This list comes out every year as part of a larger survey, the National Association of Realtors Survey of Home Buyers and Sellers. Year over year the methods used for finding a home don’t change much but the percentages of people using each method has seen some changes.
As you could guess, as the internet became more widely used over the years and web sites appeared making it easy to shop for a home online, this method of finding a home grew like a weed. One interesting fact about this years list is that while the internet is still the #1 place home buyers start their search, the percentage dropped from 91% last year to 88% this year.
Here is the 2011 list of first steps taken during the home buying process, in rank order from most used as a first step to least used.
- Look online for properties for sale
Not hard to figure this one out with all the web sites dedicated to showing local MLS listings. As a matter of fact, Multiple Listing Service web sites were used more than any other type of real estate web site including Realtor.com. This is because home buyers can find free access to local mls listings through multiple agent web sites in their area.
- Call a real estate agent
The good news here is that the percentage of home buyers using a Realtor is at a 10 year high. Home buyers don’t need an agent to find a home anymore but I would highly recommend using a real estate agent when you’ve narrowed your search and want to get serious and start making offers. The other great thing about working with a local agent is that they know a lot of things about the area that may be important for you to know before you buy a house.
- Searched online for information about home buying process
This category obviously refers more to first time home buyers and lucky for them, the internet is the perfect place to research the process and find a good Realtor in the process. (My heart goes out to all the agents who still haven’t figured out how to show up in the search engines or other online channels)
- Drove around looking at homes
This is something my wife and I have done every time we got the bug to move. For us, it’s about the area and neighborhood first and the home second. Only the agents who have their branded listing signs in front of homes for sale have a shot at landing a home buyer using this method.
- Contacted a mortgage professional
This is most likely not the first time home buyer group as anybody that has been through the home buying process at least once knows it’s a good idea to see what you can qualify for before you go out and fall in love with a house you can’t afford.
- Talked to friends and family about home buying process
This does sound more like something a first time home buyer would do as a first step in the home buying process. I’d be interested to know what the #1 next step is after home buyers consult with their family and friends.
- Checked out open houses
Who doesn’t love to do this, even when you’re not in the market for a new home? This is also a natural extension of #4.
- Checked out builders model homes
This buyer is very focused on the idea of “new”. Often times the new developments are on the edge of a city and the lots have no trees. For a lot of home buyers, the thought of no trees is a deal breaker but if you are dead set on buying a “new” home, this may be one of the trade offs you’ll have to accept. Most builders are either Realtors or they have an agent on their team to meet and greet potential home buyers.
- Searched through a real estate print product like newspaper, homes magazine, etc
Not surprising is that the 65+ group used this the most. What is surprising is that the age group that used this most after the 65+ people was the 18-24 year olds. I don’t get this, did someone steal their computer?
- Attended a home buying class or seminar
Finally, there was a very small number of those surveyed who attended a home buying class of which the lions share were first time home buyers.
For me, the first place I will start my search is on a local map based mls listings site because not only can I see a majority of the inventory with a ton of pictures, but I can also zero in on neighborhoods that I’m interested in.
How did you start your last search for the home you live in now?