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HOW THE INTERNET ISN'T CHANGING REAL ESTATE Written by Jim Adair on Monday, 27 June 2016 1:53 pm

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"This is going to change the way real estate is purchased forever!" That's a claim I hear about once a week at the real estate magazine that I edit. Usually it's for a new app or website that provides a nifty way of doing something related to the transaction.

But does it change the industry? Not really. Yes, most buyers now do their real estate searches online and they use the Internet to gather mortgage information and maybe compare interest rates. It's not like the old days when only real estate agents had access to listings of homes for sale and only banks and mortgage brokers could explain the ins and outs of getting a mortgage.

But when it comes down to actually buying a house and arranging a mortgage, a large majority still turn to real live people to help with the transaction, rather than taking a do-it-yourself path.

When first-time buyers are looking for a real estate agent, half of them pick one based on a personal recommendation from family for friends, according to the 2016 Mortgage Consumer Survey by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. (CMHC). The survey also found that family members and real estate agents have the most influence in consumers' choice of which mortgage broker or lender they will use.

When looking for advice, 64 per cent of first-time buyers spoke to a real estate agent, the same number that asked family members for guidance. Others contacted for advice were lawyers, mortgage lenders and mortgage brokers.

For specific mortgage advice, a survey of adults under the age of 40 who don't currently own a home but plan to do so, conducted by Mortgage Professionals Canada, says that 66 per cent consulted with a bank first, followed by mortgage brokers (36 per cent), financial advisors (36 per cent) and friends or family (33 per cent). Twenty-two per cent first went to a mortgage comparison website, while 20 per cent consulted other websites. The survey found 21 per cent asked their real estate agent for mortgage advice.

Entitled The Next Generation of Homebuyers, the survey found that despite the talk of real estate bubbles in Vancouver and Toronto, and much publicity about the high debt levels of Canadians, young people still want to buy a home.

"The majority believe in a recovering economy and feel that Canadian real estate is a good long-term investment," says survey author Kyle Davies. "Much like generations before them, most dream of homeownership."

The survey says 76 per cent of respondents think that real estate is a good long-term investment, and 72 per cent said mortgages are "good debt".

Davies says that historically, "Canadians have viewed mortgages as good debt compared to other forms of debt, which typically carry a range of negative emotions."

Why are Canadians so interested in buying a house? Again, the reasons are likely the same as their parents and grandparents cited: starting a family, getting a promotion or a raise, getting married and moving to a new job were the most common responses.

And like their parents, 80 per cent are hoping to live in a low-rise dwelling rather than a condominium. Fifty-nine per cent are looking for a detached home, 18 per cent a condo and 13 per cent are looking for a semi-detached property.

Davies says a nice neighbourhood and safety are the most important features the next generation of home buyers is seeking in a home. Next on the list are potential for resale value, type of home and a short commute.

"There are long-held beliefs in real estate concerning what buyers will pay a premium for when deciding on a home purchase," says Davies. "We decided to investigate this, and presented 26 features to respondents in an exercise to determine the must-haves as well as the nice-to-haves."

He found that neighbourhood, short commute, safety, type of home and potential for resale were most commonly cited as things for which the potential buyers would pay a premium. They were willing to sacrifice smart technology, rental units, finished basement, quality of schools and age of building if it was necessary to stay within their budgets and timelines.

Most of those who plan to buy a home (73 per cent) will use personal savings as the source of their down payment. Thirty-three per cent will use a loan, 33 per cent a TSFA and 29 per cent an RRSP. Although an estimated $750 billion is expected to be inherited by Canadians in the next 10 years, only 21 per cent expect to fund their down payment with a gift from family, with 15 per cent planning to use a loan from family.

When it comes time to renew a mortgage, the CMHC survey found that 81 per cent of respondents stay loyal to their current lender.

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