The Digital House Hunt
Online tools and social media have drastically changed the real estate landscape.
Jacob and Amanda are 33. Engaged to be married, the couple is shopping for a home in Peoria. Jacob just called the Realtor to set up a tour of a home for sale in the Peoria area. Will this be their first showing? Well, not exactly.
As a Realtor, I tell my home sellers, “Every showing you have is like a second or third showing, because before these buyers called to see your home, they’ve already done a lot of homework.” In this case, Jacob and Amanda first searched online, then drove by the homes that interested them, and then took a virtual tour of the homes they liked on their smartphones. They know the listing price, the taxes and the price paid by the last buyer. The home they want to see meets all their criteria: mid-century modern, three bedrooms, updated colors and no “old-person wallpaper, floor coverings or paneling.” A first showing? Let’s call this a second or third showing!
A New Kind of Home Shopping
Technology has changed the buying practices of home shoppers, and the real estate industry is moving quickly to meet the ever-shifting marketplace. According to a joint study from Google and the National Association of Realtors, nine out of 10 home buyers searched online during their home-buying process. Yet more homes are still bought and sold through Realtors than any other way; in fact, 89 percent of people who use the Internet to search for home listings also use a Realtor.
Brian Carroll, PAAR’s technology coordinator, tracks these technology trends. “Realtors are one of our most mobile populations,” he explains. “They understand the need to take their products—home listings—to the marketplace in a way that works on any device, and in any place that people shop—at home, in the car, in front of the TV, and at work.”
Some of these recent trends include video shoots of listings, websites optimized for mobile, and even brokers’ development of their own phone apps. Carroll reports that home buying reaches into social media as well, with real estate listings now posted on Facebook and Pinterest. YouTube is now the top video research destination for home shoppers at 51 percent, followed closely by brokerage websites at 41 percent and Google video at 37 percent.
The endless amount of information that can be found online is turning home shoppers into investigators; the only problem is the accuracy of this information. For the greatest accuracy in your online home search, you can’t go wrong with Realtor.com or PAAR’s new “Listing Book” for local home shoppers. Online sources like Zillow and Trulia often provide erroneous data, culled from out-of-date sources or that they’ve created via an algorithm that “fills in the blanks” using information from surrounding homes.
And accuracy matters in your search. For instance, all of the homes in Peoria Heights are not in the same price range—although they may be located very close to one another—yet Zillow’s algorithm at times says they are.
In contrast, Realtor.com pulls its data from the local MLS, or multiple listing service. Once you connect with a Realtor on the website, you can send them messages about the homes you’d like to see. Further, to provide the most up-to-date, personalized data to home shoppers, PAAR’s new “Listing Book” features home listings from the local MLS, so it’s guaranteed to be accurate and up-to-date. And this service is free—just call any PAAR member and they can set up an account.
In addition, the Realtors Property Resource can be an invaluable tool if you don’t have time to conduct your own research. Any Realtor can access its content, which can be used to create complex reports, eliminating hours of your own online research. iBi
Tonya Burris is president of the PAAR Board of Directors and a Realtor with Traders Realty.