In today’s information overload society, is having too much information hindering buyers more than it is actually helping them make a home purchase decision?
According to National Association of Realtors data, homebuyers who use the internet to aid in their search are seeing more than twice as many homes and taking twice as long to make a decision than those whose search did not include the internet.
Now, the first question I do have to ask is, “who isn’t using the internet these days?” But I think what they mean here is there are people out there who really rely on their agent to find homes and information, and not do any of that work themselves. Therefore are only seeing filtered information. They are only using the internet sparingly in their search.
So the short answer to the headline question I believe is, “yes.”
I do think that in some ways, having too much information out there makes it harder for buyers to sift through it all and trim it down to the essential things they are wanting in a home. Being hyper-aware of every single detail of every single home on the market can be confusing (and exhausting). Causing a buyer to delay action and possibly missing out on houses that would have been good fits for them.
For example, imagine for lunch you want to go for a burger. The place you go to has a small menu, you can have a hamburger or cheeseburger, with a few toppings like lettuce, tomato, mayo, ketchup and mustard. And then a couple options for sides like fries or onion rings. It is easy to pick what you want and you will be satisfied with your decision as long as the food tastes good. Now imagine instead of going to the place with a limited menu, you go to a place that has numerous options across the board. Now your meat can be hamburger, turkey, bison, chicken with toppings such as bacon, pineapple, BBQ sauce, buffalo wing sauce (mild, medium, hot), onion strings, jalapenos, and 15 types of cheeses. Now the decision is much more difficult because you get bogged down in all of the choices. Too many options can take your attention away from the choice you wanted all along, because you are busy trying to see it all. A simplistic example, but I think the point remains that sometimes not having so many choices is a good thing.
I have personally seen this bear out when working with buyers. Those that have been less reliant on doing their own research online, and allowed me to streamline their search by staying within their needs and trying to get as many “wants” as possible, we have looked at fewer houses, and a decision was made faster and the buyer always feels good about their decision.
On the flip side, those buyers I have worked with that conducted their own search in conjunction with mine, a funny thing happens. When we first meet, most have a pretty good feel for what they are looking for and have their base requirements of needs. And we are quickly able to identify several options for sale that meet those needs. However once their own search starts, they don’t just look at the houses that fit the criteria, but they also look at houses that may lack the essential criteria, but have a “want” feature the others do not have. And now they are trying to weigh if that want is greater than a need. As you can see, now the buyer is focused on wrong things and their list of houses gets bigger and bigger unnecessarily. Which obviously makes the decision that much more difficult.
Does this mean that buyers shouldn’t do their own research and just leave it up to their agent? No, that probably isn’t a realistic expectation.
So as the proliferation of information continues to grow, how do Realtors and buyers make the home search more efficient and easier? I think a good start for Realtors is to make sure you have a sit down buyer consultation session as early in the process as you possibly can to develop a solid game plan as to how you are going to go about the search. This is a good time to set expectations about the search. After all, Realtors are the ones who do this every day. Buyers are likely to have not done it in years, if at all. There the risks of having too much exposure to houses that do not meet their criteria can cause more problems that can help can be addressed.
As a buyer, having a good understanding the difference between wants and needs. And that any house that doesn’t meet those core necessities should be eliminated from any search regardless of how attractive the wants in the house may be. This will go a long way in keeping the house list to the minimum of just those that will work for the buyers. But still allows them to feel a part of the search by letting them do their own thing as well.
The fact of the matter is I don’t think the availability of information is going to ever slow down or diminish in any way. So we just have to get better about how we use the information. To use it in a way that is advantageous, and not paralyzes us into indecision. It is something that can definitely be done if Realtors and buyers work together.