The Internet has revolutionized how we see the world, work, interact with our peers and, of course, shop. Virtually anything can be found and bought online: mail-order brides, clothes, cars, electronics and even homes. Yes, you can sell or buy single-family homes online.
Before the World Wide Web, families used newspaper ads as their primary tool to search for a new home. Now, websites such as Zillow, Trulia, Homefinder and Craigslist often are where homebuyers begin their search for that perfect home.
Those websites have cost newspapers as real estate ad sales moved to the Internet, but in this particular market, the demand for print ads still is very much alive.
Cora Younie, advertising consultant for The Durango Herald, said demand for print ads still is very high locally, with the Herald running between 16 and 20 real estate ads a week.
In this market, Younie said, people still pick up the paper, particularly on weekends, to look for open-house ads in the paper.
The websites also have changed how local real estate agents do their jobs.
Don Ricedorff, broker-associate with The Wells Group of Durango, has been in the business for several years and has seen firsthand how technology has changed the world of property sales.
Ricedorff said it used to be an online search for “real estate” would bring up a list of local real estate companies. Nowadays, he said, the first 10 search results are links to Zillow and other big real estate websites.
Otherwise, he said, brokers don’t really compete directly with the online sites. In fact, companies such as Zillow, Trulia and Homes.com use the Multiple Listing Service database that real estate brokers provide to create a national search engine for properties, he said. The purpose is to allow potential clients to use these services to search for homes anywhere.
“These companies do not replace the real estate broker, but in fact, the real estate brokers are their clients,” Ricedorff said.
The idea, he said, is to attempt to connect a property with real estate professionals either through a listing agent or an individual broker.
“These companies cannot survive without the information provided by the MLS, and there are a couple of places in the country where they no longer will provide MLS information to these service companies,” Ricedroff said.
Real estate agents have learned to adapt to consumer needs, and for some agencies that’s meant using the Internet as a tool.
To better compete with real estate websites, Ricedorff said local agencies’ websites should serve as a direct portal for consumers, offering them information about local properties. Local brokers, with their knowledge of their area, also can better help clients find their perfect homes by noting special features, such as whether a lot is facing a lake or river or if it has a view of the mountains or valley, he said.
“The online consumer can choose their real estate professional based on their own research, rather than one advertised by Zillow or others,” he said.
Even though a majority of people do look at homes online, most of them end up using a broker when it comes to making a bid and closing a deal, Ricedorff said.
“Based on the 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers research completed by the National Association of Realtors, 92 percent of all respondents utilized the Internet for searching properties, and 88 percent used a real estate agent in the transaction,” he said. “Most consumers need help with real estate, working through all of the issues with property, including surveys, inspections, title, property insurance and lending.”
A real estate contract in Colorado can average about 16 pages, and sometimes buyers need help deciphering the information before making a huge commitment to the property.
For those who choose to pursue a home purchase without the help of a real estate agent, Ricedorff warns that real estate laws are different across the nation, and consumers should know the rules and standards in the state where they are purchasing a home.
Additionally, Bankrate.com, a website that provides mortgage rate averages and information regarding financing and investing, has generated a list, with an information summary, of the top five websites for home shopping, sales comparisons and valuation.