The number of Americans on the Internet has more than doubled in the past ten years. According to statistics released by Google, around 40% United States population had Internet access in 2000. Today, that number is above 80%. The Internet is now part of the daily lives' of the majority of U.S. consumers, changing the way we live, work, play and shop. Many industries now have established sizeable online components to meet changing customer habits. Much like the banking, travel and insurance industries, the real estate sector now has a major online presence as customers look to ease the home-buying process by doing a lot of their work online.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 74% of home buyers polled answered that they would use the Internet as part of their home search. This does not mean that the Internet has put real estate agents out of business, though. The poll simply asked which information sources home buyers would use. 69% responded they would still use a real estate agent for information in their hunt for a home. What this says, though, is that more buyers will use the Internet than agents and even the home buyers using agents still use the Internet to supplement their home search.
While online real estate research sites have not put real estate agents out of business, they have taken viewers away from the old traditional sources of information. In the past, home buyers relied heavily on newspapers and newsstand real estate magazines to get their home search started. Today, only nine percent of prospective buyers, when polled by the National Association of Realtors, responded that they would utilize newspaper ads and only six percent said they would use the home books and magazines available at the newsstand.
The same National Association of Realtors poll looked at the actions taken by prospective home buyers after their online research was done. As a result of online research, nearly half of the home buyers conducted a walkthrough of a home they viewed online. 29% of the home searchers found a real estate agent as a result of an online home search and 21% at least drove by a home they saw online. This statistic illustrates the current role of online real estate-related services. Unlike the travel industry, where more and more consumers are taking the entire booking process into their own hands, the bricks and mortar real estate industry is still thriving. The Internet has just supplemented home buyers' search options and has almost eliminated the research methods of just a few years ago. The majority of home buyers are still using real estate agents, but they're utilizing online sources to conduct research and look for homes first.
Real estate agents have reacted well to the increased online presence in their business, getting more involved with technology to meet changing consumer habits. Half of the agents polled responded that they would be purchasing a smartphone with Internet and email in order to better stay in touch with customers. The majority of the agents also responded that they would be listing homes not just in the newspaper and real estate magazines, but online. Sites mentioned were Realtor.com, MLS sites and many agents even have their own web sites. MLS sites are important, as this information is then aggregated by popular home search sites like Zillow and Redfin. Real estate agents are on the cutting edge when it comes to new technology as well. 84% of the agents polled responded that they would use some sort of social media to promote themselves.