Internet boosts homes sales

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By Nathan L. McBroom

Realtors used to dread the thought of a mouse running around a house that they were trying to sell.

But that was before the age of the Internet - when a mouse only referred to a rodent.

Now, as more and more houses are being viewed, toured and purchased through the web, local Realtors are doing everything they can to get potential homebuyers to use their mouse to scroll, point, and click their way into buying a home.

Local Realtors said with a slow market, high gas prices, and the summer heat, the Internet has become a vital part of their marketing strategy.

Kristian Ruble, broker/owner of Remax Performance Reality, said today's home buyers will thoroughly investigate a house on the Internet before they drive to see it in person.For that reason, Realtors have to put as many pictures and virtual tours of their house as possible on their websites.

"It is just tremendous what the Internet has done for business," she said. "People like to shop at their leisure. And the Internet lets them look at houses whenever they want to. Sometimes our website is getting hits at 3:30 a.m."

Along with internal and external pictures, Ruble's website, which has been up for seven years, also provides customers with mortgage calculators and links to other local points of interest for potential home buyers such as the city and county government and local school information.

And as more and more houses are sold through the web, the innovations and features on local Realtors websites are likely to continue to increase as well.

Torrey Smith, of Torrey Smith Realty Co., said his background in computer science has come in handy in his real estate business.

Smith, who created his company's website himself, said the web helps customers find homes quickly and helps ensure homes don't stay on the market for long periods of time.

"If there is anything that they don't like about the house, they can automatically count that one out," he said. "That saves you the time and the gas."

He said the days of just having a single picture of the home's exterior are long gone. Customers are now looking for several pictures of the home, inside and out, with a room-by-room tour being preferred.

Of the 100 listings on Smith's site, all of them have at least 10 pictures, with some of them having up to 100 pictures.

"It takes a lot of time and memory to post all of that," he said. "But it's worth it."

Smith recently held the county's first "virtual open house" where potential homebuyers were allowed to tour over 100 homes without getting in their cars.

He said with a slow market, aggressively marketing homes is crucial.

"If you are thinking about listing your house, you need more than just the tradition methods," he said. "The more traffic that people come to see, the more likely that it is going to sell."

Larry K. Rogers, owner of Coldwell Banker/Larry K. Rogers Realty, said using the Internet to research and buy homes is a product of society's increasing dependence on the Internet.

"In the old days you had to haul people around from house to house," he said. "But now, they have done most of the research (on the Internet) before they even come out to see it."

He said using the Internet benefits everyone involved.

"It's just a real advantage," he said. "It expedites the whole process."