by Broderick Perkins
reprinted with permission - Realty Times © - published January 10, 2013
Just about 15 years ago, real estate consumers couldn't wait to get their hands on what meager multiple listing service data was available - after the technophobic real estate industry went kicking and screaming into the digital age.
"It is time for the real estate industry to understand that technology is not a destination - it's a journey. Technology is not an enemy - it's a tool...technology is the single biggest change catalyst the real estate industry has or will experience in the future." A decade and a half ahead of his time, Swanepoel was dead on.
That consumer demand for housing information, as well as the real estate industry trading in its Luddite-like business culture for more lucrative bottom line potential, not only put an end to the dark ages of realty data, it changed housing transactions forever.
The NAR-Google survey reports, 90 percent of homebuyers in 2012 searched online during their home buying process.
Today, "Real estate professionals know that their customers are uber-connected and informed," according to "The Digital House Hunt: Consumer and Market Trends in Real Estate," a landmark study that's perhaps the most comprehensive ever on browsing for housing - new, resale and rentals.
While the study focuses primarily on homebuyers, there is some data for sellers and renters.
No longer are housing consumers simply "browsing for housing" by examining what listings are available. Today's tech-savvy sophisticated housing consumers use online tools pegged to different points in their home search process.
Search engines and listing sites are the jumping off point, but maps and mobile applications give them on-the-go, GPS fired power to continue the hunt. Search queries also reveal the plight of first-time homebuyers. They frequently search terms including, "FHA (Federal Housing Administration) loan," "FHA," "home grants," "home loan," and "home buyer assistance."
In 2012, more than four out of 10 first-time buyers purchased their homes with a Federal Housing Administration-insured mortgage, according to the study.
"The fact that first-time buyers are looking for information about FHA loan programs and home buyer assistance underscores some of the challenges today's home buyers face in today's tight credit environment," said NAR President Gary Thomas.
Sellers obviously lose a marketing edge if their listing isn't widely marketing on the internet, but the report may be the first to reveal sellers also need to get their YouTube mojo working.
YouTube, at 51 percent, is the top video research destination for home shoppers, followed by brokerage websites, 41 percent; Google video, 37 percent; consumer-generated online reviews, 35 percent and aggregator listing websites, 33 percent.
The report also says new homebuyers place an emphasis on virtual tours and videos showcasing properties and they seek out videos to learn more about a community.
Another sign of tight economic times in potential homebuyers' minds is that they may have to settle on renting.
More and more often, searches that include "buying a house" also include "renting an apartment," "renting vs. buying," and "renting a house," according to the report. More and more second homebuyers using the internet are looking for vacation homes as investments.
The survey found among the top vacation home category searches, terms included "vacation rentals," "vacation home rentals," "rental homes," "rental vacation homes," and "rent vacation homes."