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Internet advertising gaining credibility, not replacing print for Realtors

Nationally, Realtors will spend $1.3 billion -- 11.2 percent -- of their advertising budget this year on Internet media, according to a media research firm.

Although no such figures are available for San Diego, as more homebuyers and sellers here spend time on the Internet, residential real estate professionals are marketing their services on Web sites. They aren't, however, ready to throw in the towel when it comes to advertising in newspapers or magazines.

Ginni Field, manager of Prudential California Realty's Del Mar office, said the company is very active on the Internet. "That being said, the percentages are not yet high enough where buyers are going to find their homes on Internet versus publications," she said.

Her company also markets in real estate magazines and North County newspapers. A Prudential magazine featuring area estates on the market will be inserted into Riviera, a national magazine, she said. Printed materials have a shelf life.

"We are fully represented in the area where our clients should have the exposure to sell their homes," Field said. "Not everybody is Internet savvy. It takes awhile -- we're not at that place yet. If the newspaper is delivered to their front door, all they have to do is open it."

Nationwide this year, agents and brokers will allocate $11.5 billion in advertising, according to a report released last month by Borrell Associates Inc., a Virginia-based media research, consulting and project firm.

Active Realtors in California are more tech-savvy than in the rest of the nation, according to Peter Conti, vice president and partner of Borrell. "I think that they are willing to try some new online marketing ideas," he said. "It skews the national information. California is probably the most untypical market that we have. We see people testing things in California that just takes years to roll out to Realtors in other parts of the country. They're more adventurous when it comes to using new technology."

Ginny Ollis, broker of Coldwell Banker in Mission Hills, has had a Web site for more than seven years.

An increasing number of buyers, sellers and agents research online before making phone calls.

"If you don't have a Web site, you can be discarded," she said. "I have a lot of varied information on my Web site. I don't think it has a lot of value to people unless you have a lot of information on the site."

Ollis estimated that what she spends on her Web site annually for registration, maintenance and membership is about 10 percent of what she spends on advertising in print, creating and mailing newsletters and postcards, and belonging to a variety of real estate-related associations. She spends one-third of her annual income on advertising.

"If I pay $1,300 for a page in Dream Homes San Diego, that's what my Web site costs me all year long," Ollis said. "You don't know where people are going to look so you try to be where people are looking. Whether from San Diego or from out of town, the first thing (buyers) are going to do is pick up newspapers."

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