Real Estate Market

Housing consumers leaving hibernation for spring specials

(05/05/2010) Price it right, sellers.

Prepare to dicker, landlords.

More housing consumers are coming to market and they don't expect to pay top dollar

That's according to a crystal ball of Internet search engine algorithms.

A recent Experian Hitwise Insight Index reveals, first quarter 2010 internet searches for homes for sale was up 32 percent from the same quarter last year.

Searches by renters (future first-time-home buyers) soared even more -- 171 percent.

Among all potential home buyers searching the web, the fastest-growing real estate-for-sale search terms over the last year include "homes for sale in Michigan," up 74 percent; and "homes for sale in Florida," up 74 percent.

Get the picture? Florida and Michigan are among the states slammed hardest by the housing bust, leaving behind lots of distressed properties at bargain basement prices.

Many of those searching for house are first-timers. Top searches in the first quarter this year focused on first-time home buying, Experian reported.

Not just any first-timers, but buyers who are savvy about taking the plunge.

They know they've got to get cash in the pipeline to level the playing field with more serious buyers and the growing number of investors coming to market.

Internet search traffic, indicating an interest in mortgage money is up by 43 percent, moving up more than just browsing for housing, indicating consumers are taking the long-time advice of consumer experts to shop for a mortgage before shopping for a home.

The increase in mortgage interest also means more consumers headed to the real estate market aren't just window shopping.

How so?

Mortgage interest rates remain near record lows and home prices are at or near bottom. Buyers know sellers are competing with an abundance of distressed properties and are motivated to reduce prices and throw concessions on the table.

More renters, not so sure it's time to buy, are also eye-balling the housing market. They too are looking for the low-priced spread.

Experian Hitwise's analysis reveals, while online home searches bounced 32 percent, searches in the rental market boomed 171 percent over the past year ending in the first quarter.

Pay attention, landlords, especially new-market-cycle investors looking to buy up cheap properties and rent for cash flow.

The fastest growing real estate for rent search terms over the past year were "cheap homes for rent," up 128 percent; "house for rent by owner," up 94 percent and "home for rent by owner," up 84 percent.

Obviously, renters are also looking for room to negotiate.

"Search volume of terms related to an economic indicator can help us predict future market trends and movement," said Bill Tancer, general manager of global research, Experian Hitwise.

"The uptick in 'home for sale' searches indicates a refreshed interest on the part of consumers to enter, or move within, the real estate market."


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