The premise of the internet being involved somewhere in the property purchasing journey isn’t a new one nor are we claiming it is. Back in 2012, in the US, 90% of home buyers searched for a property online at some point during the buying process and for 42% of them, the internet was the place they started their search.
Just last year it was reported by Estate Agent Today that Rightmove receives around 120m visits a month! So this definitely isn’t a new phenomenon.
But what is new, and the reason this purchasing journey is becoming more digital than ever, is the number of digital interactions house buyers now have – particularly with new build home purchasing. Any standard online purchase is likely to be concluded in a short time frame – the decision of “I want to purchase X”, followed by researching the best provider by service or price and then the actual purchase itself, will most likely be done in a few hours, if not minutes.
But with people looking to buy a home, this usually short time frame may be anywhere between 3 and 8 months, maybe even longer. With the web and social media now being the preferred mediums for research, this extended research time frame could result in dozens of interactions between house builders / estate agents and potential buyers.
Ten years ago (remember, this is just as the first iPhone was coming out and only a year after Facebook opened up its service to the general public), the research phase included going to local estate agents and browsing the windows and perhaps even a drive around the area you want to live in to see what’s for sale and what the local area is like – there then might be a swift bit of online research and most likely that was only done on a laptop (although, Rightmove did launch their mobile specific website in 2007).
Think of what a user can do now when they research a new property. They’re unlikely to go to the high-street estate agents unless they’re really struggling to find something. The start of the purchase is likely to start online – either a Google search or straight to one of the main property portals.
They’ll find some houses they like and then start to research them. No need to drive to see the local area, you can just Google Street View it. If they want to know what the local restaurant is like, they can go straight on Tripadvisor. If they’re going new build and want to see how the house builder performs they can search Twitter and Facebook for reviews. If they want to pick a house builder based on a style they prefer, off to Instagram and Pinterest they go.
They can sit on their phones on an evening scrolling through reams of information which is easily available, right at their finger-tips. Users are a bit more fickle too, we’re becoming less and less brand loyal – so buyers want you to help them and to come find them either by engaging updates on social media or through a well thought out email campaign.
And that is just the tip of the ice berg, but ultimately if you’re a house builder or estate agent and you haven’t manged to get your brand and properties in front of that user at each one of those dozens of touch points you’re likely to lose out. Until they’re really bought in to working with you, you’re unlikely to get contact that will allow you to use the personal touch or skills of your sales team – so you need to think; is your digital footprint big enough, informative enough, sticky enough and in the right places to be able to help you sell your homes?