I have hesitated to write this post because it may seem to be shooting myself and fellow Realtors in the foot. But everyone must adapt to change in how real estate is marketed – ready or not.
What do I mean? For many years the real estate agent was the go-to person to list your property for sale or to get information about listed properties. Now practically everyone with a computer goes online to see listed properties. An owner can post a property for sale (or rent) without listing it. A buyer can look at a property directly with the owner or enlist the help of an agent if desired. Buyers and sellers have more information at their fingertips than ever before.
How are these changes affecting the role of agents and brokers? We are not the essential go-to person in many cases. We are still necessary to unlock doors, show houses, and write and present offers on listed properties. We still provide a valuable service, but we may not have the level of influence over the listing and selling process that we had in the past.
What brought about this change? If we could pinpoint just one thing it would be the advent of the Big Z – Zillow. Do a search for real estate for sale in your location and chances are the Zillow website will be right up there are the top of the page. There you can window shop for listed properties to your heart’s content. Are you selling? You can list your property on Zillow for the whole world to see.
Zillow’s data on properties is not always as accurate as that on Realtor.com, the National Association of Realtors site, but that doesn’t matter for most of the buying and selling public. What does this imply for the Multiple Listing Service, the mainstay of listed properties? The MLS risks becoming redundant in the public eye, if it isn’t already.
What’s the potential effect of this change on the Big Box real estate companies? How does their branding add value to your listing experience as a seller when buyers by the thousands can view your property online and call a Realtor only when they are ready to see a particular house? Does the buyer care who the house is listed with? Probably not; the buyer just needs someone to unlock the door and let him or her see inside.
There’s still a role for real estate agents and companies to play as service providers, particularly for those people who still call an agent or a company for information or to list a property for sale, but as the population ages the way we do things is changing. Younger buyers and sellers typically start the process online and bring in an agent on an as-needed/if-needed basis.
This may be a glimpse into the future of the listing and buying aspects of the real estate brokerage business. From my point of view as an independent broker, it’s the way to go.