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In the pre-internet era, information was a key determinant of the geographic nature of intra- urban moves. Information was a far more limited commodity, and therefore subject to management and even manipulation. Information brokers, particularly real estate agents, could order and limit the kinds of information to which prospective buyers gained access, with the potential of strongly biasing search space. In the past few years, a vastly enriched information source on housing vacancies has become available through real estate industry-sponsored sites on the internet. This rich information source has the potential to influence spatial patterns and processes in the search for housing by eliminating information barriers in the search process. Three hypotheses were tested with data from Wake County (Raleigh), North Carolina. First, those with less prior familiarity with the destination area would make more frequent use of the internet. Second, internet users would visit fewer houses personally because they would have more prior information about the market, eliminating the need for some personal home visits. Third, internet users, armed with greater information about the house, neighborhood, and prices of other recent sales, would pay less for the same housing/neighborhood bundle. Recent movers in Wake County, North Carolina, were surveyed in early 2000, and the characteristics of web users were compared with nonusers. The major finding of this research is that to date, the internet has had little impact on search patterns, except that those using the internet tend to visit a larger number of houses personally than those who do not use the world wide web as an information source.


Final manuscript version of an article published in:

Palm, R. and Danis, M. (2002), The internet and home purchase. Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie, 93: 537–547. doi: 10.1111/1467-9663.00224.