Visitors to real estate sites are increasing at a significant rate, according to an e-Visory Report by The NPD Group, Inc. and Media Metrix, which found the number of unique visitors to real estate sites increased by 75 percent this summer compared to the same period last year. By comparison, total Web traffic was up 22 percent for the period.
The increase in traffic comes even as the proportion of consumers who are online and in the market for a new home has risen only slightly, the study found. Almost 30 percent of consumers who access the Internet are currently in the market to buy a new property, or have been sometime during the past six months. This is a slight increase from the results of a similar study conducted by The NPD Group in June 1999 (30 percent vs. 28 percent, respectively).
The survey confirms that about half of those who are online and in the market for a new property used the Internet to search for new properties online (49 percent). The majority of consumers searching for properties online are interested in purchasing a house (74 percent), with the remainder looking to buy land (10 percent), a condominium (10 percent), a co-op (1 percent), commercial building (1 percent), or some other property (5 percent).
The average price of those properties searched for online has increased about 9 percent, from $128,200 last year to $139,400 this year. Almost one-fifth of those searching online are looking at properties valued over $200,000 (18 percent).
Consumers who are searching for a new property are primarily using the Internet for researching and comparing information. According to NPD, convenience (73 percent) and being able to gather and compare information before talking to a realtor (69 percent) are the top reasons for searching for a new property online.
Although real estate site visitation has increased within the past year, consumers who have searched for properties online report not being as satisfied as they could be with site features (average rating 36 percent). For instance, photos of properties are considered extremely or very important among nearly all consumers (92 percent); however, only 40 percent are satisfied with this feature. This is a clear opportunity for real estate sites to narrow the gap and improve satisfaction by focusing on the most important site feature.
The report shows Realtor.com, the official site of the National Association of Realtors, had the highest number of unique visitors among real estate sites, with almost 2.5 million unique visitors in July of 2000 or a reach of 3.2 percent. MSN’s HomeAdvisor.com and Homestore.com are tied for second with 1.5 million unique visitors each. Homestore.com is the gateway to a network of sites, which includes Realtor.com as well as HomeFair.com and HomeBuilder.com. In July of 2000 the Homestore.com Network had over 4 million unique visitors, or a combined reach of 5.2 percent.
|Top Real Estate Sites Visited
|Source: Media Metrix, Inc.
“The Internet is absolutely changing the way people shop for real estate. 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,” said NPD Vice President, Pamela Smith. “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. Overall, it is becoming a much more efficient way of doing business for all. 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.”
The NPD/Media Metrix findings are in line with the findings of a telephone poll by Coldwell Banker, which found that 85 percent of the respondents “value the ability of the Internet to quickly provide potential homebuyers with quality home listings and information.”
But consumers don’t appear willing to sacrifice any of the services they have come to expect from a traditional real estate company. In fact, while consumers seem to like using the Internet as part of their search for a new home, only 10 percent of the respondents were “very comfortable doing business with companies that exist solely on the Web with no ‘real world’ offices to visit and/or contact.” Nearly 90 percent of the respondents report that they would be unlikely to bid on a home online after having seen only a picture or video without visiting the home.