Much Hoopla About the “Real Estate Bubble”and Search Trends

Apparently the general public is beginning to get concerned that the current trend in real estate will come to a dramatic end in the near future, leaving them holding an expensive property worth less than they paid.

I heard a radio show a couple weeks ago (I think it may have been NPR’s Market Place) discussing how far above the current rate of inflation the values of properties have climbed. And suddenly after scrambling for houses because of the low interest rates, people are beginning to worry. After months of making offers well above the asking price in many markets, people are beginning to rethink the wisdom of the “gold rush” mentality on the housing front. An apparent shortage in available housing for sale in comparison to the public demand caused a bit of nutty behavior in some markets. And it all leaves me asking — where are all the people coming from that are buying houses now? How can we possibly have a shortage when I see new developments whenever I take a short drive?

My real estate clients say that it’s because more people who were renters are now buying. That makes sense, but around here, even rentals are in high demand and low supply!

Anyway, the Internet trends company Hitwise.com says that the data on search trends and consumers’ online behavior indicates that not only the pundits are concerned. Your neighbors are worried too (those that still live in those houses).

According to recently released information from Hitwise, consumer Internet searches for “housine bubble” was up 174% during the last week of May as compared to the week prior. Searches for “real estate bubble” were up a whopping 311% during the same timeframe.

However, the interest and data on visits to real estate sites is up 19% compared to this time last year, according to the same source.

According to Hitwise:

“Hitwise clickstream data for the four weeks ending June 11 reveal that 25.0 percent of visits to real-estate sites originate directly from other real-estate sites; 22.1 percent from search engines; 8.1 percent from Web e-mail services; and 6.3 percent from portal home pages. Once on a real-estate site, 32.2 percent of visitors will depart directly to another real-estate site; 5.5 percent to a search engine; 4.8 percent to an online bank or financial institution; and 4.9 percent will go to a portal home page.”

Other statistics of interest to Real Estate Professionals involves the demographic spread on those searching the web for property, which indicate that middle income Americans and those with a median income of $60K are more likely to “click” to shop than their less wealthy and their more wealthy counterparts:

“Internet users with household income between $60,000 and $149,999 are nine percent more likely to have visited a real estate site in the four weeks ending June 11. Conversely, online users with household income less than $30,000 are 14 percent less likely to visit a real estate site. Users with household income greater that $150,000 are eight percent less likely.

Twelve percent more likely to visit real estate sites, the Affluentials’ median income is $60,000, their medium home value is $200,000 and they enjoy comfortable suburban lifestyles. The Affluentials are big fans of health foods, computer equipment, consumer electronics and the full range of big-box retailers.” (all information quoted here with the permission of Hitwise).

Hitwise also listed the top Real Estate Websites, based on marketshare of US visitors during the first half of June, 2005.

The top three, of the top 10 listed, are Realtor.com, RentNet, and Homegain.

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