According to studies conducted by the National Association of Realtors, over 82% of all home buyers begin their search online. In my experience, I think that number might be low because it seems as if everyone has been on the internet searching for homes, regardless of whether they are in the market to purchase a home or not!
There is no doubt that the internet will continue to grow in popularity with home buyers who find it convenient to look at homes from the convenience of their home. This convenience does come with some caution, though. Like all things on the internet, online searches can't replace the physical act of viewing a house.
All of the pictures in the world can't tell you exactly what a house looks like--for good and bad--and buyers tend to eliminate or select homes based upon what they see online. I know that some of my buyers have passed up homes because the pictures don't look good when in fact the house was perfectly good. Conversely, too many homes look a lot better on the computer screen than they do in person!
There is the occasional "drive by" buyer who calls from a for sale sign; but the on-line marketing is the most often used.
Here is the link to REALTOR.ORG
The data that I have says that about 80% of all buyers look online to buy a home now. This is the largest percentage yet to date ever. Marketing online now is more critical than ever. Maximizing amount of photos and putting remarks next to every picture is a must. Sheri Mapes the Cincy House Expert
And, I learned the following statistics in a Real Estate class - over 80% of home buyers are beginning their search on the internet. They are searching for 2 to 3 weeks before contacting an agent. 88% are interested in a property they see online. And, 78% of Real Estate agents are finding buyers online.
I would also agree that properties can be misrepresented online. We finally figured out that online sites can tell you square footage, asking price and location. If those items are even close....GO LOOK AT IT! Don't rule anything out just from an online listing.
A side note...While the listings themselves are generally sub-par, tools such as aerial shot on maps.live.com and satellite imagery can be very valuable if taken with a grain of salt. Googles new 'street level view' is just plain cool.