Newhomesource.com has been collecting and analyzing online home buyer traffic and trends for over a decade. As has been the case in housing for as long as anyone can remember, January is the start to the online home buying season. January’s results can be used as a reasonable surrogate for the coming year’s home sales and consumer traffic.
In comparing online search traffic for both new and used homes, this January NewHome Source has estimated that there are 20-25% fewer consumers searching for homes this year than in 2010. While at first that seems like a fifth year of bad news, we must remember that last year’s January traffic was inflated by government incentives. Once those incentives disappeared in April of 2010 traffic consumer interest sank and we all know how the year ended.
This year’s numbers are not influenced by unnatural government intervention, so one would expect consumer traffic to behave in a more traditional seasonal pattern. If this holds true, we should expect improving year over year comparisons starting this April. So while we all wish there were more consumers confident of their economic situation and looking for new homes, it might actually not all be bad news. While 2011 may be starting out slow, it may also finish with a comparative bang providing the industry with its first real growth in many years.
Tim Costello is currently President and Chief Executive Officer of BDX, Inc., and Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Builder Homesite, Inc. You can follow Tim on twitter: @bylinetim for his insights on the homebuilding industry.