According to the latest estimates from the University of Southern California Annenberg School’s Center for the Digital Future, an estimated 86 percent of Americans are now online. With so many people searching on the Internet and nearly 1 million real estate sites online, have you ever wondered if the web will affect your business?

Well, according to the 2013 National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers annual survey, even though use of the Internet in the home search process is on the rise, 88 percent of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker between July 2012 and June 2013. In fact, the percentage of buyers who use a real estate agent or broker when buying a home has increased steadily since 2001. And, 88 percent of sellers were also assisted by a real estate agent when selling their homes.

Here’s another startling statistic – two-thirds of home buyers and sellers only contacted one agent before choosing the one to assist with their home purchase or sale.

So, what does this mean for you? You need to be visible online. Buyers may rely on the Internet for information, but when it comes to making the major decision of purchasing a home, they still want to partner with an agent they trust. According to the NAR survey, home buyers who use the Internet to search for a home are actually more likely to purchase a home through a real estate agent than non-Internet users (90 percent versus 69 percent). Being active in social media is an opportunity for you to showcase your knowledge and experience, and for buyers and sellers to get to know you as they browse the Internet for information.

Here are a couple tips on sharing the right information to reach buyers and sellers who are searching online:

»      For the four of 10 home buyers who are first-time buyers, you want to position yourself as an expert on the ins and outs of home buying – according to the NAR survey, 14 percent of home buyers first looked online for information about the home buying process.

»      For sellers who are looking for agent to help sell their home, you can position yourself to be the one agent they contact by sharing your expertise on how to stage a home or how to get asking price.

The NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers also provided some insight on what is important to home buyers. According to the survey, the biggest factors influencing neighborhood choice were quality of the neighborhood, convenience to jobs, overall affordability and convenience to family and friends. Quality of the school district, convenience to shopping and convenience to entertainment or leisure activities also ranked highly. Keep these factors in mind when you share information on social media. Buyers want to know what it’s really like to live in your neighborhood, so posting about schools, shopping and leisure options is a great way to connect with potential clients and it makes for much better reading than just posting listings.