Where should you concentrate your marketing efforts in 2009? What strategies work with today’s consumers and which ones should be discarded? The NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers for 2008 provides some important clues that you cannot afford to ignore.

1. Increase your online advertising budget. If you’re throwing your money into newspaper advertising, magazines or buying guides, you may want to shift some of those print advertising dollars to online advertising. According to the survey, only 1 percent of consumers found their agent through the newspaper, Yellow Pages, direct mail, or specialty advertising such as calendars and magnets.

(This is Part 2 of a two-part series. See Part 1.)

Where should you concentrate your marketing efforts in 2009? What strategies work with today’s consumers and which ones should be discarded? The NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers for 2008 provides some important clues that you cannot afford to ignore.

1. Increase your online advertising budget
If you’re throwing your money into newspaper advertising, magazines or buying guides, you may want to shift some of those print advertising dollars to online advertising. According to the survey, only 1 percent of consumers found their agent through the newspaper, Yellow Pages, direct mail, or specialty advertising such as calendars and magnets. Furthermore, the number of people finding their homes through a newspaper, a home book or magazine, or directly through the sellers declined by 50 percent. Part of this is due to how people begin their real estate search. Eleven times more buyers now begin their search process on the Internet (33 percent) than they do in print (3 percent).

2. Fewer buyers use real estate agents to locate their homes
In 2001, 48 percent of all buyers found the home they purchased through a real estate agent, compared with 38 percent in 2008. During the same period, the number of buyers finding their home online rose from 8 percent to 32 percent. Nevertheless, the number of people who found their homes through other traditional approaches has remained stable since 2001. Fifteen percent of all buyers found the home they purchased from a yard sign or an open house sign. Another 7 percent to 8 percent located their home through a friend, relative or neighbor. Bottom line: Put your advertising dollars into Web marketing while continuing to market your listings using yard signs, open house, circle prospecting and referral strategies.

3. Internet usage trends
According to the survey, "Eighty-seven percent of home buyers used the Internet to search for homes, up from 71 percent five years ago. Not only has the trend in overall usage risen, but the percent of buyers using the Internet frequently increased from 42 percent in 2003 to 69 percent in 2008." Even though buyers actively search for homes on the Internet, a whopping 77 percent then drove by or viewed the home in person.

4. Value of Web site features
Buyers overwhelmingly cited that photos (86 percent) coupled with detailed information (84 percent) and virtual tours (68 percent) were the most useful Web site features to them. Two studies conducted by Point2Agent in 2007 and 2008 showed that having 16 photos (as opposed to 15 photos), resulted in 33 percent more page views. Based upon the Point2Agent study, the optimum number of photos for lead conversion is a minimum of 20.

5. Your local MLS Web site trumps all competitors
While social networking can help you build your online reputation, the best place to display your listings for maximum exposure is still your local MLS Web site. Only 1 percent of all buyers surveyed used Facebook, MySpace, YouTube or other social networking sites to locate properties. In contrast, 60 percent used the local MLS Web site, compared with 48 percent using Realtor.com. Individual agent Web sites (43 percent) garnered nearly as much traffic as brokerage sites (46 percent). To reach the greatest number of potential buyers, market your listings in all of these venues.

6. Disintermediation is dead
A few years ago, Web marketers proclaimed that the Web would eliminate the need for real estate agents (disintermediation). The exact opposite has occurred. In 2001, 69 percent of all buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker. In 2008, that number was 81 percent.

7. Foreclosure sales represent only a small fraction of all transactions
Despite the nonstop press about foreclosures and short sales being the only types of transactions currently closing, only 3 percent of purchasers acquired their homes through a foreclosure or trustee sale. Nevertheless, that’s still triple the 1 percent number from 2001 through 2007.

8. What buyers want most from real estate agents
A large proportion of the industry was worried that the buying public would have no need for agents once they had access to MLS information. Surprisingly, 48 percent of all buyers indicated that their top reason for working with an agent was to find the right home to purchase. In terms of what buyers perceived as being beneficial, the top three items were helping the buyer understand the purchase process, pointing out unnoticed faults or features, and negotiating better terms. The characteristics they found most valuable in their agent were honesty and integrity (97 percent), knowledge of the purchase process (94 percent), responsiveness (93 percent), knowledge of the real estate market (92 percent), and communication and negotiation skills (83 percent). Technology skills were considered to be "very important" by only 37 percent of the respondents.

9. The saddest finding of all
A whopping 70 percent of all buyers said that they would "definitely recommend" their agent to other buyers, and another 18 percent said that they would "probably recommend" their agent. Sadly, only 11 percent of all buyers said that they used the previous agent to buy or sell a home, while 43 percent relied on a referral from a friend, neighbor or relative. This finding underlines the importance of staying in contact with past clients, especially for both repeat and referral business.

Bernice Ross, CEO of RealEstateCoach.com, is a national speaker, trainer and author of "Real Estate Dough: Your Recipe for Real Estate Success" and other books. You can reach her at Bernice@RealEstateCoach.com.

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