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Homebuyers are online

The internet and retail websites have become a fundamental part of many savvy consumers’ lives in today’s market. A large number of consumers prefer to shop and purchase merchandise online due to its convenience.  Although the retail industry is currently the online leader in terms of volume and the number of consumers, the real estate industry is making significant ground and catching up quickly.

Adrian Goslett, CEO of RE/MAX of Southern Africa, says that in the past, few would have believed that the internet would be the first place potential buyers would look to find their dream home and yet, today more than 90% of all consumers use property search portals as the first step towards homeownership. Consumers have confidence in the internet and the information found at their fingertips. “Homebuyers appreciate how simply online resources have made the process of finding their perfect property and many of the best leads in real estate have been generated through online search portals. The majority of consumers have turned to the internet as their main means of researching for their future property,” he says.

So what impact does this have on the real estate industry and the traditional marketing methods?  It simply means that the conventional sources of real estate information are no longer as important to homebuyers. Before the introduction of property search portals, homebuyers would scrutinize newspapers and real estate property magazines to find property. Today the number of prospective homebuyers in the US who still consult newspaper ads and magazines has fallen to approximately 9% and 6% respectively, and SA has seen a similar trend. Goslett says that although there has been a shift in the industry, traditional marketing tools are by no means dead, they have merely adapted. He says that although consumer online searches have boosted the options for potential buyers and eliminated their sole reliance on older methods of research, they still have their place in the market.

“Although homebuyers are looking for information regarding property and searching for homes online, they will still consult with a real estate agent to supplement and refine their search. The prospect of buying property online has increased; however, estate agents are still very much an essential part of the process. Online real estate search tools have not taken business away from agents, but has instead offered them another perform in which to better their service to their clients,” says Goslett.

He notes that due to the vast growth and prospective opportunities presented by online real estate portals, most estate agents, if not all, have responded well to the consumer change in behavior and have become involved in increasing their online presence. “Real estate agencies have spent time on developing their web technologies to accommodate their clients and the majority of real estate agents have invested in tools such as Smartphones and iPads in order to stay in touch and connected with their growing online network,” says Goslett.

According to www.remax.co.za, the top ten suburbs based on the highest number of area searches over the last three months are as follows:
Suburbs
1.    Port Elizabeth - Eastern Cape9,177
2.    Pretoria East - Gauteng4,587
3.    Cape Town – Western Cape3,747
4.    Bloemfontein – Free State3,062
5.    Centurion - Gauteng2,987
6.    Gaborone - Botswana2,679
7.    Rustenburg - Gauteng2,465
8.    Witbank - Mpumalanga2,410
9.    Johannesburg - Gauteng2,325
10.   Bryanston, Sandton - Gauteng2,300


Real estate companies that do not have an online strategy will be left behind due to the incredible speed at which technology changes and develops. “The internet is a remarkable tool that has made the world a significantly smaller place. It is incredible to be a part of this era and be at the technological forefront of the modern day real estate industry,” Goslett concludes.


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