Timing Is Everything for Buyers and Sellers

Consumers spend months researching real estate, but select their practitioner in a matter of days, a new study says.

May 1, 2005

A new independent survey sheds some light on the thought processes and motivations that drive today's buyers and sellers—providing information the real estate industry can use to serve consumers better.

According to the survey, conducted by Hebert Research for HouseValues Inc., consumers take as long as four years to "collect experiences that ultimately motivate them to buy or sell their homes." But once they decide to buy or sell, it only takes one to three days for them to select a real estate practitioner.

Sellers take an average of 9.3 months from the time they begin actively thinking about a sale until the close date, according to the survey. Homebuyers, on the other hand, spend nearly a year and a half, or 16.7 months, thinking about purchasing a home before they actually buy. And first-time homebuyers are even more deliberate: They invest an average of 20.5 months in the homebuying process.

"The Internet is enabling consumers to research and gather information well in advance of actually buying or selling," says Ian Morris, CEO of HouseValues, a Kirkland, Wash.-based company.

"The takeaway for real estate professionals is to be first, fast, and frequent in their communication with consumers, and that often means delivering value and information many months in advance of an expected transaction," he says.

The survey confirms what many experts have been telling real estate practitioners for years: Don’t think of Internet consumers as less-than-serious because they’re doing their own research. It also explains the frustrations many practitioners experience when working with online consumers, who take their time as they research real estate and the market.

The purpose of the survey was to capture qualitative data that reveals the steps and thought processes of potential buyers and sellers, and to help real estate professionals better understand how to market to Internet-savvy customers, Morris says.

For sellers, the survey revealed that:

  • Before even thinking about selling, consumers can take up to four years subconsciously collecting experiences related to their home, including current and future desired requirements, features, and amenities. These experiences compound to bring the home sale to the forefront of consciousness, triggering an active research phase.
  • Once the research phase has been initiated, it takes sellers an average of 9.3 months to sell: 5.5 months in a pre-research phase, 1.4 months for the active research phase, and 2.4 months for the active selling phase.
  • The majority of sellers, or 52.1 percent, take only one day to select a real estate practitioner.

For buyers, the survey found that:

  • Buyers, like sellers, often take up to four years collecting experiences related to their current home, and potential future needs.
  • It takes buyers nearly a year and a half, or 16.4 months on average, to buy from the time they begin thinking about a purchase.
  • Once the research phase for buyers has started, it takes an average of 16.7 months to buy: 7.1 months in the pre-research phase, 5.5 months in the active research phase, and 4.1 months in the active buying phase.
  • 44 percent of buyers spend more than six months thinking about desirable homes and neighborhoods before actually searching for listings. The average buyer then spends more than four months searching for homes.
  • First-time buyers take an average of 20.5 months on the entire homebuying process.
  • 61.8 percent of buyers select their real estate practitioner within just one to three days.

The survey also explored the reasons why consumers choose their real estate practitioner.

For example, consumers choose to work with practitioners for three main reasons: paperwork and legal work; negotiations; and access to listings. And both buyers and sellers tend to select a practitioner based on experience, honesty, and past relationships.

A summary of this survey is available free to real estate professionals by calling 866/952-5042.

(c) Copyright 2005 Realty Times. Reprinted with permission.

Blanche Evans is a writer/editor and CEO of evansEmedia. Formerly, she was a senior editor with Realty Times, where she was named by REALTOR® Magazine as one of the most influential people in the real estate industry.

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