Report: Net Transforming Real Estate Biz

The number of unique visitors to online real estate sites this summer increased by 75 percent over the same period last year, according to a survey released Wednesday by market research firm The NPD Group and Internet audience measurement firm Media Metrix.

Notably, “The e-Visory Report” shows that the increase occurred even though the number of property shoppers with Web access rose marginally from 28 percent last year to 30 percent this year.

“The Internet is absolutely changing the way people shop for real estate,” NPD vice president Pamela Smith said. “Being able to research a home or property on a real estate site before seeing an agent allows a potential buyer to save an abundant amount of time. It can also help the consumer feel more in control of the process while giving the agent a better idea of what they’re looking for.”

Offline and Online Convergence

The real winners in the online real estate game will be the traditional real estate agencies that can find a way to use the Web to drive their offline businesses, Smith added.

“The next challenge lies in real estate sites improving their site features and finding a way to marry the personalized services of an agent with the convenience and cost savings promised by the Internet,” Smith said.

Even though a number of huge e-commerce companies, including eBay, are jumping on the online home sales bandwagon, visitors are not completely impressed with the quality of the sites, the report showed. For example, while photos of properties are extremely important to 92 percent of consumers, only 40 percent expressed satisfaction with the photos at the sites they visited.

A survey released earlier this year by the Washington, D.C.-based National Association of Realtors (NAR) said that Internet shoppers are more likely than offline shoppers to use real estate agents. Results indicated that 87 percent of Net shoppers used the services of real estate agents or brokers to buy their homes, while 76 percent of traditional buyers worked with agents.

Research Over Deal Making

The NPD/Media Metrix report yielded several other tidbits. Of the 49 percent of would-be buyers who used the Internet to research new properties, most simply researched and compared properties without actually consummating a deal.

The top reason given for an online new property search was convenience, which was cited by 73 percent of respondents. Being able to gather and compare information before talking to a realtor was next at 69 percent.

The purchasing goal of 74 percent of online property shoppers in the study was a house. Ten percent were searching for land; another 10 percent for a condominium. Only 1 percent of those surveyed used the Internet to shop for a commercial building.

Figures and Facts

More than 80 percent of the online property searches in the NPD/Media Metrix study were for properties valued at under $200,000 (US$), with the average price being $139,400, up 9 percent from last year’s average of $128,000.

The most popular online real estate site in July was Realtor.com, which had almost 2.5 million visitors during the month, according to the NPD/Media Metrix report. MSN’s HomeAdvisor.com and Homestore.com were tied for second with 1.5 million unique visitors each.

For the study, NPD collected 4,460 surveys from individuals pre-recruited to participate.

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