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Search for a Bubble Heats Up on the Net

June 18, 2005|Annette Haddad | Times Staff Writer

Surging home prices have led to a bubble ... in Internet searches on the topic.

Web searches for the terms "real estate bubble" and "housing bubble" reached a 12-month high at the end of May, according to New York-based website tracker Hitwise.

The number of times people typed in the term "real estate bubble" into such search engines as Google, Yahoo and MSN surged fourfold from the previous week, Hitwise said Thursday.

Searches for "housing bubble" more than doubled, said Bill Tancer, Hitwise's vice president of research.

To be sure, these terms represent a tiny fraction -- less than 0.007% -- of all Internet explorations done on a weekly basis, Tancer explained. But there has been an undeniable increase in their usage, he said.

"Looking at search-term data measures what's on the consumer's mind," Tancer said. "The fact is they are interested in real estate."

Visits to real estate sites have also been growing, an average of 3% each week since Jan. 1, Tancer said, adding that the rate of increase has accelerated in recent weeks.

He isn't sure what prompted the recent run-up in online "bubble" searches.

"It may have coincided with all the media attention surrounding the issue," Tancer speculated.

A bubble in media coverage of the bubble?

Maybe so, considering what sites are getting the most bubble-related traffic.

According to Hitwise, they are: housing-bubble.com, Thehousingbubble.blogspot.com, investor information site capitalmultiplier.com and stock- market-crash.net, a site devoted to all manner of market crashes, financial crises and business calamities -- including history's most notorious real estate market busts.

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