How Home Buyers Find Real Estate Today

A while back, here at HomePocket we decided to poll our registered users and anonymous web and mobile app visitors to find out how they started their search for a new home.

We placed a widget on our site and mobile web app using a service called Ramen (awesome stuff, btw..great work over there folks!). The way it works is simple:

A user visits our web or mobile web app and a little widget pops up in the bottom left to ask a simple question…

The best way to find a new home

In this case, we asked:

How do you start a home search?

The possible answers?

  • Search Google
  • Call local agent
  • Go to Zillow
  • Other Option (with response)

Here at HomePocket, we think the US is on the cusp of big strides in the real estate industry over the next 5 years due mainly to technology and its effects.

Yet, on the other hand, real estate – at present – remains a highly traditional and highly “technologically inconsistent” from top to bottom and sideways of the industry on both the consumer and business provider side.

Let’s just say, there are challenges and problems.

In particular. we wanted to find out if the way people start a home search is changing. Traditionally, people called a local agent and that’s how it all started. Is it still that way? If so, what does that mean for consumers? For Realtors? Mortgage lenders and more?

Some of us here at HomePocket had former (very low-paying) jobs in college and professionally as political pollsters and analysts. As such, we looked at this survey, if you will, as as simple “straw poll” using a healthy sample size of around just under 50,000 people.

Here’s what we found:

How do people find real estate for sale

  • 33% of home seekers search Google as their first step
  • 40% chose “other” then we asked them to say what “other meant” and 99% of the time they entered “Google” (not sure why they didn’t just pick it, but…hey, whatever)
  • 20% Chose Zillow
  • 7% Said they contact a local agent

Pretty interesting numbers that, to us, allow for some conclusions.

Interestingly, the single most popular way people start a home search is, well, Google. Around a whopping 73% start there. It seems most people Google things like “real estate in Atlanta” and make a choice from those results (usually of a Realtor’s site on one of the first two pages of results).

As well, the data allowed us to make some pretty (I’d say) decent assumptions.

Despite more than two decades of terms like “SEO” and “SEM” becoming more and more haggard around marketing circles, perhaps our current day mobile, social and media web habits are making search “hip” and important again? I’d argue it never left. Not for a second.

Some other hints?


Get digital exposure or don’t get sold. Period.


Does your agent’s site have good search visibility? It matters. A lot. Check it out before signing up.


If you don’t have good search visibility, well, I’ll leave the conclusion to you….


Why Selling a Home in 2017 Will Be More Challenging

home selling

Whether you’re selling your own home as a “for sale by owner” or a Realtor helping your clients sell, chances are you’ll need to work smarter and harder in 2017 than you did last year to find the right buyers for your homes for sale.

Here are a few reasons why and what you may be able to do about it.

Escalating Mortgage Interest Rates

As Freddie Mac just noted, 2016 ended the year with rates at a two-year high. In fact, rates are up 85 basis points since early November. It’s a trend that is highly likely to continue through 2017, with many experts predicting the rise may reach historic highs over 5%.

Don’t think that means a lot for most homebuyers? Just to compare, a monthly payment on a $225K mortgage at 2016 levels of 3.57% is $1,019. At 5% where 2017 rates are headed? It’s a whopping $1208 per month.

Simply put, this means many homebuyers won’t have the budget to afford buying a first home or move up to a larger one. And that means fewer total buyers for the homes you have for sale – no matter what area you’re in.

mortgage shrinkage

Digging a little deeper, this trend is likely to affect home buyers (and sellers!) more in the lower end of the price range. It also means that, in very tight markets, it can take longer to get a mortgage and be much more difficult to qualify interested buyers for your homes.

That all means more competition for fewer buyers. Finding the right buyers first and fastest will be the key to successful sales.


Home Price Trends Spell Bad News for Buyers

Whether you think we’re headed for another real estate bubble or not, one thing is for sure: home prices have steadily been rising.

As The Wall Street Journal author Steven Russolillo points out in a recent article:

“The market is flashing warning signs. The homeownership rate still hovers near a five-decade low and it is tough for less-affluent buyers to obtain mortgages. Meanwhile, mortgage rates have risen substantially since Donald Trump’s election victory, which will affect affordability.

Even without that, historical trends suggest that housing prices aren’t likely to keep rising at their current pace. For instance, since prices bottomed in 2012, they have risen in real terms at more than 5% a year, according to data courtesy of Yale economist Robert Shiller. That is great news for current homeowners but bad for anyone looking to buy, particularly first-time buyers.”

Again, home prices coupled with rising mortgage rates means a shrinking pool of buyers – and more competition for you and your sale.


The Top Way You Can Overcome These Challenges

Despite rising rates and home prices, there is something you can do to improve your chances of a sale:

Consistently target the buyers most likely to be seriously looking to buy in your area.

Today, almost all home searches start online. By using the right digital marketing and advertising techniques designed to focus only on those web and mobile viewers interested in homes in your area, you can ensure you find the right buyers and find them faster than other competitors.

For FSBO sellers, exposure and affordable marketing is – simply put – critical. Most FSBO sellers convert to Realtor listings within 6 months because of low exposure (which leads to few showings and little interest). If buyers can’t find you, your home won’t sell. And, no, Craigslist does not equal good digital marketing, folks.

For Realtors, unfortunately, most digital advertising promises and “guranteed #1 search rankings” are just ways to separate your from your ad budget every month. Indiscriminate digital ads shown to whoever wants to click them and reports of millions of ad impressions only help these advertisers ask you for more money next month. Think about it…If they did their job as described, would be pay more each month to reach “even more” buyers?

Plus, the big guys add an extra layer of challenge to already-tough market conditions by selling marketing or leads to dozens (or more!) Realtors in one area. It all adds up to even more competition than interest rates and home prices can cause.

So, how do you target the most serious home buyers in your area? Get a great website designed to rank well in Google, of course.