Great Partnership or the downfall of the common REALTOR?
Real Estate professionals have spent the last 200 years in almost total control of the real estate information needed to conduct real estate transactions. From the MLS to personal networks the timely dissemination of information has been in the REALTOR hands. They held on to that information like gold to force prospective buyers and sellers to seek them out.
Enter the Internet
The traditional model had the REALTOR controlling 90% of the real estate transaction. That model has been flipped upside down and has put the consumer in charge. Just as the travel, automotive and financial services sectors were forced to reboot, so too has the real estate industry had a major paradigm shift in the way business is transacted.
Multiple independent portals started popping up and giving the consumer all of that information the REALTOR held so tightly to their chest and more. The Real Estate industry reacted and began putting that information in the hands of the consumer through Realtor.com. Quickly the real estate industry regained the majority share of online consumer traffic looking for housing information.
Online Real Estate Evolves
Of course, as everything else on the internet, evolution comes quickly and sites such as RealtyTrac and HomeAdvisor began providing information previously unpublished such as foreclosure listings and prescreened lists of service professionals for the use of both buyers and sellers. Consumers’ appetite for real estate information became insatiable. They began demanding information such as home price estimates which had generally been controlled by the REALTOR. Zillow came out with the Zestimate – which automatically provided home values to the consumer. It didn’t take long to realize that Zillow’s Zestamate was inaccurate! They wanted lists of houses that were for sale by owner. Overnight websites such as ForSaleByOwner.com and NewHomeSource.com popped up and started providing that information. The floodgates of real estate information were being forced open and real estate professionals needed a way to catch up and still maintain a feasible business model.
Online Real Estate Grows With New Users
The current generation of home buyers, Generations X and Y, want everything available online. Their already buying clothes, household supplies, electronics, etc. online and they will eventually want to be able to do the same with real estate. Websites such as Auction.com have begun giving these consumers what they want. These sites have made it possible for a buyer to get a satellite view of the property to determine proximity to important amenities; they can search for comps online, and have an offer in a real estate agents hand within two hours. They can do all of this without getting out of their pajamas. In the old way of doing things that process would have taken a few weeks.
Online Real Estate Resources
Many real estate brokers now take advantage of technology to assist their customers. Sites specializing in specific real estate niches such as Boston Brownstones or Beachfront condos or Granbury Homes for Sale or even smaller cities such as Picayune have found great success in providing search tools, real estate education, home value tools and community information to their customers while holding a consistent branding.
What has to happen is a hybrid model; one that provides a best of both worlds approach. By using the local REALTORS’ expertise and people skills along with the power of the internet; Real Estate agents will always play a role in the real estate buying process. It is not about whether the internet is going to make them obsolete, but more about finding a value proposition that allows them to give consumers their expertise in a tech-driven marketplace.
Death of the REALTOR?
Most home buyers still want the one on one time with a professional. They want to be led through their potential new home, shown the amenities, and be educated on the process. Consumers are going to do their research online, that’s inevitable, but we all want the human touch that comes with a personal relationship with a trusted REALTOR. By availing themselves of the extraordinary powers of the internet, REALTORS can provide their clients with the information they crave while being there on a personal level when the client is ready for it.
The old days of the MLS that only a REALTOR had access to are no longer the power of the day. Of course, the MLS will be used and needs to be, but the days of holding on to critical data just for the sake of pretending to stay in control no longer make sense. Open up to your clients both with information and the people skills you already do so well and our new digital age can be one of your greatest assets as opposed to your greatest nemesis.