This week’s headline news of real estate website Zillow acquiring fellow competitor Trulia may prove to be a game changer in terms of how home buyers and sellers find each other online, but real estate agents expect their day-to-day operations to be relatively unaffected by the announcement.
In fact, HomeSmart real estate agent Greg Markov said his profession remains more relevant than ever, in spite of all the online maneuvering.
“The statistics I’ve seen indicate that Zillow and Trulia control close to 80 percent of the online lead market, and that’s certainly a force to reckoned with, but so far, the internet hasn’t replaced the fundamental part of the business and once an agent is found, transactions come together pretty much the same way they always have,” he said.
Indeed, real estate is still very much a local business, according to Matt Widdows, the founder of HomeSmart, even down to the forms agents use for documentation.
“There’s a lot more to it than searching online,” he said.
In particular, Markov said, real estate agents maintain their relevance in today’s fast-paced market by adding value to the process of buying and selling a home. In his opinion, they enrich the experience in at least three ways:
- Market knowledge – An agent’s understanding of what buyers and sellers are looking for, especially in a diverse market such as a historic district, isn’t so easily determined by a computer. An experienced sales professional will understand, however, that a Tudor home in an historic district is worth more, price per foot, than a typical low-slung ranch-style house.
- Marketing – The mere posting of a home on an online listing site isn’t sufficient marketing in this day and age, Markov said. It takes more than that to find the right buyers and sellers.
- Negotiation – “This is an element that will never be replaced by the internet,” he said. “You just can’t automate it.” And as anyone who’s ever gone through the process of buying or selling a home, there are numerous points of negotiation, such as when a listing agent negotiates with the seller on the price of the home. And then there are scores of other points to negotiate: the agent’s commission, closing periods, the terms of how the buyer and seller will give or take possession of the property, inspections and any potential repairs that are uncovered during the inspection, personal property that will or will not convey with the sale and, lastly, the appraisal.
Add in the emotion often involved with a residential estate transaction and you’ll find that latter point – negotiation – can get dicey pretty quickly, Widdows said. That’s when an agent is especially invaluable, when the topic turns to prices, contingencies and things neither a seller nor buyer really want to do.
“As a REALTOR, you are cheap psychologist,” he said. “You really become that ‘emotion manager’ in a transaction.”
After all, Widdows said, the purchase or sale of home is often the biggest and most expensive transaction an individual or family will make. It’s a big deal to most people, and a house in many cases is almost like a “part of the family,” he said. Sometimes, Markov noted, a seller is not even focused on price, but more concerned with finding a buyer who will love the home as much as they do. These are the kinds of situations where nothing can replace the human touch.
“At the end of the day, it’s the personalities involved and the psychology of it all – making a transaction work between two parties that are kind of at odds – that’s where the REALTOR comes in,” Widdows said.