Real estate buyers turn equally to newspapers and the Internet when shopping for property, according to a report by The Kelsey Group, a research company that focuses on advertising and online media.

A Kelsey Group consumer study found that 24 percent of sellers first look to newspapers and 19 percent to signs to advertise real estate for sale. Meanwhile, 30 percent of buyers turn to newspapers and an equal percentage turn to online sources to search for property, according to the company’s research.

And the most active real estate-buying age group, 18-34, turn to online sources first, according to the study, which is based on 1,000 random telephone interviews in June.

Among buyers who said they go online, 79 percent were 18-34. Of those respondents who have participated in a real estate transaction, 51 percent were 18-34, according to the report.

The study found that respondents used real estate agents in slightly more than half of real estate transactions, and those home buyers who used real estate agents found them through personal referrals while 6 percent of home buyers said they used the Yellow Pages to find an agent.

Neal Polachek, Kelsey Group senior vice president of advisory services, research and consulting, said the study reveals that there appears to be a lag between where buyers are looking and where the ad dollars are being spent.

“Eyeballs move more quickly than ad dollars, and this is just another clear example,” he said. “The question is, ‘How fast will ad dollars catch up with the shift in eyeballs?'”

Based on Newspaper Association of America data and The Kelsey Group’s forecast, Kelsey analysts anticipate that $7.75 billion will be spent on real estate classified advertising — offline and online — in 2006.

Online listings, paid search, Internet newspaper and other online sources is expected to drive the Internet ad share to 44.3 percent as the real estate transaction is more closely linked to financial and move-related services through consolidation, according to the forecast.

According to a National Association of Realtors survey, use of the Internet to search for a home has increasing from 2 percent of buyers in 1995 to 77 percent in 2005.

“Clearly, the underlying buyer and seller trends suggest we are reaching a tipping point regarding the transition of ad dollars from offline media to online media,” said Matt Booth, Kelsey Group senior vice president and program director for interactive local media and marketplaces, in a statement.

He added, “There’s a tremendous opportunity for established and new players to deliver home buyers a more compelling experience, which integrates the familiarity of paper with the robustness of digital.”

And Spencer Rascoff, CFO and vice president of marketing for Zillow.com, said in a statement, “It’s clear that home buyers and sellers are doing their research online — study after study shows this, and there’s an incredible opportunity for advertisers to get in front of this group.”

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