MORE PEOPLE THAN EVER BEFORE ARE clicking their way to a new home. A survey by the California Association of Realtors reported that 62 percent of potential home buyers used the Internet this year as an integral part of their home search, a 10 percent increase from last year.
Internet buyers accessed the Web mainly as an initial research tool to determine what they wanted and how much they could afford. The survey reported that they spent almost three times longer—just under six weeks—considering buying a home than their traditional counterparts. However, their time spent surfing paid off in that they took an average of five weeks less to find the houses they bought than non-Internet buyers, who spent roughly seven weeks.
KB Home took this information to heart during a recent revamp of its Web site, including more interactive elements such as video and mapping to appeal to Web junkies. Company spokesperson Derrick Hall says, “The Internet plays such a vital role in the sales process that we have to design [the Web site] assuming that it's the only thing a home buyer will see.”
The home building industry often has overlooked the Internet as a viable sales tool, says Hall. “Traditionally with home building it's been get the foot traffic in the door, but now our Web sites need to be sophisticated enough for Internet-savvy buyers to get information without driving around or driving too far,” he says.
Despite their increased dependency, most Internet buyers aren't eschewing face time with a real estate agent. The report found that nearly six in 10 Internet buyers said the information gathered from the Web was less useful than what came from an agent, because information online frequently is outdated.