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Online house hunting and real estate agents

10 Jun 2015

Consumer buying patterns are constantly evolving, none more clearly evident than the manner in which people are looking to buy homes. 

According to a study carried out by Google and the National Association of Realtors in America, about 90% of prospective buyers use the internet to search for properties, with 52% indicating that the internet was the first step taken during the property buying decision.

This is according to Dr Andrew Golding, chief executive of the Pam Golding Property (PGP) group, who says, undoubtedly, the huge advances in modern technology and internet connectivity have played a major role in this evolution. In 1995, less than 1% of the world population had internet connectivity. According to internet statistics, the one billion threshold was reached in 2005, adding another billion users by 2010 and a third in 2014, he says. 

In today’s world, with over three billion internet users, currently said to represent approximately 42% of the global population, the internet revolution has reportedly seen Africa’s internet connectivity escalate by some 24% over the past year to around 26.5% of the continent’s total population of an estimated 298 million people. 

Of this, Dr Golding says South Africa’s internet usage stands at approximately 25 million, which represents 46% of our total population and counting. That’s not to say all these are frequent internet users, however, as mobile phones increasingly penetrate the market, this figure will rise exponentially. 

According to a study carried out by Google and the National Association of Realtors in America, about 90% of prospective buyers use the internet to search for properties, with 52% indicating that the internet was the first step taken during the property buying decision. Furthermore, the majority of these, about 70%, found their agent online, he says. 

So in a constantly evolving and dynamic real estate environment, does this mean the end of the agent-client relationship as we know it? Not so, says Dr Golding. He says the internet is simply changing the way of advertising and promotion for agents and clients. 

Few, in fact, in percentage terms hardly any, prospective home buyers make the major decision to buy a property without physically viewing it, often several times, and examining it thoroughly with regard to position, condition and to generally feel the ambience of what it may be like to live in the home, he says. 

However, he says today’s consumers are increasingly tech-savvy and informed regarding the residential property market in general. Through the use of a range of devices including computers, mobile phones and tablets, the internet is often the mechanism that most buyers use to begin their search, perusing neighbourhoods and properties, he says. 

“Then typically, as they qualify and more clearly define their search, they contact the relevant agent to pursue various options and commence on the path to acquiring the property of their choice,” he says. 

“In this regard, the agent-client interaction and relationship is still critical, as marketing a property has as much to do with the personal touch and specific local area knowledge and expertise that an agent contributes as the selected media to display a property.” 

Gaining the attention of internet browsers seeking the right property to suit their needs is of paramount importance in the highly competitive real estate environment. 

Dr Golding says the way people view and search for properties on the web has advanced significantly over the past decade. He says today’s buyer wants to access information about areas and properties quickly and easily, so agents need to ensure they have this information available when advertising property online.
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