online real estate listings first impressions Ninety-five per cent of people looking at home listings online view the first photo — usually an exterior shot — for 20 seconds. After that, it’s cursory glances at the other material, according to research from the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.

“Without an eye-catching photo, the battle is lost before it begins,” Professional Michael Seiler told the Wall Street Journal. “You have to grab people’s attention within two seconds. Do it the way a billboard does.”

To conduct the study, Seiler and his team tracked the eye movements of 45 people who each viewed 10 listings with six photos, looking at the time spent viewing each online feature and the number of times their eyes stopped at a certain element.

online real estate data

Chart via the Wall Street Journal

Study highlights courtesy the Wall Street Journal:

  • Following the home exterior image, 76% of people viewed the property description second
  • Only 41.5% of participants even bothered to read real estate agents’ remarks, which the Journal notes “can be a turnoff if they contain all-capital text, hyped-up adjectives and brand names”
  • Overall, online homebuyers spend about 60% of their time on photos, 20% on the property description and 20% on the real-estate agents’ remarks section

The study also found that as browsers click through listings, their interest wanes.

“People have respondent fatigue. After a while, you get lost in a sea of homes,” Seiler told the Journal.

It’s research that real estate agents and builders would do well to consider, especially in light of another study that found 90 per cent of homebuyers are searching for new homes online.

The study, entitled “Toward an Understanding of Real Estate Home Buyer Internet Search Behavior: An Application of Ocular Tracking Technology,” can be seen in its entirety here.

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