Home on the Web

The economy may be suffering but U.S. home sales are thriving, due mostly to the lowest mortgage rates in years. Joint estimates from the U.S. Census Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development found that sales of new single-family houses surged 6.7 percent to an annual rate of 1.017 million in July 2002, marking the first-time new home sales surpassed 1 million, and the National Association of Realtors (NAR), which also operates Realtor.com, found that sales of existing homes, or re-sales, rose 4.5 percent in July.

In the Midwest, sales of new homes rose 16 percent, while re-sales were up 10.2 percent from June. The median price of an existing home in that area was $141,200, up 2.6 percent from a year ago.

The South experienced a 10.1 percent increase in new home sales from June, and sales of existing homes rose 6.4 percent. The median price of an existing home in the South was $153,100, which was 9.3 percent higher than July 2001.

New homes in the Northeast were less in demand, as that region saw a 9.1 decrease, and while re-sales in the Northeast increased 4.9 percent in July, the rate was 3 percent below July 2001. The median existing-home price in the Northeast was $165,700, up 8.1 percent from a year ago.

Sales of new homes in the West remained fairly stable, with a drop of less than half a percentage point (0.4 percent), but home re-sales slipped 2.9 percent – 2.9 percent lower than a year earlier. The median existing-home price in the West was $213,200, up 11.7 percent from July 2001.

The average price of a new home nationally fell to $215,200 in July from $220,300 in June, and the median price dropped to $170,500 from $186,200 in the previous month. The national median existing-home price was $162,800 in July, up 7.3 percent from July 2001 when the median price was $151,700.

Apparently, many of the new and existing home-buyers are finding their dream houses online, according to research from Pew Internet & American Life Project. Pew found that 40 million wired Americans (36 percent of all Internet users) have used the Internet to search for houses or apartments, and on average, more than three million Internet users are online on any given day searching for a new place to live.

The survey, conducted among 2,259 Internet users from March through May 2002, revealed that more than one-third of the nation’s 111 million Internet users had done housing searches online, compared to 2000 when 27 percent of the nation’s 89 million online adults had done such searches.

The number of online house hunters has increased by two-thirds since March 2000 when 24 million Americans had searched the Internet for information about a place to live. Since then, daily traffic related to housing research has roughly doubled – about 1.7 million Internet users sought housing information on an average day in March 2000.

Other significant findings from Pew include:

  • Almost half (47 percent) of those between ages 18 and 29 with Internet access have looked for houses or apartments online, compared with 37 percent of those ages 30-49 and 25 percent of those ages 50-64.
  • While those with college and graduate degrees are more likely to have ventured into the online real estate world, Internet house hunters are relatively evenly spread throughout all income groups.
  • Almost two-thirds (62 percent) of Internet house hunters have been online for over three years, and 58 percent of Internet house hunters are daily users.
  • More than half (58 percent) of those who look for housing information online are unmarried.
  • Almost half (46 percent) of broadband users have house-hunted online, compared with 35 percent of those with slower connections.
  • Over 55 percent of online house hunters live in suburban areas, and 36 percent work in professional or managerial occupations.

A January 2002 survey by Pew found that 8 million Americans who found new places to live in the past two years said that the Internet played a crucial or important role in helping them through that transition.

Furthermore, in a 2001 study of homebuyers, the NAR found that 41 percent of all homebuyers used the Internet as a search and research tool, and 63 percent said that the Internet shortened the search time for their home.

Research firm comScore found that real estate was the second fastest growing online sector during July 2002, with a 15 percent increase to 23 million visitors from the month prior. Nielsen//NetRatings measured significant increases at key real estate sites for the week ending August 11, 2002, indicating that the home-buying frenzy is not over yet.

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