What is the most influential word of the 21st Century? Answer: Google. In June, 2006 “to google” became synonymous with searching the Internet, as the search engine juggernaut was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Since then, Google has come to dominate the Internet, changing the playing field for business everywhere – including Real Estate.
Current statistics show that 90% of potential home buyers begin their real estate search on the Internet. It used to be that one would call a REALTOR® to flip through the mammoth MLS listings book as a preliminary search. Now, with the click of a mouse, an abundance of information is available through Google. This can be a good thing, but also very bad. On the bright side, hours of driving through town squinting to see an agent's phone number on a sign in the dark are saved with a quick and easy search. Need to compare properties? Many websites, such as CENTURY21.ca, have features allowing you to see multiple properties together. In a matter of seconds, you have information that, twenty years ago, would have taken multiple phone calls to collect.
Information inundation is the risk of the Google Monster. Now, consumers are simply flooded with information that most don't have the training or proper skills to digest. The hours that used to be spent driving around and calling REALTORS® are now spent reading articles and pages that give you superfluous information, stats that don't relate to your market, and many personal opinions from people with only a scant understanding of the Real Estate industry.
One must be careful not to fall into victim to research-itis, which is to become so fixated on research that one loses track on why you initially went to the Internet: to find a property to buy. Searching is a great way to see what is out there, to look at pictures and uncover the current trends, but it is only a start. Remember, you only get the “feel” of a home by visiting it, and not by looking at pictures and stats on the computer.
I always suggest that customers find a REALTOR®, even in the search phase, to help them decipher this abundance of information. This helps the customer stay on track, and not be led down wasteful and irrelevant research paths, as well as keep an educated eye when reading articles and stats of dubious quality. With a REALTOR's® experience and expertise, the home finding process becomes a fun, rewarding activity, and not one of being buried by information.
If you would like more information on how the Internet has shaped Real Estate, or help on finding or selling your home, please feel free to contact me: www.sethferguson.ca.
Seth Ferguson is a Sales Representative with CENTURY 21 Future Realty Inc., in Milton, Ontario. He serves Halton Region, including Milton, Georgetown, Oakville, Burlington and Acton. Looking to buy or sell? www.sethferguson.ca.