The COVID-19 pandemic shifted the process on how people buy and sell homes. Meetings with agents were held over video chat—showings did the same—while some adopted digital closings to limit the spread of the virus.
But as the pandemic begins to wane, new research from RE/MAX LLC, shows that some of the new trends the market has seen in the last 18 months are here to stay.
According to the research, virtual tools are enabling people to plan for and manage their next move before even setting foot in a property by using video walk-throughs, browsing detailed property descriptions, and even taking virtual walks in the neighborhood using Google Street View.
About 94% of buyers now use online platforms to search for a house whether that’s before they ever speak to an agent, or to browse listing and agent recommends.
Millennials have embraced the digital crossover in bigger numbers than other generations. While 64% of millennials have been communicating digitally with their real estate agent, only 44% of Generation X and 25% of baby boomers have made the same switch.
Adoption of the digital process is also being trusted more than it has been in the past. According to The National Association of Realtors, across the U.S., 70% of buyers and 67% of sellers felt comfortable conducting real estate business on a computer, including reviewing and signing documents electronically.
Purchasing a home is normally the biggest purchase one will ever make, and the personalized support offered by agents remains fundamental to the key moments in the journey (pricing, negotiations, and closing) when people normally need reassurances they are making appropriate choices.
While buyers and sellers can essentially complete the entire buying/selling process online in some cases, 21% said that still value the real-life interactions with a real estate agent because while technology streamlines the process, agents bring added and essential expertise so that the client can make more informed decisions.
In addition, 61% of respondents indicated that trust and familiarity are of high importance when choosing an agent. 60% cited the necessity for ease of contacting them while 59% said that online reviews of the agent influenced their decision.
Regarding preferences for connecting with real estate agents, 71% of survey respondents indicated they'd prefer a phone call, followed by text and email at 62% and 61% respectively.
"The big takeaway of this survey is that skilled, experienced real estate agents are the key to consumers achieving their real estate goals," said RE/MAX President Nick Bailey. "Last year, consumers had plenty of time to compile their list of what they want in their next home, and the most successful agents will be skilled at helping buyers find a home that either checks all of the boxes or can be updated to do so. Whether it's helping sellers price their home strategically or helping buyers win a competitive bidding war, agents—armed with skills and great technology—provide an invaluable service. And consumers clearly recognize and want that expertise in their corner."
The research for this study was conducted by Canvas8, an international market insight firm, for RE/MAX and consisted of expert one-on-one interviews, third-party desk research, trend analysis, agent and consumer perspectives, and a survey of 5,000 people in the U.S. and Canada who have been involved in the housing market in the last 12 months or will be in the market during the next 24 months. A full copy of the report can be found here.