It’s no secret that the real estate industry has changed. In fact, it is a very safe bet that the industry will continue to change. What we see now as the norm for real estate, I would hazard a guess, will be seen as archaic in about ten years. Remember, not so long ago, that Realtors were deemed the “gatekeepers” of the multi-list before the multi-list systems were dragged into the computer age, and then the age of the internet. With the glut of information now readily available to consumers, it can be like drinking water from a firehose; so much information, so easily accessible.
Many of my fellow Realtors felt the cat was being let out of the bag with the advent of the internet and high level of access to information. Just like money flowing into politics or a river with a rock in the middle of it, the information will flow to the consumer by the path of least resistance. A few Realtors expressed shock and regret at the advent of Zillow. After all, “Zillowing” is now a verb for the act of figuring out the value of a piece of property.
What does all this mean to the real estate industry?
Frankly, that’s a retrospective question for at least 10 years down the road. No one can prognosticate the ultimate impact of this free-flowing information. At the least, Realtors are now data filters for the informationally overloaded consumer. However, there are some things that we can already see happening.
Simply put, consumers are demanding more from their Realtors. Coupled with a slower local housing market, Realtors are beginning to realize that their “hobby” of selling real estate, needs to be a full-time endeavor. Greater demand by consumers plus a slower housing market will give us a greater level of professionalism in real estate. After all, when the consumer of real estate services is as well educated about the area, the neighborhood, and, in some cases, one specific home as the Realtor, what is there left for us to offer our clients?
This article from USA Today emphasizes just that point by way of examples. While unrepresented sellers only made up 13% of all homes sold in 2005, 81% of all home buyers used the internet to assist in their purchase of real estate. With that many prospective buyers utilizing the internet to purchase their homes, Realtors need to show the value we bring to the transaction. A Realtor that adds value to the transaction is a Jack of All Trades; they know a little of the local zoning laws, they know a little of the construction codes, and what they don’t know, they can refer their clients to a professional in that arena. And all of this is without considering the wrangling over the phone with the lender, the title company, the appraiser, the inspector, the underwriter, the insurance agent, the repairman, the other agent, etc.
In the end, does a Realtor add value to a given transaction? Yes.
Do we do a good job of showing the value we add to the transaction? Not really.
For buyers, we assist in finding that home, negotiating price and terms on that home, give recommendations on inspectors, lenders, handymen and any other service that our client’s may need. Remember, we don’t get paid unless the transaction closes. Furthermore, every agent would like future business from their clients, so it is in the agent's best interest to see that the transaction is as smooth as possible and exceeds the client's expectations.
For sellers, we give advice on selling a home in the current market conditions, give advice on marketing strategies, negotiate price and terms, and give recommendations on service personnel that may be necessary to close a deal. Again, as agents, we don’t get paid unless the property closes and we would love to see future business, so it is still in the agent’s best interest to see that the transaction is as smooth as possible.