The 5 Must-Know Details About How Consumers Search For Homes

by Peter Thomas Ricci

How do consumers search for homes? Is the Internet still king, or are other, more traditional methods still of use? Read on to find out.


In today’s housing market, there are a seemingly limitless array of options for how consumers can search for homes. From real estate agents, to the Internet, to print ads, to the classic sources like yard signs and open houses, there is no shortage of methods for finding that dream house.

Are certain methods, though, more prominent than others? And are some going the way of the dinosaur? In our latest series of articles on NAR’s Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report, we look at the five most important trends right now in how prospective homebuyers search for homes.

1. The Internet is Stop No. 1 – We all know that 90 percent of homebuyers use the Web at some point in their home search, but NAR’s report found that 52 percent begin their search online as well, making it the preferred first stop for homebuyers. Eighteen percent begin with an agent, 8 percent drive through neighborhoods and 6 percent chat with friends/family about the homebuying process.

2. Yard Signs and Open Houses Still Count – Open Houses are a convenient whipping post in some circles, but NAR found they still have value with homebuyers. Forty-five percent of buyers, in fact, said open houses are a valuable source for learning about properties. Eighty-seven percent of buyers learned primarily through their agents (second only to the Internet’s 90 percent), but 53 percent used yard signs and 27 percent print newspaper ads. The Web may be king, but the old methods are still relevant.

3. “Action” is My Middle Name – Homebuyers have been an active bunch in 2013, with the vast majority immediately acting upon properties they find online – even before requesting more information. Seventy-six percent drove by/viewed the home they saw online, the most common response. That was followed by walking through the home (62 percent), finding the agent used in the search (32 percent) and requesting more information (22 percent).

4. Mortgages Ain’t No Thang – NAR, NAHB and other industry groups have been saying for some time that credit remains overly restrictive in the homebuying process, but remarkably, mortgage woes were among the lesser complaints from homebuyers. Instead, finding the right property was the most difficult step for buyers, with 51 percent reporting issues on that front. Twenty-three percent had problems with paperwork, 16 percent on understanding the process, and finally, just 13 percent with getting a mortgage. Sixteen percent of buyers, in fact, reported no problems at all!

5. Internet Housing Market – Most interesting of all, 42 percent of homebuyers reported that they found the home they ultimately purchased online, making it the most common source; even real estate agents finished second, at 34 percent, followed by yard signs at 10 percent and friends/relatives at 5 percent. Could agents be losing their edge when it comes to exclusive access to listings?

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