Do I Need To Use A Realtor?
Without a doubt, the residential real estate business in the U.S. and most of the world has changed dramatically with the advent of Zillow and the other similar portals. The entire script has been flipped, and most realtors are either trying to figure out how to respond, continuing to make hay while the sun is still shining…. or entirely oblivious. (don’t mess with agents that are tech-averse)
In the good old days, before Zillow (and the internet, in general), the Realtors’ value was primarily in their knowledge and access to information. It is still true that a great Realtor has knowledge of the market and market trends, negotiating experience, and proficiency in real estate contract law. But the internet has opened a huge space for self-service, as it has in so many other areas of commerce.
Buyers: If you’re looking for a home to buy, you don’t have to go to an agent. The consumer now has nearly as much listing information and data flooding her smartphone as the professionals do. A home buyer can browse myriad sites, get notifications of new listings, and basically shop from home.
The value of a realtor is that they can lend a guiding hand with how to search, sort, and choose listings worth seeing.
I don’t know much about cars. I’m a good driver. I put gas in, check the oil. But buying a car is scary. I don’t know what a good deal looks like. I don’t even speak the language. Every dealership, car lot, and online classified wants my business. They all know more than I do, and they all want to sell me one of their cars. What if I had a special car shopping buddy that could help me, someone with no vested interest in any of the cars or dealers? Sure he wants you to buy a car, but he wants you to buy the right car, not necessarily the one that guy is selling. Any car. The right one for you. That’s what a good Realtor does for you. And here’s the bonus…. Buyer services are almost always free.
Sellers: Just as with buyers, the internet has made it easier than ever to post something for sale for all the world to see. You can even get your house listed on the same websites/portals the real estate pros do. And when you look at the cost of real estate commissions…. wow! You could save thousands!
It’s true. It’s also true that For Sale By Owner (FSBO’s) account for only about 8% of U.S. home sales. And homes that listed with a Realtor sell at a much high price on average. Back to a car analogy. Could I change the oil in my car? Sure. Would I rather pay a shop $100 to get it done in a fraction of the time, with a fraction of the hassle? And dirt/grease? Absolutely! Unless you really know what you’re doing, You’d be well advised to work with a professional. When the transaction is all wrapped up you will be glad you did.
More on the impact of disruptive forces like Zillow et al in future posts… the good and the uncertain for the consumer.
*The terms agent, Realtor, and broker can pretty much be used interchangeably, but Realtor denotes an affiliation with the National Association of Realtors, an organization that holds practitioners to higher standards than the law and collects housing data and statistics.