"With more and more consumers using mobile devices and mobile technology, such as apps and social media platforms, buyers are increasingly using their smartphones and computer tablets to view comparable house prices, search for properties, take photos, and create videos of homes and amenities, as well as research communities and real estate agents," Faught said.
"As a result, home buyers today are more informed and have a greater sense of control over what could be a daunting process," he added.
The survey found 85% of buyers used a mobile device during the home buying process, with the majority of buyers (70%) accessing the Internet from their smart phones and 15% accessing it from their tablets.
While the majority of buyers (61%) found their home through an agent, the percentage who found their home online more than doubled from 16% in 2012 to a record high of 37% in 2013.
Almost one-third (30%) of buyers rated Realtor.com as the most useful website, followed closely by Zillow at 28%. Broker and agent websites were also helpful in the home buying process as buyers increasingly seek local expertise and information.
The use of social media in the home buying process continued to increase, with three-quarters of buyers now using it, compared to 52% who used social media in 2011. Buyers primarily used social media for buying tips and suggestions from friends (43%), neighborhood information (42%), and to view their agents' Facebook pages (41%).
The use of social media as a form of communication is expected to grow, with 91% of buyers saying they are receptive to receiving information about the home buying process from their agent via social media, Faught said.
The survey also found that buyers spent nearly six months considering a purchase before contacting an agent, nearly twice as long as last year. They took more time investigating homes and neighborhoods before contacting an agent, spending just over seven months on researching, compared to about 1.5 months last year.
Additionally, buyers spent nearly 10 weeks looking for a home with their agent, a week longer than last year. More than eight out of 10 buyers (85%) made offers on other homes, and one-third said they settled for the best option given the limited supply of houses.
"The lengthier consideration time and home search illustrates the impact of low housing inventory and increasing home prices," Faught said. "These factors caused buyers to weigh their options more carefully before making their home purchase."
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