The Internet has dramatically changed the way we do many things-like shopping for clothes, cars and colleges.
But the online experience is starting to have its greatest impact on the largest purchasing decision many of us will ever encounter: buying a home.
Maybe it’s a coincidence, but this increased use of technology by homebuyers comes at the same time when the housing market in the Rochester area is showing a higher degree of activity, given the most recent 2013 quarterly results released by the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors Inc.
These results showed that, comparing the second quarter of 2013 to the same period a year earlier, new listings increased 10 percent, pending sales rose 4.7 percent and the median sale price increased 4 percent. More home sales and higher prices are all good for the Rochester economy.
Sales of new and existing homes pump dollars into our region with both more construction jobs and the need by buyers to make additional investments in remodeling, furnishings, appliances and landscaping. And in all honesty, it’s also good for the lending industry in the form of mortgages and home equity lines of credit.
Important to facilitating sales and thus contributing to a more robust housing market is the speed and ease with which shoppers can obtain and evaluate information and then make the decision on the purchase of a home.
An industry report compiled by Properties Online says 90 percent of buyers search for homes online and 52 percent use the Internet as the first step in the purchasing process. In fact, 42 percent of buyers found the home they eventually purchased online, and of those who used an agent, 70 percent looked up that agent on the Internet.
The National Association of Realtors and Google released a joint study earlier this year that found searches related to real estate on Google.com had jumped 253 percent over the past four years. The study also reported that buyers usually begin their home search by using search engines and websites to glean information, then use maps and finally move on to mobile applications at the end.
In that regard, the study noted that 45 percent of home shoppers use mobile devices to ask for more information about specific housing features or additional real estate services.
With figures like these, it is smart business for real estate agents to become knowledgeable about all forms of technology and online communications-from tablets and smartphones to Twitter and Instagram.
Financial institutions are working to help real estate professionals better understand the fast-changing marketplace and the most sophisticated technological tools. For example, through the remainder of 2013, First Niagara is bringing local Realtor IT experts and marketing expert Steve Richman to meet with Realtors in New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut to enhance their technological know-how.
Not all real estate professionals are eager to embrace these new tools. But those who do are likely to be rewarded with tweets like this: "Let’s make an offer @SatisfiedBuyer."
Bridget Campbell is the Rochester regional mortgage sales manager for First Niagara Bank.
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