Where housing is due to revive

July 28, 2008, 11:05 PM UTC

“The West is holding up, and search activity in Detroit suggests that the market there may be picking up.” That’s what Lorna Borenstein, president of Move Inc., told me on Friday–the same day that the U.S. Commerce Department released better-than-expected numbers on home-buying.

Borenstein, an alum of Hewlett-Packard , eBay and Yahoo , is the No. 2 exec at the leading online company in residential real estate: Move owns Move.com, the most comprehensive home sales and rental search site, and REALTOR.com, the official Web site of the National Association of Realtors.

Over breakfast in San Francisco, Borenstein also shared her list of the top searched markets in June, noting that high search activity typically precedes a pickup in home sales:

  • Los Angeles-Long Beach, CA
  • Chicago, IL
  • Dallas, TX
  • Detroit, MI
  • Boston-Worcester-Lwrnce-Lowell-Brockton, MA
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Riverside-San Bernardino, CA
  • Orange County, CA
  • Phoenix-Mesa, AZ
  • Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL
  • San Diego, CA
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Washington, DC-MD-VA-WV
  • Las Vegas, NV

No doubt, Borenstein is operating in the toughest housing market in decades. New home sales have fallen in seven of the past eight months, the Commerce Department reported on Friday. But many analysts believe that the industry is approaching a bottom, and Borenstein herself is optimistic. A recent Harris poll showed, she says, that homebuyers will sacrifice bedrooms or bathrooms for proximity to work and lower gas prices. The poll also indicated that consumers will cut back on luxury items, dining out and even clothing purchases to save money for a home. “That isn’t so good for the overall economy,” Borenstein noted.

The opportunity for Move is ripe, however: In the homebuying and rental business, Borenstein says, the majority of revenues are generated offline. Yet 80% of consumers search for new homes online. They spend eight weeks online, on average, before contacting a Realtor. To Borenstein, that’s a potentially lucrative window to engage consumers with new online services and advertising messages.