“With more and more consumers using mobile devices and mobile technology, such as apps and social media platforms, buyers are increasingly using their smartphones and computer tablets to view comparable house prices, search for properties, take photos, and create videos of homes and amenities, as well as research communities and real estate agents,” said C.A.R. President Don Faught. “As a result, home buyers today are more informed and have a greater sense of control over what could be a daunting process.”
The survey found 85 percent of buyers used a mobile device during the home buying process, with the majority of buyers (70 percent) accessing the Internet from their smart phones and 15 percent accessing it from their tablets.
While the majority of buyers (61 percent) found their home through an agent, the percentage who found their home online more than doubled from 16 percent in 2012 to a record high of 37 percent in 2013.
Almost one-third (30 percent) of buyers rated Realtor.com as the most useful website, followed closely by Zillow at 28 percent. Broker and agent websites were also helpful in the home buying process as buyers increasingly seek local expertise and information.
The use of social media in the home buying process continued to increase, with three-quarters of buyers now using it, compared to 52 percent who used social media in 2011. Buyers primarily used social media for buying tips and suggestions from friends (43 percent), neighborhood information (42 percent), and to view their agents’ Facebook pages (41 percent). The use of social media as a form of communication is expected to grow, with 91 percent of buyers saying they are receptive to receiving information about the home buying process from their agent via social media.
The survey also found that buyers spent nearly six months considering a purchase before contacting an agent, nearly twice as long as last year. They took more time investigating homes and neighborhoods before contacting an agent, spending just over seven months on researching, compared to about 1.5 months last year. Additionally, buyers spent nearly 10 weeks looking for a home with their agent, a week longer than last year. More than eight out of 10 buyers (85 percent) made offers on other homes, and one-third said they settled for the best option given the limited supply of houses.
“The lengthier consideration time and home search illustrates the impact of low housing inventory and increasing home prices,” said Faught. “These factors caused buyers to weigh their options more carefully before making their home purchase.”
Additional findings from C.A.R.’s “2013 Survey of California Home Buyers” include:
• Buyer optimism about the future direction of home prices continued to grow, with the majority of buyers (60 percent) believing prices will go up in five years and 36 percent seeing prices rise in one year, up from 41 percent and 25 percent, respectively, last year.
• Buyers cited price decreases (38 percent), favorable prices/financing (12 percent), and the desire for a better location (10 percent) as top reasons for purchasing a home.
• Reflecting the prevalence of tight lending standards, buyers experienced extreme challenges in obtaining financing. On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being extremely difficult, buyers rated their difficulty in obtaining financing at 8.6 on average, the highest in the survey’s history.
• Higher down payments are the market norm these days, with buyers putting an average of 25 percent down on their home purchase. The average down payment has been greater than the traditional 20 percent since 2009.
• Ninety-one percent of buyers obtained a fixed-rate loan, up from 84 percent in 2011, reflecting low rates and the desire for certainty as the market gets back to basics.