More than half of all consumers now use the Internet when buying a home, according to a survey released today by the California Association of Realtors.

The “2004 Internet Versus Traditional Buyer Study” also revealed that, compared with traditional buyers, Internet buyers spent more than twice as much time gathering information prior to contacting a Realtor. However, they moved much more quickly once they began to work with an agent, and spent less time previewing homes than traditional buyers.

“The Internet has complemented rather than diminished Realtors’ role in the home buying transaction,” said C.A.R. President Ann Pettijohn. “While Internet buyers considered online information to be valuable, they ultimately turned to Realtors both for their interpretation of that information, and for their expertise and judgment throughout the home buying process.”

The share of buyers using the Internet reached 56 percent in 2004, and has risen steadily from 28 percent in 2000, the first year of the survey. By comparison, traditional buyers have made up a declining share of all buyers, down from 72 percent in 2000 to 44 percent in 2004.

The average number of homes previewed by Internet homebuyers has decreased steadily in the past four years, while that of traditional buyers has changed very little over the same period. The upfront research conducted by Internet buyers has given them a better sense of market conditions compared to traditional buyers, enabling them to act more quickly to find, bid on, and close escrow on the home of their choice.

Highlights of the “2004 Internet Versus Traditional Buyer Study” include:

  • Internet buyers spent an average of 5.9 weeks considering the purchase of a home before contacting a real estate agent, compared with 2.1 weeks for traditional buyers. 

  • Internet buyers spent an average of 4.8 weeks investigating homes and neighborhoods prior to contacting an agent, compared with 1.6 weeks for traditional buyers.

  • Internet buyers spent 1.9 weeks on average looking for a home after contacting an agent, compared with 7.1 weeks for a traditional buyer.

  • The typical Internet buyer also visited fewer homes with their agent than the typical traditional buyer. Internet buyers visited an average of 6.1 homes, whereas a typical traditional buyer visited 15.4 homes.

  • Internet buyers tended to be younger than traditional buyers with a mean age of 38.5 years, compared with 43.5 years for traditional buyers.

  • Internet buyers had higher incomes and more education than traditional buyers. The median income of an Internet buyer in 2004 was $168,540 while that of a traditional buyer was $142,470. While most home buyers in both groups had at least a four-year college degree, 14 percent of Internet buyers had completed post-graduate work compared with 5 percent of traditional buyers.

  • Internet buyers were three times more likely to be first-time buyers than traditional buyers, with 23 percent of Internet respondents reporting that they were first-time buyers compared with 7 percent of traditional buyers.

  • Internet buyers often conducted their home searches from afar, with a median distance of 100 miles between the homes they purchased and their previous residences, compared with 12 miles for the traditional buyer. More than four out of five traditional buyers purchased homes within 25 miles of their prior residence.

***

Send tips or a Letter to the Editor to jessica@inman.com or call (510) 658-9252, ext. 133.

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