Sales of existing, single-family detached homes in California totaled a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 471,840 units in May, down 5.8 percent from April and down 14.4 percent from the previous year. The statewide median price of an existing, single-family detached home sold in May edged down 0.7 percent to $291,760 from a revised $293,800 in April. May’s median price was down 10.9 percent from the $327,460 recorded in May 2010.
Despite concerns about the performance of the market, there are buyers who are taking advantage of today’s prices and low mortgage rates. Here are selected results from C.A.R.’s 2011 Survey of California Home Buyers that explain why people are buying now and how they have gone about their home buying process.
The survey asked buyers what got them off the fence and what their primary reason was for buying. Their responses pointed to the familiar theme of improved affordability due to price declines and favorable financing. The belief of nearly all buyers that prices cannot get any lower was key in getting them off the proverbial fence and into a house. Decreasing prices was the primary reason for nearly four in ten buyers making their purchase. Other reasons included favorable financing and desiring a better location or a larger home.
The survey also revealed that certain neighborhood and home qualities were more desirable than others. It was all about “location, location, location” as most buyers indicated the neighborhood was more important or equally important as the home features. Safety of the neighborhood was highlighted as the most significant attribute, followed by schools and the proximity of friends, relatives and work. With respect to property features, buyers were most interested in the number of bedrooms, the home size, the number of bathrooms, the kitchen and the lot size.
The Internet is the primary tool of buyers; they used it not only for research on the housing market and neighborhoods, but also to find homes and their agents. Survey results suggested that buyers are doing their homework. Nearly three quarters spent between two and four months investigating homes and neighborhoods before contacting an agent. More than half Googled their agent, which is about double the percentage of buyers from last year. Realtor.com remains the most visited and most useful website for buyers, followed by Zillow, Google and Yahoo! Real Estate. In addition to these websites and the agent and real estate company website, buyers also used Trulia, YouTube, Facebook and Craigslist. However, while the Internet offered a wealth of information and resources, 80 percent of buyers indicated that they found the home they purchased through an agent.
Buyers were asked to rate the importance of certain website features in their online home viewing. They indicated that multiple pictures, virtual tours, statistics on comparable homes, neighborhood profile, new listing notifications and analysis of housing market conditions were most important to include in those listings.
The use of social media is becoming more prominent and buyers have caught on. Over half of the buyers surveyed indicated they use social media for agent referrals, to view home videos and agents’ Facebook pages, get home buying tips, and review neighborhood information. The overwhelming majority (93 percent) are receptive to receiving information about home buying via social media.
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