Thirty-one percent of home buyers in the San Francisco Bay Area believe it is likely that people may consider buying a home on the Internet in the future without ever seeing it in person, according to a survey released today by Prudential California Realty.

The findings demonstrated a shift in attitudes as consumers increasingly utilize the Internet in their home search.

The Prudential California Realty online home buyer survey, conducted in January by Caravan Opinion Research, gauged the attitudes of 300 Northern California home buyers who had purchased within the past three years and used the Internet to search for homes.

Consumers use real estate Web sites to search high quality photos and videos of home listings, view finance, community and school information, find open houses and assess the value of their homes.

“The idea that some buyers may buy a home over the Internet without actually viewing it is not as far-fetched as it would have seemed several years ago as buyers become more active and involved in the transaction through Web sites,” said Sherry Chris, COO of Prudential California Realty. “This is particularly true for the vibrant market in the Bay Area where competition for homes is often strong and good listings can be snapped up quickly.”

Chris added that real estate Web sites have become central to home searches, with the Internet impacting the buying process in two ways: accelerating the whole process and empowering buyers in the transaction. “There is more information about neighborhoods, homes and house prices available than ever before,” she said.

The survey also confirmed the Bay Area obsession with real estate, finding that 37 percent of respondents had searched online to see what the inside of a neighbor’s home listed for sale looked like. The number jumped to 64 percent for those who had checked a Web site to find the listing price of a neighbor’s home.

“With more information than ever at their fingertips, consumers now follow house prices the way investors follow the stock market,” Chris said. “A neighbor’s house listing price and photos provide an instant barometer for a consumer to value on their own property. It often helps a seller decide if it is the best time for them to list their own home for sale.”

Buyers searching online most frequently viewed approximately 10 to 30 homes before they purchased (33 percent of respondents), however 22 percent had looked at between 100-200 homes online before they purchased. The buyers most frequently viewed between 10 and 20 homes in person.

When buyers were asked: On the whole, did the homes you saw online meet your expectations when you went to view them? The majority of respondents, 79 percent, confirmed the homes online met their expectations when they viewed them in person.

When it comes to which photos attract the attention of buyers, the frontrunner was photos of the exterior of the home, followed by photos of the kitchen.

Prudential California Realty and its sister affiliations in Nevada and Texas include more than 5,000 agents and 139 offices.


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