Internet searches indicating an interest in buying a home were up 32 percent from a year ago during the the first three months of the year, but searches for rental properties were up an even more dramatic 171 percent, according to an analysis of Hitwise data by Experian.

The fastest-growing real estate for sale search terms included "homes for sale in Michigan" (up 74 percent) and "homes for sale in Florida" (up 73 percent) — both markets have been hard hit by price declines and foreclosures.

Fast-growing real estate for rent search terms included "cheap homes for rent" (up 128 percent) and "house for rent by owner" (up 94 percent).

Online mortgage searches were also up 43 percent from a year ago, but that growth was outstripped by interest in credit cards (up 70 percent).

According to a Harris Interactive survey conducted on behalf of Zillow in April, consumers spend an average of five hours researching a home loan.


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