For most homebuyers, the search starts online — and leads to a knowledgeable agent
By Madhusmita Bora
Hanieh Razzaghi of Bryn Mawr, Pa., is shopping for a new home. Her requirements:
“At least three bedrooms, at least 1,700 square feet or a finished basement, a yard, something I won’t have to upgrade too much, a nice kitchen, a good floor layout, and, of course, a good neighborhood with good schools and friendly neighbors.”
Like many prospective homebuyers, Razzaghi and her husband’s first step was to cruise the Internet.
“We want to get a really good sense of what is on the market,” she says. Online information helps her compare different neighborhoods and narrow the search, she says.
Some 42 percent of recent buyers started looking for a home online, according to the National Association of Realtors’ 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. They use multiple screens — smartphones, tablets, laptops — to track down information and tools during different phases of their search, from descriptions of properties for sale, maps and data on neighborhoods to comparing mortgage financing options.
“A lot of people go online to learn more and educate themselves,” said Britt Beemer, chairman and CEO of America’s Research Group, Charleston, S.C. “Buying a home is the single largest big ticket purchase and people want to make sure that they are not wasting their money or making a mistake.”
Some 92 percent buyers of use the Internet at some point of process, according to NAR research. “We have seen a huge rise in Internet search for homes,” says Jessica Lautz, managing director of survey research and communication.
At the same time, the use of real estate professionals to help buy and sell a home is at an all-time high. Eighty-eight percent of buyers who searched for homes online eventually purchased their home with the assistance of an agent, according to NAR.
Buyers 18-24 are the most likely to use an agent — 90 percent — but more than 85 percent of buyers in all other age categories also rely on a professional. Homebuyers say they turn to real estate professionals to find the right home, negotiate terms of a sale and help with price negotiations.
Particularly in strong real estate markets where inventory is tight, the use of an agent can help buyers move more quickly to identify and bid on a home.
Local real estate websites are reaching out to cater to online shoppers, providing listings and tools such as mortgage calculators, neighborhood profiles and school report cards.
At the NAR website realtor.com, the goal is to provide consumers the information they want when they want it, connecting them to a real estate professional when the time is right, says Janice McDill, vice president of corporate communications.
The number of unique users at the site is up 43 percent year-over-year, McDill says, with active listings accounting for more than 80 percent of all pages views.
“This illustrates the efforts we’ve made to draw more visitors to our site, but it also reinforces the fact that more people are turning to the Internet to discover and create their perfect home,” McDill says.
Back in Pennsylvania, homeshopper Razzaghi, too, says she and her husband will work with a real estate agent to narrow their choices and put in an offer to buy a home.
“They have more experience. It’s a nice way [to learn] specific things about neighborhoods or about the houses themselves that I wasn’t aware of,” she says.
“I also think Realtors are really important when you find a house you like. They can help with the offer process and getting all the paperwork together.”
© CTW Features