Half of homebuyers first check the Web, Realtors group finds

THE BALTIMORE SUN

More than half of all consumers now use the Web before going home shopping, according to a new study from the California Association of Realtors.

Web users spent about two weeks looking for a home after contacting an agent, compared with seven weeks for non-Internet consumers. Web users looked at about six homes with an agent before buying, vs. 15 homes for the traditional buyer.

But mortgages are another story. In 2003, just 9.8 percent of all closed loans originated with online applications, according to TowerGroup, a researcher for the financial services industries.

Even though TowerGroup predicts that 12.7 percent of this year's loans will originate online, a share of the market that it predicts will grow to 20 percent in three to five years, online loans have a long way to go.

One reason, experts said, is that homebuyers tend to crave human interaction, not a password and username.

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