The Real Estate Market Is Now Being Driven By Data Obtained From Online Information Searches !!!

Pricing is heavily influenced by product and security information searches. Prior to the development of personal computers, tracking information searches by customers or investors was difficult, and traditional surveys were the only way to learn about people's purchasing intentions. However, over the last two decades, internet search engines have developed as a key source of such data. Google began distributing internet search data to the public in 2008 through a service called "Insights for Search (I4S)," which was recently renamed "Google Trends."

Some hedge funds have begun to use I4S data to construct investing strategies. According to a New York Fed study, the I4S can forecast "financial market data releases as well as future price movements in some financial markets." Regardless of whether the I4S accurately captures market fundamentals, it may influence investor judgments of asset pricing. According to Kahneman and Merton (1987), investors have cognitive limits and may focus on issues other than market fundamentals. Consider investors who frequently watch Jim Cramer, the host of CNBC's popular nightly Mad Money show. Empirical investigations show that his recommendations have an effect on the share prices of the companies named, however, the impacts are temporary.

Some researchers, like Wu and Brynjolfsson (2009), Hohenstatt et al. (2011), and Beracha and Wintoki (2013), believe that the real estate-related I4S provides a proxy for real estate demand due to its correlation with sales and pricing. However, their premise requires additional investigation. Unlike most consumer commodities, real estate does not lose market value quickly. As a result, in addition to buyers, sellers must keep a close eye on the markets. Investors, tenants, and landlords in, for example, apartment markets may do web searches for apartment-related information. Real estate agents are frequently involved in the process, depending on the market, and may rely significantly on Google searches for information. Furthermore, some "window shoppers" who have no intention of buying, selling, leasing, or renting apartment property may add noise to the I4S series because their share is dependent on the stage of the search and sentiment. As a result, it is necessary to empirically determine whether the net effect of all these searches represents market fundamentals, i.e., the supply or demand side of the pricing equation.

Although the I4S has been examined in for-sale real estate markets dominated by retail buyers and sellers, it requires further investigation in rental markets. Apart from the space market for renters and landlords, apartments have active markets for real estate assets and equities, in which institutional investors, among others, participate. Apartment assets are thinly bought or sold in comparison to homes and are "big-ticket" transactions. The "Main Street" apartment asset market is dominated by sophisticated, major investors. However, the "Wall Street" stock market (i.e., the market for apartment REIT equities) is made up of both individuals and institutions.

The I4S is discovered to be endogenously determined by quarterly panel data collected for 21 main metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the United States. Vacancy rates, in particular, are significantly and negatively associated with searches. Moreover, searches are strongly linked to positive capital appreciation in asset values. As a result, increasing net demand for real estate is reflected in online real estate searches.

One recent study investigates the relationship between online apartment rental searches and key real estates market factors such as vacancy rates, rental rates, and real estate asset price returns. After adjusting for known predictors of these variables, it was discovered that consumer real estate searches are highly associated with market fundamentals. It is demonstrated, in particular, that apartment rental-related online searches are endogenously and contemporaneously connected with lower vacancy rates. However, the relationship between searches and rental rates is insignificant. The searches are also related to good returns on the appraised values of multifamily assets at the same time. There is some evidence that searches are fundamentally related to REIT profits in the short run, and REIT investors monitor online search trends to drive stock pricing decisions.

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