By Jonathan Whiting
You may or may not be aware of this fact, but more people are choosing to use a real estate agent than ever before. In correlation to the increased demand for real estate agents is the so-called democratization of information – the opening of the web, a.k.a. the Google factor, and the general trend of consumers choosing how and when they purchase products. When you analyze the statistics surrounding Internet adoption and demand for real estate agents, an untold story unfolds.
Let’s start with the number of home buyers working with a Realtor, as published in a recent U.S. report issued on Realtor.org. In 2001 about 69 per cent of all home buyers worked with a real estate agent. Dramatically, by 2012 that number increased to 89 per cent, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR). That’s a whopping 20 per cent increase.
That’s a good news story for Canadian real estate. After an onslaught of news about an uncertain economy over the last four years, along with a general opening up of information online, you would be forgiven for assuming that Realtors’ future in the marketplace might be at risk. The numbers are not reflecting that, and the story doesn’t stop there.
The increased demand for real estate agents may be related to a surprising factor. A growing demographic of home buyers is adopting the Internet and technology in their home-buying process. An analysis of the 2012 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers released by NAR found that home buyers using the Internet were more likely to work with a real estate agent. Twenty per cent more likely, to be exact. This is counter to a common assumption that the more access a home buyer has to information online, the less they will need to work with a real estate agent.
In reality, “91 per cent of home buyers who used the Internet to search for a home purchased through a real estate agent, as did 71 per cent of non-Internet users,” says the study.
Data released by the Parliament of Canada reveals that since 2000, Internet usage in Canada increased by 35 per cent. Today 80 per cent of Canadian mobile phone users are on a smartphone and 93 per cent of Canadians go online for product information. These latest statistics divulge an interesting outcome. With the ability to search for homes online Canadians have spoken through their actions. They like using the Internet to search for information about property and real estate agents when purchasing.
Perhaps the greatest value a real estate agent provides for the home buyer is a sense of security that they are making the right decision and that the deal is put together correctly. With the increase in accessible information online, it is likely home buyers are realizing just how much information is available and are recognizing the need for an expert in the purchasing process
According to NAR, 87 per cent of buyers surveyed viewed real estate agents as a source of valuable information. Another study by Mustel Group Market Research found home buyers believe that the greatest value a real estate agent provides is dealing with the details and negotiating the best price.
One can conclude from all this that with the rise of technology, Canadian home buyers are embracing real estate agents. That’s not to say there isn’t uncertainty. But the numbers expose strong demand for real estate agents from the most promising of all consumers groups, the emerging home-buying demographic. Canada’s youngest home buyers using the Internet are also the most likely to work with a real estate agent. The future of Canada’s real estate agents is remarkably good.
Jonathan Whiting is a founding partner of StreetText.com, a text message and web marketing platform that serves Canadian real estate agents and mortgage brokers coast to coast.