Understanding How Today’s Home Buyers Find Homes

How Do Home Buyers find Homes for Sale

If you bought your house over 15 years ago, or even long,er and your about to get your home on the market, it is important to understand how home buyers find homes. Between 2000-2008 the internet became a HUGE game changer for the real agents and home buyers.  Long gone are the huge real estate sections in the newspaper and the real estate magazines, the internet has all but replaced the need for such advertising venues for your home.

I will give a rough history of how home buyers find homes but wrap it up with how important the internet is in marketing your home.

A Quick History of How Home Buyers Find Homes for Sale

Following is a rough history of how home buyers find homes for sale.  It is just a rough history as procedures varied greatly from region to region.  Basically you can see how home buyers were extremely reliant on real estate agents to find their homes 15-20+ years ago.  Fast forward to now and home buyers find homes to buy online. Any number of real estate websites provides listing data to a home buyer, without ever contacting an agent.


Most likely you went to the largest real estate office in the area to find out what there was for inventory and discuss your needs.  They would then go thru a list of shared listings thru their local Multiple Listing Service that were compiled thru phone calls and faxes between offices or regular board meetings.

You usually found the brokerage by newspaper ads or the yellow pages.

1985 thru late 1990’s

Listings were shared a little bit easier by fax or agents picking up listing books and even the internet from there local Multiple Listing Services.  Home buyers were still meeting at agents offices looking at data either acquired thru fax or the MLS list books to find the homes they wanted to view.  Realtor.com was founded in 1996 and was one of the first companies where listings could be delivered electronically.

Buyers were still heavily reliant on agents choosing properties to show them.  Slow internet speeds, buyers not having the latest technology and agents just coming on board with the full use of the internet hindered home buyers from instantly having access to the entire inventory of home for sale.

late 1990’s to 2005

Listings thru the MLS were now being delivered electronically to the brokerages.  During this period as the internet and email started to evolve agents were now able to deliver homes for sale electronically to their clients/customers.  This made it less cumbersome for home buyers to view homes for sale.  They could now view listings easily in the privacy of their home or at work whenever they wanted if they owned a computer with an internet connection.  By the early 2000’s many home buyers were able to receive homes for sale electronically.

Automated systems would send home buyers listings that met their specific criteria.  Home buyer’s could even explore homes for sale in different areas on their own. They had access to almost every listing available.


The internet is very prevalent in almost everyone’s lives.  Almost every home buyer had access to the internet to find homes for sale.  2006 was also the start of Zillow and other national aggregates pulling home for sale listings together that anybody could access.

In this time period smart phones were starting to take over and the internet was becoming faster.  Now a home buyers could find homes for sale no matter where they were at…. at work, on the commuter rail, sitting at home watching tv, etc…

2012 to Present

Everything becomes about mobile access.  You need sites to work properly on mobile devices or your were behind the 8 ball.  It is pretty much given that any home buyer has multiple devices connected to the internet and this is their preferred way of viewing homes.

Contrast of How Home Buyers Find Homes Today vs 25 Years Ago

Today’s home buyer essentially has every home for sale at their finger tips anywhere, anytime.  A person gets a thought to buy they go on their phone or computer and type in “Tewksbury Homes for Sale” or “Real Estate for Sale in Tewksbury” or any real estate related term.  They are then inundated with 100’s of sites that have homes for sale filled with photographs and data of the homes for sale.

Home buyers want and expect as much information about the home that they can get in a split second.  Note that today’s home buyers are looking at your home anonymously until something prompts them to come out of the wood work. A home buyer can start their research as much as a year in advance.  When they make that decision to buy they spend an average of three weeks looking at homes online before contacting an agent.

Contrast that to 20 years ago where a home buyer wants to buy.  I will use my own experience as an example.  I bought my first house in the mid-90’s.  My agent would fax me new homes that came on the market everyday.  I was reliant on my agent showing me all the houses that might be available to me. My agent was choosing what they thought I would want.

Given I was receiving the listing by fax, the picture quality was quite poor so I could not make any determinations about the home.  I scrubbed the listing and threw out the ones that I didn’t want to see based on location or how busy the road was.  I then drove by the list of homes every day or so on may way home from work.

Marketing Your Home is all About the Internet

Today’s home buyers are not getting the idea to buy and say “honey, go pick up the newspaper to see whats for sale”.  They are immediately on the internet researching what is possible for them to buy. Home buyers almost exclusively find homes to buy on the internet.

How home buyers find homes for sale today changes the marketing of your home compared to 15-20+ years ago.  What worked then does not work now.  It is important as a home seller to understand what home buyers expect and where they are looking for homes.

The internet has changed our lives drastically but lets look a little at what home buyers now expect because of the internet.


Home buyers want information immediately.  Whether it is at 12am or 12 noon.  If they can’t have it they will move on.  As a home seller it is important to have everything together the day your listing hits the market.  You should have your home fully prepared for photographs and the entire listing sheet complete with all the photos.

