There are no great surprises in the National Association of Realtors® 2009 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, but, as in the past, the annual survey contains information useful both for consumers and for brokers and agents.
In these days almost everyone uses the Internet during the home search process. 90% used the Internet at some point and 76% said they did so frequently. Just seven years ago only 41% of buyers indicated any Internet use at all.
Of course, people looking for a home use more than just one information source. The top five were: Internet (90%), real estate agent (87%), yard signs (59%), open houses (46%) and newspaper advertising (40%). While people used a variety of sources, they certainly didn't perceive them all to be equally useful. When asked which information sources were very useful, the top three were real estate agent (81%), Internet (77%) and yard signs (42%). Ten percent of buyers found open houses to be very useful sources of information while another 25% found them to be somewhat useful.
What agents and sellers should be most interested in is not what buyers perceived to be useful but what, in fact, actually brought the buyer to the home that he or she purchased. This is where it really gets interesting.
36% of buyers found the home that they ultimately purchased on the Internet; another 36% learned of that home from a real estate agent. Over the years, the number who learned from an agent has diminished. In 2001 it was 48%. Conversely, the number who learned of their home from the Internet has grown greatly. In 2001 that number was only 8%. Interestingly, those who found their home as a result of a sign has remained relatively steady. Over the past decade that number has pretty consistently been at the 15% -16% levels. This year it was 12%.
It is interesting that the methods that actually work – that bring the right home in front of buyers – are among the least expensive: the Internet, working with an agent (who learns about properties through the MLS), and signs. 84% of buyers learned about their home through one of these sources.
INTERESTING: some of the most expensive methods – newspapers, home books and magazines, and television – are among the least effective. Only 4% of buyers found their homes via these media.