Search Behavior Reveals Consumer Fears of a Real Estate Bubble

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Recent online search behavior suggests that consumers are as concerned about a real estate bubble as the media.


Searches on the terms "real estate bubble" and "housing bubble" climbed to a 12-month high for the week ending May 28, according to online monitoring service Hitwise, New York.


Hitwise said the market share of those two terms across search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN jumped 311 percent and 174 percent for the weeks ending May 28 and May 21, respectively.


"Increased traffic on real estate Web sites is reflective of the sector's growing adoption of Web-based technologies and databases, often used for digital storefronts, marketing, inventory listings and buyer financing," Bill Tancer, Hitwise vice president of research, said in a statement.


Visits to real estate Web sites typically tapered off seasonally at the end of last year. However, interest ramped up in the spring this year, with online visits growing 3 percent weekly. As a result, the market share of total online visits for real estate Web sites is up 19 percent for the week ending June 11 versus the year-ago period.


Hitwise click-stream data show that, for the four weeks ending June 11, 25 percent of visits to real estate Web sites originated from similar sites, 22.1 percent from search engines, 8.1 percent from Web e-mail services and 6.3 percent from portal home pages.


Once they are on a real estate Web site, 32.2 percent of the visitors move directly to another similar site, 5.5 percent to a search engine, 4.9 percent to a portal home page and 4.8 percent to an online bank or financial institution.


Internet users with annual household incomes of $60,000 to $149,999 are 9 percent likelier to have visited a real estate Web site in the four weeks to June 11. Online users with annual household incomes under $30,000 are 14 percent less likely to visit a real estate site. Those in the $150,000-plus bracket are 8 percent less likely.


Hitwise data indicate that search activity is fast becoming a bellwether of consumer moods.


"Recent Internet search activity suggests that some activity in the category is being driven by curiosity of rising property values and the possibility of a bursting bubble," Tancer said in the statement. "Should we undergo a decline, it will be interesting to see how site traffic and search activity correspond."


Mickey Alam Khan covers Internet marketing campaigns and e-commerce, agency news as well as circulation for DM News and DMNews.com. To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting www.dmnews.com/newsletters


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