The single greatest change to real estate in the last 10 years is easily summed up in one word: Internet. Formerly, real estate agents had all of the knowledge when it came to homes, home values, what was or would become available. And they guarded this information! Heck, when I lived out in DC I had a real estate agent friend who used to get me thermal copy print-offs of certain houses and then threaten me to within an inch of my life if I told anybody that she had given it to me. It seemed it was a violation of, if not the MLS rules, the agent code.
Today with a visit to any REALTOR’s website John Q. Public can easily access tens of thousands of listings in his home area complete with basic information and multiple photos, satellite views and virtual tours. The public can easily compare prices between what is out there and make an informed decision about which houses to see WITHOUT having to rely on the real estate agent.
So to what value is the real estate agent today?
I’m glad you asked. Go to a site like Zillow. Check out the property values and asking prices? Are they relevant? Accurate? Complete? Craig’s List is becoming a growing player in real estate and I know many who use the site. How complete is it? For that matter, how honest are some of the sellers. These are great sites. But can they give you the intangibles as well as the raw numbers?
I’m all for sharing housing and sales information with anyone that wants it. Jackson County, Missouri last year started allowing anyone to go on to their website and see what closed sales were for any given area within their jurisdiction. (Much to the chagrin of many of the old time agents.) I think it’s great. But the professional real estate agent still belongs in the arena. After all, even if you are the most savvy buyer out there, you do all your research and prepare your own contracts you still will have less experience negotiating and “walking the contract through to close” than even some of the most inexperienced agents.
How many homes will the average buyer/seller live in through their adult life? Three? Five? Seven? Jeez, I participated in more transactions than that in my first six months of business…not including my own purchases before becoming an agent.
Do the Internet portals help you with school information? What about commercial development news or whether a neighborhood may be transitioning up or down? Yes, there is definitely a place for he professional agent today and in the future. Job function may be evolving, but the job is still in place. Today more than ever I’m really an agent for my community and area of expertise than a keeper of housing knowledge.