Don’t let your agent piecemeal the listing with just getting listed and than a couple days to fully complete the listing with photos to come.  Or, start with photos where the house isn’t prepared properly only to replace the photos later.

The internet has sped up the process.  Take the extra few days to get it right and have maximum appeal on the internet from the day your home is listed.

Image Driven

Short of pricing your house properly there is nothing more important than the quality of the real estate photography for your home.  Once a home meets the buyers general criteria, it is the photographs that compel them to view your home in person.  Today’s savvy listing agents are either hiring real estate photographers or taking the time to really learn how to showcase your listing through photography themselves.

The photos of your home are a big determination of whether they will view your home in person or not.

If an agent is using a cell phone or a cheap point and shoot camera to photograph your home remember you are now competing with listings with a higher level of photography.

Internet Marketing

Home buyers expect to find your home on the internet.  That is easy to do in today’s day and age.  But along with that they want information, as much as they can get as fast as they can get it, about your home.  This means quality photographs, a listing sheet that is accurately and fully filled out and a description of your home.

That just covers the basic’s.  Many agent might include virtual tours, floorplans, videos, school data and much more.

Your HOME Must Compete More Than Ever!!

Your home has always had to compete.  But now the internet gives home buyers information so quickly and the buyers are making decisions based on the internet.  Your home really must compete more than ever on the internet with other homes for sale.  You literally have less than 2 minutes to capture a home buyers attention before they move on to a similar home.

Home buyers are choosing the houses they want to see because information is so available on the internet.  They rely less on their agent to recommend homes.  While we agents still recommend homes they are scrubbing the list of houses they want to see on the internet first.  Don’t forget they aren’t just looking at your listing info they are basing decisions based on the real estate photography, google maps, walk scores, crime data for your neighborhood, what you last payed for your house, local school information and more.

Your home needs to compete online for a home buyer’s attention. Is your kitchen updated like the other three similar homes for sale in your neighborhood?  Does your home have a master suite with walk in and master bath like those homes etc….

Today’s home buyers can see what similar homes are selling for and what they offer for updated features and basic specs like square footage and bedroom and bath count with out ever leaving their home. They know what similar homes are selling for and they have a sense if your home is not competing with other similar homes in their price range.


Today’s home buyers remain anonymous until they decide it is time to pull the trigger.  Once they are ready to buy and not until they run across a house they are dying to see do they call a real estate agent.  This is much different then 20 years ago where they had to contact an agent to get any data on homes for sale.  Home buyers do not want to engage with a real estate agent until they have to.  But as a home seller it is important to note that their are valid home buyers that are ready to buy at a moments notice that have not surfaced in the real estate community.  Bam… they hit and they have a house under contract in days to a few weeks.

They can silently search on any number of sites until they are ready.  Will your house be the one they call on?

how do home buyers find homes


By know I hope you can see times have changed and how important your homes internet presence is in marketing your home to potential home buyer’s. I like to tell home seller’s your homes first showings are online.  It is very different then it was even 10 years ago.  Newspaper ads, real estate magazines and open houses play far less of a role than they used to in getting a home sold.  Print advertising now is more about branding an agent then selling a home.

It is important to work with an agent that has a strong internet presence and internet marketing strategy.  An tech savvy agent needs to more than have a basic understanding of the internet.  They need to know about search engine optimization, social media marketing. listing syndication and much more.

What does a strong internet presence look like?

An agent that has a strong internet presence will have their own website and be blogging regularly about real estate. They will constantly be posting real estate related information to social media sites like facebook, twitter, google+ and linked in well as other sites.

A tech savvy agent will also be able to tell you how they are integrating their website and social media to market your home.  The quality of their real estate photography will be high and they can show you examples as they understand that the images can be more important than the verbal description.  Check out this ocular study,  Show it, Don’t Tell It, that shows how important real estate photos are in marketing your home.

Make the internet your marketing priority when listing your home.  How do home buyers find homes today? They are looking on the internet for their next home, not scouring classified ads in the newspaper or what real estate publications are left or cruising around looking for open houses.

Other resources to How Home Buyers Find Homes 


Understanding How Today’s Home Buyers Find Homes, was written by Kevin Vitali of EXIT Group One Real Estate.  Looking to get your home sold?  Call me at 978-360-0422 to review my results driven marketing plan.

Real Estate Services in the following areas: Northeast Massachusetts, Merrimack Valley, North Shore and Metrowest including the following communities and the surrounding area- Amesbury, Andover, Billerica, Burlington, Chelmsford, Dracut, Groveland, Haverhill, Lowell, Melrose, Merrimac, Methuen, Middleton, North Andover, North Reading, Reading, Stoneham Tewksbury, Tyngsborough, Wakefield, Wilmington, Westford