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Use of Internet by all homebuyers rises to 70 percent, survey says

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LOS ANGELES -- The Internet buyer has become the "typical" homebuyer over the last few years, according to the California Association of Realtors' "2006 Internet Versus Traditional Buyer Survey," released this month. Since 2001, the share of homebuyers using the Internet as an integral part of the home-buying process has nearly doubled to 70 percent.

While the characteristics of Internet buyers and their traditional counterparts have started to converge, important distinctions between the two segments remain. According to the C.A.R. report, Internet buyers were younger, wealthier, better educated and more likely to be married than traditional buyers. Internet buyers also reported greater satisfaction with the home-buying process compared with traditional buyers.

"The Internet is changing the dynamics between buyers and their agents, as well as the way business is conducted throughout the real estate industry. However, while the Internet has become an important research tool for home buyers, it has only enhanced the Realtor's role in the transaction," said C.A.R. President Vince Malta. "Buyers continue to rely on their Realtors for help with interpreting the information gathered from the Internet and to guide them through the home-buying process."

According to the survey, more than nine out of 10 Internet buyers indicated that the Internet helped them better understand the process of buying a home. Additionally, Internet buyers are accustomed to receiving more frequent communication and faster response times from their Realtors.

"More and more consumers have high-speed Internet access at home, enabling them to gather information on all types of products and services both quickly and easily," said Malta. "This trend has carried over to the process of buying a home. As a result, home buyers are more informed, have a greater sense of control over the process, and hold high expectations concerning how quickly they receive information."

Internet buyers and traditional buyers expressed significant differences in how they conducted their home-buying research. Internet buyers conducted more research at the onset of the home-buying process, while traditional buyers relied more on their agent as their source of information.

Other key findings from C.A.R.'s survey include:

  • The median age of Internet buyers was 39 years compared with a median of 42 years for traditional buyers.

  • More than nine out of 10 Internet buyers were married, while nearly eight of 10 traditional buyers were married.

  • Seventy-three percent of Internet buyers had at least a four-year college degree and 11 percent completed post-graduate work. By comparison, 72 percent of traditional buyers held a college degree and 5 percent completed post-graduate work.

  • Internet buyers had an annual income of $184,900, compared with $148,910 for traditional buyers.

  • Internet buyers spent an average of 5.8 weeks considering buying a home before contacting a Realtor, nearly three times more than traditional buyers, who spent 2 weeks in this stage of the home-buying process.

  • Internet buyers spent 2.2 weeks looking for the home they ultimately purchased, compared with 7.1 weeks for traditional buyers.

  • Fifty-four percent of Internet buyers said the information that they gathered from the Internet was less useful than that provided by their Realtors; none considered the information gathered from the Internet to be more useful than that obtained from their Realtors.

  • All first-time buyers typically spent 5.3 weeks considering buying a home and 4.3 weeks investigating homes for sale before contacting a Realtor. They then spent 3.2 weeks previewing eight homes with their Realtor.

  • All repeat buyers spent 3.3 weeks considering buying a home and nearly three weeks investigating homes for sale on their own. They spent 5.4 weeks previewing 13 homes with their Realtor.

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