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RISMEDIA, March 9, 2009-(MCT)-Real estate agents going into this new sales season without a BlackBerry, iPhone or other personal digital assistant better get with it.

A new survey of home buyers says when people call a real estate agent, they want to hear back right now, not tomorrow or later. And they’ll judge an agent’s ability and savvy by the speed of that response.

“More than half want to hear back from you in 30 minutes,” said Leslie Appleton-Young, economist for the California Association of Realtors, briefing a few hundred Sacramento Association of Realtors members this week.

Appleton-Young presented a crash course in the rising digital habits of buyers, explaining how eight in 10 now spend about eight weeks to two months browsing the Internet before lining up an agent. Where do they find that agent? Forty percent go to Google first and browse agent websites, she said.

Social networking sites are gaining favor, too. “Agents are saying they’re getting clients now from Facebook,” the CAR economist said. “People are saying this is essential for getting business. Have a Facebook page link to your website.”

When buyers complete their Internet searching, they go traditional, said Appleton-Young. They spend two months with an agent and, on average, visit 12 houses before buying.

Mortgage fraud targeted

California’s district attorneys say they’ve been overrun by complaints of alleged mortgage fraud by mortgage brokers. So they’ve sponsored a bill to make it a felony for brokers to commit fraud on mortgage applications.

Brokers convicted of lying, misrepresenting or omitting key information about a borrower could do four years in prison.

That’s a huge change. Under current law, all those offenses that contributed so much to the current housing and economic crisis are misdemeanors. The bill is SB239 by Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills.

Copyright © 2009, The Sacramento Bee, Calif.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.