Organized real estate knows how to market listings to homebuyers, but it doesn't have a clue how to cultivate them. Google has an astounding 58 percent of all Internet searches, and about the same percentage in market share for real-estate related searches.
Buyers are going to the Internet to seek information about homebuying issues, mortgages and listings.
One third use the Internet as the first step in shopping for a home, and 66 percent of buyers report using the Internet frequently. (Editor's note: all subsequent statistics are from the NAR 2007 Buyer/Seller Profile)
The Internet yields results. About 34 percent of buyers found the home they purchased online.
Internet users want as much information as possible about properties for sale (95 percent) or about a specific area (20 percent.) That's driving them to resources outside the traditional Realtor-dominated industry.
Go to Zillow.com and HouseValues and buyers can find property values on the majority of homes in the U.S. On Zillow, buyers can talk directly to homeowners and make offers, and they can look at agent profiles and contact them. Buyers can be matched to a Realtor on HouseValues. And both companies have listings by Realtors.
To find out what their neighbors will be like, buyers can go to Rottenneighbors.com, to see if they fight too much, play loud music, or take poor care of their property.
We all want to see into the crystal ball, so Housingpredictor.com gives buyers information on the best and worst cities to invest.
These sites all have one thing in common -- they empower the buyer with information beyond the listing.
Even Realty Times is a third-party source. We are the only content provider that shows buyers and sellers local market conditions and which way they're trending up or down. In our case, we're the only site that exclusively provides information by Realtors, which makes us among the best places to find agents.
Buyers aren't just looking at homes and calling the listing agent, because now they know the agent works for the seller. And the proof is in the pudding -- only 23 percent of buyers contacted an agent after looking at properties online.
The good news for real estate agents is that 79 percent of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent, but they largely got their agents through referrals (43 percent) or previously used agents (11 percent) not the Internet (8 percent.)
So if most buyers are on the Internet, agents need to get in front of them. If you're an agent with properties for sale, you're in good shape, but only if buyers are searching in your listings' price ranges. If don't have listings, don't wait.
Go to Zillow and fill out an agent profile. Join a real estate blog like Active Rain. Or become a market conditions expert on Realty Times.
The point is -- the Internet is where agents need to be, with or without listings.