What Do Buyers Want When They Search for a Home on the Internet?

Robin Fenchel February 22, 2016

What Do Buyers Want When They Search for a Home on the Internet?

I decided to play the interviewer at my Open House yesterday. Yes, I am one of those real estate agents who believe in holding Open Houses as one way to market and expose a home to potential buyers, and to answer questions swirling around in the minds of buyers and sellers in the Irvine neighborhoods in which we market and sell homes. Yes, It’s real life, real-time interacting with your potential home buying/selling community; “pressing the flesh,” so to speak. And to be quite honest we have actually sold quite a few of our listings and/or our collegues listings through the contacts we have made holding Open Houses. However, yesterday, I decided to ask John and Jane Doe, and Mary Q. Public the following questions:

1. On which sites do you search for properties, and

2. If you could make one change that would enhance your online home searching experience, what would that change be? And the answers were enlightening:

The over 40 demographic, named Realtor.com and Homeseekers.com as the top sites used to search for homes. The under 40 set, said they searched for homes most frequently on Redfin and Zillow. Of the group polled, I asked if anyone had used Trulia. In this particular group, no one had searched on Trulia or had even heard of this site. I found this “trulya” surprising, since this site ranks quite high on Google for home searches of all kinds. Only one person used a brand-name real estate company to search for homes, and that one person found it to be a frustrating experience first and foremost because they were asked to “register” in order to perform any home searches.As a matter of fact, all the people polled said that they would not use a real estate site that forced them to sign in or register; they would just navigate away from that site, until they landed on one which provided free access to information and home searches.The number one complaint, and the most often cited criticism of real estate sites in general was the lack of up-to-date, reliable information. What consumers were led to believe were available homes for sale, turned out to be homes that were already in escrow or sold homes. The real estate sites that provided RealtyTrac information (homes in default or REO/bank-owned properties) were cited as being completely out-of-date in many instances.
The second most cited complaint was (no surprise here), either the lack of photos, terribly bad photos, or unreliable/creative photos. The creative photos were cited as showing a particular view when none existed, or taking a picture with an obvious flaw omitted in the photo (namely, power lines, a major street/road abutting the house, etc.).The last complaint was the lack of sold data, although Zillow.com was utilized as one site that was frequented in order to find this information.

I, for one, will listen to these prospective buyers/consumers, and try to incorporate their expectations into my own real estate sites. Bottom line is either we are going to be part of the problem or part of the solution. Hopefully, we shall listen up, make the necessary changes, and move forward to satisfy the changing consumer experience. “They, the consumer, demand it as a condition of engagement…At times, the consumer algorithm doesn’t just drive choice of time or platform, it drives the process itself.”

Hopefully, we shall listen up, make the necessary changes, and move forward to satisfy the changing consumer experience, and, in the process, change our role as reliable conduits for consumer-oriented real estate infomation, rather than setting up “a firewall”, delaying or constricting the best, reliable content “to protect a legacy product.”