2008

Just what we want to hear – bad news about the housing market, but this time online. Turns out online searches didn’t have as significant impact on homebuying or renting decisions as we may have hoped. That doesn’t necessarily mean real estate sites should pull back their budgets though.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project Survey, September 2007 found that buyers even more than renters used the Internet most to search for real estate (links to a PDF summary of the study). They surveyed 2,400 adults about how they use the internet to research homes or apartments.

When taken as a whole, just 11% said information they found online had a major impact on their buying decision. This caused a bit of an outcry in the industry. Of the people who did research their purchase online, 23% said what they found had a major impact on their purchasing decision. Most agreed that their online research also saved them money and time.

I don’t take this to be all bad news. The study doesn’t address the buying decisions of this group, but in general people who go online have higher incomes than average. Also people are more likely to use the Internet to narrow their search. Then they take the search offline and actually view the homes or apartments to make the final decision. In other words, the Internet is more a lead generation tool than a buying tool.

According to the survey, of those who used the Internet in their housing search:

  • 57 percent said the online info reduced the number of places they looked at
  • 29 percent said such info helped them save money on their house or apartment
  • 23 percent said the Internet had a major impact on their housing decision
  • 42 percent said it had no impact at all

Here’s the information people most use online. Half or more used virtual tours, researched communities, or visited real estate sites:

I’ve been following the real estate industry in both my job and in regular life. During the day I work with clients, including real estate pros, on their search engine optimization. I follow mostly sour news about the housing market. And I recently hired a Realtor to help me sell my condo.

The good news is my condo is under contract in less than two weeks (so I’m feeling particularly optimistic after dreading a possible 6-9 month wait). And a guest post on Marketing Pilgrim gave me some new ideas for my clients – including introducing me to a social network for real estate. Thank you Joe Hall.

Next up, Hitwise data on specific real estate sites and brands people are visiting online.