How Home Buyers Search – and What it Means for CRE

how home buyers searchThe next best thing to having statistics for how CRE users find properties is to look at NAR’s annual home buyer’s survey.  While not exactly an apples to oranges comparison, it gives you an idea of habits and expectations that will likely effect CRE user behavior – especially for small/mid-sized space users and markets.

No surprise that the internet is the top choice to start a home search.  Though the numbers fluctuate year to year by a few percentage points, it has displaced agents as the primary source for the past several years.  Interestingly print, open houses and signs have ticked up a bit shaving a few points off past year’s plus 90% highs.  Maybe all those URLs (and QR codes!?) are transforming signage into a more useful resource.

Online search – 88%
Agents – 87%
Signs – 55%
Open Houses – 45%
Newspaper Ads – 30%
Home magazines – 19%

Internet sources are also considered the most effective when it’s measured as where the buyer found the home they eventually bought.  42% of buyers found their home on the internet. Agents were the next most effective with 35% discovering their home through an agent.  All the other sources (including friends) made up the 23% difference.

Agents are still a huge part of the purchasing process, however.  90% of those who searched online contacted an agent – who they were also likely to find online – to make a purchase.  Of those who didn’t search online, 71% still used an agent with the rest buying directly from the owner or builder.

Age Differences
As you’d expect, online searchers tend to be younger but there were some other interesting results for this group that suggest that social networking/content marketing efforts may eventually be rewarded.  More than those over 44, they want to read about the buying process and like to compare notes with friends and family.  Those over 44 prefer to talk with agents and look at newspaper ads.

Where Did They Look Online?
Digging deeper into the internet searches reveals the importance of having a website.  CRE has no real free MLS type search so brokerage and individual agent websites, the next most trafficked search targets, are even more important to CRE.  Also notice the emphasis on local.  Other sites, which included sites like Zillow and Trulia, were visited by less than a third of searchers.  No details on exactly how search engines were used, but likely it included searching for a specific location, brokerage company or agent once again reinforcing the importance of local.

Local MLS/ – slightly over 50%
Local agent sites – 47%
Local brokerage sites – 39%
Other sites – 27%
Search engines – 19%
Mobile/tablet apps – around 12%

Listing Features
When asked which features were most valuable, buyers rated them as follows:

Photos – 84%
Detailed property information – 82%
Virtual tours – 63%
Contact information – 46%
Interactive maps – 43%

The low percentage for contact information probably indicates buyers already have an agent in mind to who they’ll forward the listing.  And the fact that none of these features had a percentage near 100 reveals a healthy dose of skepticism about online listings.  In other words, buyers take whatever is offered with a grain of salt and want to see the property in person or speak with an agent/others about it to truly assess a property’s suitability.

The takeaways for CRE is not to let your online presence languish.  That includes your website and content marketing/social network activity.   You’ll also need to broaden efforts to be found in local searches.  Since LoopNet isn’t free for the average user (or what they can see for free isn’t much) until there is a viable free national listing site, users will look to local resources for information.

Photo by Jeffrey Beall


  1. says

    Another free way to get local visibility is to post your contact and profile information at, aka theBrokerList.

    Another free site. I often find my company showing up on page 1 of Google, under theBrokerList profile I loaded up. They do a nice job of helping you get found. And free, I like free when it comes to helping my company be found easily…