Consumers retain the internet as a critical tool during their home-buying process, while buyers continue to utilize the knowledge and expertise of a real estate agent, according to the National Association of Realtors®' Real Estate in a Digital Age report.
The report examines the process home buyers go through in the initial online search and the role real estate professionals play connecting with customers in the digital space.
"Consumers have the ability to do more home-buying research online than ever before. Still, Realtors present tremendous value to buyers from every generation and every background. While consumers have more technological tools at their fingertips, Realtors continue to be a large part of the home buying and selling equation,” said John Smaby, a second-generation real estate professional from Edina, Minn., and broker at Edina Realty.
The report found that finding the right property was ranked as the most difficult step in the home-buying process. Since the internet is now the first place many people go for information, it is not surprising that 44 percent of buyers looked for properties online as a first step in the home-buying process (the same as 2017). However, 87 percent of buyers in 2018 purchased their home with assistance from a real estate agent, a share that grows higher for millennials at 90 percent.
While 99 percent of millennials and 90 percent of older boomers used online websites in their home search, only 70 percent of the silent generation--those ages 69 to 89 years--did the same. Older boomers used a mobile device at less than half the rate of millennials (21 percent compared to 58 percent).
When it comes to website listing features, photos and online property information were more important to millennials, while virtual tours and direct contact with a real estate agent were more important to baby boomers. Despite visual content growing in popularity and importance, older home buyers found virtual tours more useful than younger buyers.
All buyers typically spent 10 weeks looking for a home, whereas millennials, members of generation X and the silent generations typically spent 8 weeks looking for a home. Younger and older boomers typically searched for 10 weeks.
The Real Estate in a Digital Age report also found greater digital age technology use by real estate professionals and real estate firms to serve the needs of clients. Real estate professionals prefer to communicate with their clients via email (93 percent) as well as text messages (92 percent) and instant messaging (37 percent). Over 90 percent of real estate professionals are also using e-mail, laptops/desktop computers, and smartphones daily.
“Realtors continue to find ways to make home buying and selling more efficient and accessible for their clients. As technology use continues to transform and modernize the real estate industry, Realtors are focused on adapting to and remaining at the forefront of this change,” said Smaby.
Social media continues to be popular with real estate professionals, with 76 percent of females active on social media compared to 72 percent of males. Facebook and LinkedIn are the most utilized social media platforms among real estate professionals (at 97 percent and 59 percent, respectively) compared to Instagram at 39 percent.
The top technology tools that provide the highest quality of leads are social media (47 percent), MLS suite (32 percent), a brokerage’s website (29 percent) and a listing aggregator site (29 percent), according to the report.
Real estate professionals found that the three most valuable technology tools used in their business, excluding email and cell phones, were local MLS websites/apps (64 percent), lockbox/smart key devices (39 percent), and social media platforms (28 percent).
Nearly 50 percent of all real estate firms cited keeping up with technology as one of the biggest challenges they face in the next two years. For commercial firms, 46 percent cite keeping up with technology as a challenge, while 51 percent of firms with three or more offices said the same.
The report looked at the use of drones in real estate and found that 5 percent of real estate professionals personally use drones, while 23 percent hire a professional, and 17 percent said that someone in their office uses drones.
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