Remember when the doom-and-gloomers warned that Internet usage by house hunters would spell the death of the real estate professional (or at least premature retirement)? Turns out that's not the case after all. A recent survey conducted by the National Association of Realtors (NAR) finds that while nearly three out of four prospective buyers use the Internet when searching for a home, those who surf the Web are more likely to work with a real estate professional than those who don't point-and-click.

"Almost every home placed on the market today can be found on the Internet, and more buyers than ever are using the Web to search for a home," says Cathy Whatley, NAR president and owner of real estate firm Buck & Buck in Jacksonville, Fla. "Nearly 90 percent of Internet searchers used a real estate professional, compared to 79 percent of non-Internet users."

While the survey found that most buyers use the Web in their home search, only 11 percent said they first learned about a home via the Internet (up from 8 percent in 2001). Forty-one percent first learned about their home from a real estate agent; 16 percent followed yard signs; and several categories, including newspapers, builders, and a friend or relative, accounted for 7 percent each.

"What this tells us is that most people use a wide variety of sources in searching for a home, but the single most important resource is a real estate professional," says Whatley.