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Social Media And Home Buying in the USA

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According to the California Association of Realtors, home buying in the USA is more influenced by social media than ever before. The CAR’s ‘2014 survey of California Home Buyers’ report shows that more US home buyers are turning to social media for guidance than ever before.

CAR said more than three quarters of home buyers used social media in their home search, a radical rise from the 2011 figure of 52%. Buyers said they primarily used social for social purposes – 44% used it to ask friends for suggestions or advice, and the same number used it to obtain neighbourhood information, while 42% viewed their agents’ Facebook profile pages.

Add in the figures on mobile tech use and it’s obvious that the way people buy property is subject to the same paradigm shift that has affected other purchases. Mobile technology was used in 91% of home purchases at some point, with buyers saying they used mobile to search for comparable home prices in 78% of cases, to search for homes in 45% of cases and to take photos of homes and amenities in 43% of cases.

As social media use increased, direct use of the intenet in the form of search engines declined. This decline was also rapid and radical: in 2013, 68% of buyers Googled theri agent. In 2014, 50% did. The difference is thought to be accounted for by buyers using Facebook as a search engine, and agents’ Facebook profile pages like websites.

While the housing market has become more social it’s also become more competitive: more than 9 in 10 buyers made one or more offer, and the average number of offers made per buyer was 3.6% in 2014 so far, as against 3.0% in 2013. And buyers viewed more houses, too: on average buyers viewed 20 homes in 2014, as against 10 in 2013.

After all that extra shopping, you’d hope buyers would be pleased with their houses – but that’s not the story. Only 50% were satisfied with their purchases, down from two thirds in 2013. Nearly half of all buyers said they felt they had ‘settled’ for their homes.

Perhaps the timing of their purchase decisions was motivated by the way they felt about the market. Buyers saw this as a good time to buy. 54% of buyers cited price decreases as a major reason for buying, and 29% pointed to low interest rates, while 17% mentioned favourable financing and pricing; on the other hand, 81% of buyers believed that prices would rise within 5 years and 60% saw prices rising within a year.

If California’s new Facebook generation of real estate buyers is correct, the market in California could be poised for a boom – partly fuelled by their purchases. But what does the method of purchase have to say for the rest of us?

California is one of the most tech-savvy places on earth. It’s home to Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook and more. Are a disproportionate number of buyers looking to Twitter and Facebook because they’re in the most silicon-dense region of the planet, or is this a worldwide trend?

Investors in China have been moving into social media, using it to connect with agents across the globe and buy houses in Houston or their own Colorado acres sight unseen, relying on social media at every step of the purchase. But they’re in a specially constrained situation too: most of us can spend our money where we like, unlike Chinese investors who face strict governmental regulation, but we don’t as much of it to spend as the overseas investors who put $1.1 billion worth of transactions through social in the last six months of 2013.

The likelihood is that we’ll see social integrated into web and local searching, but with its unique mix of professionals and friends, and its emphasis on responsiveness and connectivity, social media is likely to become much more important to property sales and purchases over the next few years.