A New Look at Virtual Real Estate

23 August 2006

A researcher from Rotorua's Crown Research Institute, Scion, has completed a study on the modern home buyer to discover how web-surfing is affecting the real estate market.

Consumer behaviour specialist, Karen Bayne says home buyers are spending more time on the internet than ever before, which raises interesting questions about how to capture their attention.

"In the past, people selling their homes were advised to bake scones and put on the coffee pot so potential buyers would feel instantly welcome, but that only works if they enter your home in the first place," Karen says.

Now that people can browse around thousands of properties without stepping foot out of their own home, presentation on the internet is all-important.

"It is interesting to note that a growing number of home buyers will purchase a property without even visiting it. This is a surprising development, because the internet cannot convey the feel and the ambience of a home," Karen observes.

Karen's study, which was carried out as part of her masters degree in Commerce, found that people who search the net actually take longer to buy a house and visit more open homes on average than those who don't.

"This is partly because they have access to far more options, but it is also because surfing the net has become a recreational activity for many people."

Karen says people aren't just looking for a home on the net, they are looking for entertainment.

"Sites that are interactive and fun to surf are creating a new generation of virtual real estate shoppers," she explains.

Karen says people no longer view the web as a convenient source of information - buyers want to lose themselves in the browsing experience.

"Smart real estate companies respond to this opportunity by making their sites interactive and entertaining."

This study provides valuable insight into marketing and how modern consumers make choices with regard to housing.

As a technologist working for Scion's Built Environment group, Karen used the project to test a theoretical behavioural model that enables researchers to identify the drivers of technology adoption.