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Home Buyers Tracking Real Estate Markets, Spending More Time Online

Written by Peter L. Mosca on Tuesday, 23 December 2008 6:00 pm
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"Opportunity Knocks," a new brochure from the National Association of Home Builders that describes the many unprecedented opportunities in today's housing market, can be found online at NAHB.com as well as the site claims, "everything you need to know about buying, financing, building, maintaining or remodeling your home." That's good news for builders, since the Internet is the tool that savvy real estate consumers are using to make better business decisions. Even more good news: ultimately, those decisions lead them to the professionals who understand best the real estate market, so found the October comScore Media Metrics report. The report shows that visitors on Realtor.com, for example, are spending more time and viewing more pages as they closely track the pulse of the real estate market in the midst of one of the most challenging housing markets in recent history.

"We're encouraged to see continued increases in page views and the time our users invest on Realtor.com as they search for real estate," said Realtor.com President, Errol Samuelson. "This trend confirms earlier findings from our recent survey indicating a pent up demand for real estate with markets like Stockton-Lodi, CA, Fort Myers-Cape Coral, FL, Las Vegas, NV and Detroit, MI experiencing the greatest year-over-year increases in searches by consumers."

Based on historical comScore data, Realtor.com continues to be the most popular real estate Web site with engagement statistics unmatched by competitors in the category. Consumer traffic increased on the site by 31% year-over-year and by 35% month-to-month as more users visited Realtor.com than any other real estate site in October. Visitors viewed 14% more pages on Realtor.com compared to the same month last year. They spent 460% more minutes on the site compared to the closest competitor, for an 11% year-over-year increase in minutes, as time spent on the entire online real estate category declined by -8%.

Lorna Borenstein, President of Move, Inc. adds, "In today's market, consumers need trustworthy, timely and comprehensive information as they contemplate making a significant investment in real estate. To that end, we continue to develop real estate search tools and resources that deliver the right information at the right time."

Borenstein points out that over the past year, the number of users saving a search or listing has doubled and registrations have increased by 50 percent. Also impressive, when visitors to the category leader were offered the opportunity to opt in to receive marketing offers and other communications, they now do so 10 times more often than they did a year ago.

Based on consumer search trends, real estate search is picking up in the markets hit hardest by the recent economic conditions, indicating renewed consumer interest in these areas. Local markets with the greatest year-over-year increases in October searches on Realtor.com included Stockton-Lodi, CA (67.4%), Fort Myers-Cape Coral, FL (57%), Riverside-San Bernardino, CA (44.9%), Naples, FL (42.7%), Las Vegas, NV (40.7%), Miami, FL (35.4%) and Oakland, CA (30%).

In a survey conducted last month, more than two thirds of identified homebuyers said they've held off buying a home because of the overall economic condition. However, approximately five percent of consumers said they plan to buy a home in the next 12 months, about three times the percentage that actually bought this year, and another 17.7 percent plan to buy a home in one to five years from now.

"While today's challenging housing market has affected many, search activity on Realtor.com and findings from recent surveys tell us the desire for homeownership is alive and strong," said Errol Samuelson, President of Realtor.com.

According to the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), sales of new single-family homes declined 5.3 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 433,000. "The drop in new home sales last month comes as no surprise," said NAHB Chairman Sandy Dunn, a home builder from Point Pleasant, W. VVA "Housing starts in October and NAHB's most recent Housing Market Index, which gauges builder sentiment about the market, were at record lows. And the extreme turmoil in the financial markets in October definitely undermined consumer confidence and served as a drag on demand for housing." Although the new home sales rate declined in October, the Commerce Department reported that homebuilders are making progress in reducing the number of unsold units on the market, said NAHB's Chief Economist David Crowe. "The number of new homes for sale dropped from 414,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis to 381,000. Builders are doing what they need to do to get the market moving again, including cutting prices to the bone, offering incentives and decreasing production," he said.

However, more needs to be done. An economic stimulus package that includes measures to spur home buying and stem the tide of foreclosures is essential to the housing market and to the nation's economy. More specifically, Congress should consider significant consumer incentives such as expanding the first-time home buyer tax credit and providing a government buy-down of mortgage interest rates for home purchasers."

More needs to be done and looking online could be an answer. The numbers speak for themselves: real estate consumers are more educated and are turning to professional experts for advice and services.

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