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How to Help Online Buyers Get the Most Out of Their Search (Without Sabotaging Your Business)

October 22 2014

onlinebuyer truliaReal estate agents by nature don't deal well with change. When it comes to teaching our clients about how to do an online search for real estate, we feel like crawling under a rock and getting in the fetal position because it's scary to think they could look up a house on their own.

You mean they don't need us to see what's on the market any more? It's 2014, folks. Let's teach our clients the right way to search for homes online and it might actually make our job easier. Don't worry; they'll still need you for many other things like, oh, I don't know, unlocking the front door so they can actually see it.

The Challenge of Selling to Millennials

One of the biggest hurdles companies are trying to figure out, no matter what they sell, is how to appeal to Gen Y.

Gen Y, also referred to as the "Millennials," is defined as anyone born between 1982 and 1993 and is typically (and falselyand falsely) categorized as a generation that prefers renting over owninggeneration that prefers renting over owning. According to a recent article on, "Gen Y's annual spending will amount to approximately $2.45 trillion, escalating to $3.39 trillion by 2018—significantly eclipsing Baby Boomers in spending power."

Now do you understand why companies are competing for their attention? Millennials understand the power of computers and they don't want/need to rely on a business or, in this case, a real estate agent, for everything. This is why they often look on their own at first, and when it's convenient for them, we step in. Should we cater to this as agents? Hint: The answer is YES.

How an Old Industry Must Sell Homes Using New Tech

According to NAR, the average age of real estate agents in the U.S. is 57. A large group of 57-year-olds (and older) are just getting used to the whole computer thing and then, SURPRISE! Now real estate has gone mobilereal estate has gone mobile—migrated into phones and tablets and who-knows-what other kinds of devices. This new world of having unfathomable amounts of information at your fingertips on just about any topic, including which homes are for sale and what they last sold for, is hard to wrap one's mind around.

At my company, we have an app which allows a consumer to point their phone at a house which is for sale and get pictures of the inside, price, and who is listing the home. Yikes! Trulia's consumer appTrulia's consumer app lets buyers explore homes around them and even sends them a push notification when they are nearby on-the-market homes. The statistics vary, but NAR tells us that a minimum of 62% percent of those who buy homes today view them first online.

So while many agents give Gen Y-ers a hard time for their short attention spans, it's simply a matter of their uncanny ability to do so many tasks at once that it's all but mandatory to look for properties online first—before creating the list of properties they want to view in person.

One huge benefit we can offer to our clients in this "now" world is to filter out the minutiae that can show up in an online search. Have you ever Googled "real estate for sale in [your city here]?" The numbers of sites that come up are astounding. Where does one even start? This is where we come in to show some value and educate the consumer.

Here are some strategies agents can use to make online buyers' searches easier:

Set Some Specifics

Before a client clicks anywhere, have them make a list of the things they HAVE to have in their new home. This will be your "go-to" list and encourage your client to be picky. This exercise will delete a lot of time-wasted showings. The next list is "nice-to-haves." If your first list yields too many candidates, use this second one to narrow the field.

Think Small

Again, be picky. If your client has an exact neighborhood in mind, tell them to narrow the search to just that area. Start expanding from there if the search yields little inventory.


There are literally hundreds of real estate search sites, so I often suggest that the client uses local brokerage sites, as long as broker reciprocity exists in your area. They have the broadest assemblage of local properties regardless of the listing agent. Larger sites like, of course, can also be useful in widening the search, since they will often include for sale by owner listings.

Gen Y is the most educated generation of our lifetime. Expand and add to their educational insight on home buying and be a hero when they are moving in to their new place.

This article was originally published on the Trulia Pro blog. You find both it and other articles for real estate agents herehere.

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