The Internet is changing the nature of the consumer and has become a shopping environment that millions of adults are discovering, but millions more have not yet mastered. While people are becoming more comfortable buying CD's and books online, they are not willing to trust the Web to handle all the aspects involved in a purchase as important as a home. The Internet offers high traffic numbers of Web sites containing real estate information. The Internet is also a great place to begin research for house hunting and might be the ideal place to shop for homes in the future. Who are the Web users that real estate sites are targeting?

          Age differences play a big role in what users search the Internet for. For example the kind of product and service information people seek as well as what they purchase online varies with different age groups. N-Geners, known as Net-generation, want options, expect a world of limitless choices and want the freedom to change their minds if a more attractive option presents itself in the future. This age group will try before they buy, especially online. N-Geners often use the Internet and prefer to try things out for themselves rather than relying on promises from others. Many N-Geners are not yet in the market to buy homes because of their age and economic status, but as they grow older and become homebuyers they will likely use and rely on the Internet more than other segments of the population because of their comfort level with the Internet.

          Baby boomers and generation X'ers are the fastest growing user groups on the Internet today. These two groups appear to be the ones targeted for home buying services. Generation X'ers, born between 1965 and 1976, make up first-time homebuyers and first-time move-up buyers in the market. X'ers are conscious about how they spend their money and are more suspect about whether Realtors' services are worth the amount of their commissions. Generation X is driving on open information consumerism. Most X'ers are comfortable using computers, are familiar with the Internet and have the money to spend. Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, are the wealthiest generation in modern history, but generation X is following closely behind in their footsteps. Baby boomers are more likely to search the Internet for traveling, financial products and services, healthcare products, books and computers. Boomers are shopping for their third home or are moving to their final move-up home. Boomers are materialistic, competitive and interested in seeking personal pleasure. Boomers may be more willing to pay for services such as those provided by a realtor or mortgage broker in a real estate transaction. This generation likes to be pampered and is willing to pay for the royal treatment.

          The typical Internet user is growing to be dominantly female. According to the latest demographic trends, the home buying Internet user of the future is most likely to be a female in her late 30s who is single or part of a non-traditional household, perhaps with no children at home and having a high median income of at least $63,300 a year. By 2002, women are expected to represent 60 percent of online traffic. Shopping at home from a computer is extremely convenient. In last years Nielson/Netratings survey, women were proven to seek Web sites with heavy content in quality of life and health issues. In the same survey, men were proven to search for information about finances and sports. Women are multi-taskers and have very little time to surf the Web at each sitting. They also prefer sites that are quick and easy to use with multi-functions.

          The Internet is growing in size everyday and competition will invite more Web sites in the future. Before long people will be using the Internet for more complex transactions. Age and sex have proven to play dominant roles in how people use the Web. E-commerce is becoming popular for consumers and will continue to flourish in the future. Knowing the demographics and shopping habits of online consumers could be important for Realtors and others working in the real estate industry. Region, ethnicity and income levels are important demographics to consider for real estate sites online. Although real estate-oriented sites are vast in abundance on the Web, only 1 percent of business is actually conducted online today.

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"Nearly half of all home shoppers go to the Web as a first step to get home-buying information, up from 12 percent two years ago." --Nick Karris *

"Members of the 'net generation' or 'N-Gen' are generally more accustomed to computers than their parents are, so they are more likely to be online consumers." --Don Tapscott *

"N-Geners are not impressed with technology, they care about what technology can do for them."--Don Tapscott *

"More than 2 of every 5 people in North America are now Internet users, and the Web is becoming an integral part of daily life. With more than 30 percent of users being Internet consumers, we're seeing a tidal wave of e-commerce in North America." --Mark Resch *