Apparently online real estate spending is set to more than double in 2005 to more than $1.8 billion dollars or approximately one in every six online ad dollars.  Thank god.  As anyone who has recently searched for real estate in any of the booming markets across the US will tell you, it’s not fun.  The problem is that there are houses with virtual tours, agent websites, newspaper websites, photos, no photos, and multiple listings for the same place.  Yet, my behaviour in searching for a new home on the Internet has been different to anything else I’ve ever done online.  I haven’t used Google once.

I’ve gone straight to sites like the Washington Post real estate section or other local publications that I know have the most listings every week.  I’ve even gone to a store and purchased the actual paper … probably the only search I’ve done for anything through a printed version of any publication in the last year.  But it’s not that different to what I see others doing.  Most people seem to be searching every source they can find — for the most house listings and for that hidden gem that no one else will find.  Does advertising, online or otherwise, matter in this environment?  Well, I do see the advertised places first.  But I search harder for the non-advertised places, hoping my diligence will pay off in finding a gem that everyone else has overlooked. 

So what about local search, and the promise that offers to helping users find exactly what they are seeking online in a particular area?  It seems I’m well positioned in the right market to observe the local search phenomenon, as a ClickZ article from earlier in the year notes:

Spending on local online advertising will total approximately $3.9 billion in 2005, a 46 percent increase over the $2.7 billion 2004 total.  The fastest growing market in the country is Washington, D.C., which will increase its total local online ad spend by almost 70 percent, to reach $92 million in 2005.

Where are those new advertising dollars going to go – to new listings on the Washington Post, to search marketing on engines that offer local search, or to more of those really cool sounding (but rarely useful) virtual home tours online?  I love to hear about more advertising dollars going online.  Maybe it will make the house hunt easier in the future.  Now if only I could find a way of distilling my search to a single site or two — that would really be helpful.  If only Amazon sold homes too.