Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

Home Buyers: Search Online For A Home, Close With An Agent

We are in a digital age and home buyers use the internet at various stages in their home search process. NAR data from the 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers shows that the first step in the buying process is to look online for properties—44 percent of buyers started here (up from 42 in 2015) and 13 percent of buyers looked online for information about the home buying process in the effort to educate themselves. Seventeen percent (up 14 percent last year) contacted a real estate agent right out of the gate.

In 2016, 51 percent of all buyers found the home they ultimately purchased on the internet and 34 percent found their home through a real estate agent. In comparison, in 2001, only eight percent of buyers found the home they purchased on the internet and 48 percent found their home through an agent. The use of the internet to find the home has increased over the years.

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Buyers also indicated that finding the right property was the most difficult step in the home search process (52 percent), and more so for first-time buyers (56 percent). For all buyers, the paperwork (24 percent), understanding the process (17 percent), and saving for the downpayment (13 percent) were listed as difficult steps as well.

For buyers that looked online for properties, they also visited 10 homes over the course of 10 weeks before they purchased. For buyers that went straight to a real estate agent and did not look online, they visited four homes over only four weeks before they made their purchase, indicating that they likely know the neighborhood already where they want to buy.

As a result of using the internet to search for homes, buyers took the following actions: they walked through the home they viewed online (67 percent), saw exterior of homes and neighborhoods without walking through a home (44 percent), and found the agent used to search for or to buy a home (33 percent).

When it was time to finally close on a home, the majority of buyers work with a real estate agent. In fact, nine in 10 buyers signed with the help of an agent, which is the same as last year.

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