Real estate agents have a better chance of pitching themselves to potential clients in person if they’re easy to find online, data from search giant Google shows.

Half of prospective homebuyers  get serious about looking for a home 6 to 12 months before buying, and about three-quarters start within a year of the purchase, according to a consumer survey Google conducted in April.

Of those prospective homebuyers, 2 in 3 said they research agents “extensively” online before working with them, the search giant said in an article detailing its findings.

“It’s no surprise that people devote a lot of time and research to buying a home — it’s a major life event,” Google analysts said. “On top of that, it’s likely to happen around other significant moments. For example, people searching about real estate listings are (five times) more likely to search about planning for retirement and (four times) more likely to search about finding child care.”

Shopping habits and brand loyalties tend to shift dramatically when consumers are dealing with a lot of change, they said.

“People will buy things they’ve never shopped for (or even knew existed). In this way, big decisions can trigger many smaller ones for years to come. While real estate brokers should care about homebuyers, so should CPG (consumer packaged goods) brands, luxury retailers, financial services companies and more.”

While some economists worry about the state of the U.S. housing market, Google’s data indicates house hunting is on an upswing.

In July, Google searches for real estate-related terms reached their highest point since 2008, analysts said.

Google_Real_Estate_Searches_082514

Millennials also seem to be gearing up to be a bigger part of the homebuying market. When asked if they planned to purchase a home in the next year, 18– to 34-year-olds were twice as likely as 35– to 54-year-olds to say yes, according to a Google consumer survey fielded in July.

And more buyers overall, not just millennials, are using mobile devices in their home search. Mobile phones accounted for 27 percent of total searches related to buying a home in June, up 19 percent a year ago, Google said.

Google_Mobile_Searches_082514

Most people use mobile to search for listings, find directions while out looking for a home, look for more information on a listing, call or email an agent directly, or watch a video while out looking for a home, the search giant said.

Other findings from Google:

  • Mobile searches for open houses jumped 36 percent on an annual basis in June while similar desktop searches remained flat.
  • So far this year, one-quarter of Google searches for mortgages were on mobile devices; half were terms like “mortgage calculator.”
  • One in 5 house hunters said they’d use a mobile device to watch a video. Views of real estate videos on YouTube are up 13 percent year over year.

“Clearly, the place to reach homebuyers is on mobile. Marketers can help them find what they’re looking for through mobile ads, and extensions such as location and click-to-call take this a step further,” Google analysts said.

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