Research shows massive increase in online real estate searches in the US

Real estate related searches on Google have grown 253% over the past four years, according to a joint study from the National Association of Realtors in the United States and Google.

NAR president Gary Thomas said that it shows that as home sales and prices continue to trend up more people are regaining confidence to invest in their future through home ownership.

He added that the results, which analysed people’s behaviour in the market for new and existing homes, parallel the trends shown in NAR’s own economic research reports.

According to the analysis, buyers used specific online tools at different points during their home search process. Buyers tend to rely on search engines and general websites when they begin their search, use maps more in the middle of the process, and engage mobile applications most toward the end of their search.

In their online search queries, first time buyers frequently searched terms like ‘FHA loan’. ‘FHA’, ‘home grants’, ‘home loan’, and ‘home buyer assistance’. Last year, more than four out of 10 first time buyers purchased their homes with a Federal Housing Administration insured mortgage.

‘The fact that first time buyers are looking for information about FHA loan programmes and home buyer assistance underscores some of the challenges today’s home buyers face in today’s tight credit environment,’ explained Thomas. ‘Realtors are excellent sources of information and can help buyers navigate the mortgage financing process,’ he added.

According to the 2012 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, multiple listing service websites and were the top two websites used in recent home searches., NAR’s official property listing website, attracts an average of more than 20 million unique visitors per month. Mirroring the Google/NAR study, search activity on has picked up significantly in recent months, a 31% increase nationwide between March and October 2012.

According to Google internal data, the five states with the highest number of online queries from people who can be presumed to be first time buyers were Delaware, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Queries related to retirement homes were highest in Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Virginia and Washington. For vacation home searches, the top five states were Florida, Ohio, Oregon, South Carolina and South Dakota.

According to data from, today’s buyers search most frequently on numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms; square footage; garages; heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems; and swimming pools. These home features represent 70% of all searched features on the site.

Mobile devices are significantly changing the way people search for homes, as well, the research found. Some 48% of people who used a mobile device in their home search used the device to get directions to homes for sale, and 45% used the device to request more information about specific home features or real estate services.
‘Increasingly, online technologies are driving offline behaviours, and home buying is no exception,’ said Google’s head of real estate Patrick Grandinetti.

‘With 90% of home buyers searching online during their home buying process, the real estate industry is smart to target these people where they look for and consume information, for example through paid search, relevant websites, video environments, and mobile applications,’ he added.