It turns out homebuyers just want to see houses. It doesn’t matter how it happens. Who shows a potential buyer houses, while important, isn’t as important as their desire to see the properties. We hate to break this to agents, but buyers don’t “agent shop.”
Sorry to burst your bubble.
Recently, Movoto Real Estate interviewed more than 100 homebuyers about their experience immediately after they purchased their homes. Our goal was to better understand the homebuying process from beginning to end. We wanted to know questions such as…
- What do homebuyers do first when searching for a home?
- How did homebuyers find houses?
- Did homebuyers work with a real estate agent?
When the interviews were completed and tabulated, we came to three conclusions:
- Unsurprisingly, homebuyers love the Internet
- Homebuyers follow a distinct pattern for choosing an agent
- Homebuyers don’t always judge agents on their professional experience
The Internet is the first place homebuyers look to when they finally decide to upgrade from apartment living. This finding falls in line with other major reports about homebuyer activities from organizations such as the National Association of Realtors.
We found the majority of homebuyers’ first stop in their search was to Google (or Bing for the other 30 percent). Most homebuyers searched for “[My City] Homes for Sale.” This was followed by search terms that included a homebuyer’s neighborhood or zip code.
This means the Internet has usurped other avenues of searching for homes. Lagging behind this so-called series of tubes are agents and friends. Newspaper classified ads are all but ignored.
Other ways people search for homes with the Internet included:
- email updates;
- mobile alerts; and
- through websites such as Movoto Real Estate, and a soon to launch entirely new version of theFrontSteps.com
Homebuyers Don’t Shop for Agents
What happened when it finally became time to see a home, when buyers got the ravenous urge to be inside the house they just Googled?
They absolutely did not call an agent. Curious home shoppers submitted a form to a website…
We thought homebuyers would want to know the person who will help them make the biggest purchase of their lives? As it turns out, not really.
This is what we learned: Homebuyers don’t shop for an agent.
- We’ve heard it time and again, but it’s worth repeating: the prevalence of the Internet has opened the world to information. It’s possible, with only a few clicks of a button, to access consumer review sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List. If you’d like to read three reviews about the quaint bakery you’re brunching at, go ahead. But when it comes to agents, good luck. There isn’t a definitive website for homebuyers to discuss their experiences. Instead, agent reviews are scattered among online real estate sites such as Movoto, Zillow, or Trulia.
The other piece of the problem might make more sense.
- Buying a house isn’t about the agent. Shoppers want to see houses. They don’t care if a seeing-eye dog takes them on the tour, as long as they get to visit the property.
Another Piece of the Pattern
Eventually, either through a real estate website or through their own channels, homebuyers find agents (yes, multiple agents).
We found that about 45 percent of people used two or more agents in their housing search. The good news is that universally they did not use two agents at once. The bad news is that, like life, first impressions matter.
Nevertheless, we noticed a pattern for when homebuyers kicked an agent to the curb. What were the most common reason homebuyers found a second or third agent? The agent they had worked with was unprofessional. This is a broad statement, but we can break it down into two areas. When looking for a house, potential buyers wanted an agent who:
- Replied quickly to questions, and
- Was present to show a house.
That’s it. If these demands weren’t met, buyers went to the bullpen.
Smile, You’re Being Judged
It turns out homebuyers’ perceptions of an agent’s quality don’t accurately reflect abilities.
From here things get weird.
When we asked buyers about the quality of their agent, their opinions were almost entirely based on emotional associations. A typical response we received was “She was great! I really enjoyed her company.” Or, “He wasn’t a great agent. We didn’t connect.”
The problem was homebuyers continued to work with “low quality” agents. When we followed up with buyers to learn why they still worked with the agent, we received responses such as this, “He answered all my questions and helped show me all the houses I wanted to see.”
What we took from this was that, again, homebuyers just want to see houses. Agents might be frigid, but as long as they answer questions quickly and show houses, they are likely to thrive–just don’t expect great reviews.