In the rush to analyze and react to the rise of such mega-sites as Zillow, Trulia and, of course, Realtor.com, industry experts and Web observers tend to overlook the proverbial elephant in the room: Google.
A recent collaborative study between the California giant and the National Association of Realtors shed some light on current trends in online home shopping, with surprising results.
What comes as no surprise is the consumer's increasing reliance on the Web to conduct searches; 90 percent of respondents to the survey affirmed this. That's up from 84 percent a year or so ago and marching on toward the magic 100 percent.
More interesting is the net change in Google searches for properties; the survey showed a 253 percent increase in use of the search engine as a tool to find homes in just the last four years. Moreover, even shoppers who relied upon a brand website such as Coldwell Banker, etc., initiated their search using a search engine (i.e. "homes for sale in Harrisburg PA").
Google's dominant video brand, YouTube, also scored well in the survey, since as many as 86 percent of online home shoppers used video to learn more about a neighborhood or property — a lesson to our Realtor community in this day and age. Not surprisingly, YouTube and Google Video combined pulled in 88 percent of the consumers of real estate-related video.
By the way, agent-related content on YouTube rose almost 50 percent this past year!
Google happens to have an entire department devoted to developing its real estate footprint. My observation is that it's working.
Jeff Geoghan is vice president of marketing and communications for Coldwell Banker Select Professionals and Select Services, based in Lancaster City, with 10 offices in eight Central Pennsylvania counties. Jeff lives in East Petersburg where he also serves as mayor. Jeff has been actively involved in local government and business and has been used as a source by local, regional and national publications.