Searching for a Realtor on the Internet
Curious about how people use the Internet to find realtors? We conducted a small marketing survey (Enerica, 2014). We sent out the following instructions to two men and two women aged 29 to 43—some homeowners, others not—to see how they would find a realtor. We posed the following question:
You are looking for a real estate agent. You do not have any local area contacts that can give you a personal recommendation, so you must take to the Internet to find an agent to help you find and buy a home. After you do some research and have settled on 1-3 agents, answer the following:
- What search terms did you use?
- What websites did you use?
- Whom did you select?
- Why did you select them?
- How much did you spend researching?
Though the sample size was small, some of the findings were remarkable. Out of all the possible paths these four people could have taken, they all chose the same one: Google to Zillow.
What we found:
- All respondents used (or would use) Zillow ratings to make their decision.
- It took respondents between 7 and 35 minutes to decide which realtors they would call.
- People with more home-buying experience do more research before deciding whom to call.
- The women both deliberately sought out female realtors.
- No one performed more than two searches before deciding which realtors to call.
- They all shared the same goal: Find a realtor to talk to.
- In lieu of personal references, consumers seek ratings. For a detailed narrative on one consumer’s search path.
- Home buyers want to feel personally connected with their realtor, far beyond the Internet.
- Why the race to the phone? As a respondent said, “You want to feel like your realtor has your back,” echoing the sentiments of other participants who sought a realtor they could be friends with.
House Hunting Online—The Buyer
The Digital House Hunt, a joint report by the National Association of REALTORS and Google, highlights the fact that consumers typically do online research for three weeks before contacting a realtor and 90% of home buyers use the Internet during the home buying process (“The Digital House Hunt,” 2012). What tools are they using?
Mobile devices were heavily used with real estate related searches on tablets growing 300% year over year. Buyers used their mobile devices to query search engines, use maps and real estate applications. (Searching general real estate websites was more frequently done on home computers than mobile devices.) More specifically, on mobile:
- 51% Read general home information
- 48% got directions to visit a home
- 44% compared prices
- 35% compared features
- 35% searched a listing company’s inventory
- 28% called a brokerage
- 21% located a listing agent
- 21% read reviews
- 20% researched mortgage financing
- 18% contacted a broker other than calling
- 16% watched an online video about the home
- Mobile compatibility is important in the real estate market. More than that, Google research has also found that 80% of consumers abandon a mobile site if it doesn’t load quickly enough or isn’t optimized for mobile viewing (Google, 2012).
The value of video in real estate cannot be underscored enough. Video is also a crucial ZMOT identified in the study with many participants saying that YouTube was their top research destination when it came to researching a home. According to new home buyers, they used video to:
- Find out more about a specific community (88%)
- Tour the inside of a home (70%)
- Obtain general information (54%)
- Understand specific features (38%)
- Watch customer testimonials (30%)
- Decide which company to purchase from (25%)
- Watching instructional videos (24%)
- Sources following YouTube in home Internet research were:
- Brokerage sites (41%)
- Google video (37%)
- Consumer generated online review (35%)
- Aggregator listing websites (33%)
- Consumers highly value video content in real estate particularly with home and community tours.
Search Time and Action
Most shoppers (78%) visit more than three sites prior to taking action on a real estate site. Yet, one-quarter of online shoppers complete an action on a real estate website the same day they begin research. Those most likely to register on a major real estate brand site were between the ages of 25-34 (first time buyers), making up 31% of all registered users on a brand site. Those aged 35-44 came in second (21%).
- The majority of buyers visit more than three sites before they take action (register as a user, request more information, etc.). First time buyers are the most likely to register on a real estate site.
Popular Search Terms for First Time Buyers
The most popular search terms for first-time buyers were:
- FHA Loan/FHA
- Home grants
- Home loan/Home loans
- Buying a home
- Home mortgage calculator
- Home buyer assistance
Women and Home Buying
Though men and women are equally represented in home-buying process online (47% male, 53% female), according to The Digital House Hunt, the actual decision of which house to buy falls on the women. According to The Marketing to Women Report, “women control the purchasing decision fro 90% of all home sales”. Yet, the report states that 91% of women surveyed felt that advertisers didn’t understand them.
Bridget Brennan of Female Factor wrote an article for Forbes that outlines strategies for marketing to Millennial women (aged 24-33):
When it comes to social issues, Millennials are, generally speaking, tolerant, optimistic and looking to be inspired. They’re thinking big…. Communicating what you stand for is a powerful way to reach Millennial women. Good design has become an expectation for Millennials. We already know they’re drawn to sharing pictures of the things they buy, they things they want to buy, and the things they find interesting or inspiring. (Exhibit B: Pinterest.)… Millennial women are the burgeoning epicenter of brand influence. They tend to remain close to their parents even after they leave the house, often sharing brand preferences in everything from apparel to electronics and food. (Brennan, 2013)
- Marketing to women means making personal connections. Women are more likely to want to feel a house, making tools like Pinterest and YouTube indispensible in the home buying process.
- Beyond the purchase, however, a strong Facebook profile that engages clients is likely to generate referrals down the line—particularly from the Millennials.