Yesterday I drove by the gas station, saw Mid-Grade Unleaded at $3.65, and cheered. Who would have ever thought that would be something to get excited over however in my house, it is. Since gasoline prices began their roller coaster ride to $140 / barrell, I found ways to cut back driving or reducing my consumption. I swapped cars with my wife, combined trips to perform listing maintence, and even planned my fill-ups to occur in South Carolina where gas is cheaper. Still, my fuel bills were around $500 a month. I realize I am not alone in this.
For the last five months, traffic to this blog and to my websites have surged as well. In January 2008, only 113 unique visitors reached my website and only a couple registered to view area homes for sale. Last month, our website saw 959 visitors and nearly 100 registrations. Over the last 30 days, this blog has averaged around 39 readers a day. While I would love to take credit for the success, I think that much can be attributed to the high gas prices.
Buyers today can do so much without leaving the comfort of their couch or desk. On my website, Trulia, or REALTOR.com, they can view details on almost every home for sale in the Charlotte area (and I say almost since some agents do not participate in IDX). They can visit a local GIS site and with the address, see how the lot lays out, learn if it sits in a flood plain, and even view the most recent tax bill. Some properties have a Youtube video of the inside of the home or a virtual tour. With the address you can take a virtual drive down the street and through the community with Google Street View or fly overhead like a bird with Live Maps.
Years ago, I thought nothing of jumping in the car and previewing a property for a buyer. While I still do that today, I do more internet research beforehand to vet the home before I ever step foot in the front. Many times recently, when a client calls to see a home, they've already done what I have just described and are ready to make a offer. The leg work is done. So what does that mean for agents and sellers?
I have been a slow adopter of video but that's going to change. With sign calls down and web traffic through the roof, I will be focusing more on how I can help my properties stand out to buyers on the web. Also, it means changing media more often. Occasionally, I will run across a house where an agent is still using a Polaroid camera to take pictures and suprise....the house has been on the market for 3 years. Going forward, I will be changing my listing exterior pictures every couple months as a way to refresh the listing. Additionally, rewriting the description may be helpful as well.
Maybe if gas goes back to $1.50 will things change but with information being at a premium, I don't think so. I guess the new real estate mantra should be "Buyers are looking for a reason not to look at your house and what reason am I giving them."
Charlotte NC Homes, Charlotte Real Estate