Searching for a home has changed, but agents still hold the keys
You drive by a home for sale, and it looks amazing. You want to see photographs of the home. Quick! Where do you go first? Zillow? Trulia? Realtor.com? More importantly — where don’t you look for photos? Increasingly that place is your local real estate brokerage. Does this trend foretell the much feared “Uber-isation” of the real estate industry?
Buyers no longer need real estate agents to find homes for sale. When buyers want to see available listings, they can quickly access information on the internet, removing you from the first step of the home search process. We live in a digital world where 44% of buyers start their home search on the internet. If your buyers can find their own homes, how can you provide value to them?
In a rapidly changing landscape, what role do agents play?
At first glance, the outlook may seem dire. With so many platforms available to buyers to find homes and obtain information, agents may feel that their usefulness in the industry has diminished. The reality, however, is that buyers view agents as a valuable resource in the search to purchase their dream home. In a 2016 survey, the National Association of Realtors found that 88% of buyers purchased their home through a real estate agent or broker. Although technological advances make searching for a home more accessible, the majority of buyers turn to agents to put in offers and guide them in making the biggest financial decision of their lives.
Here at ListReports, we respect and admire real estate agents. We know that you invest countless hours not only guiding your clients in the process of purchasing a home but also acting as a comprehensive resource for all related tasks buyers must complete when buying a home.
Your role as an area expert
Putting in an offer on a home is just one aspect of purchasing a home. What many people do not realize until they embark on a home buying journey is that agents have a unique expertise and can provide valuable insight to help their clients discern what is important to them.
According to the National Association of Realtors, 92% of buyers turn to agents as an information source when buying a home. You have the kind of knowledge about school districts, neighborhoods, traffic conditions, and local demographics that many buyers want to understand before searching for a home in a specific area. It is only with an area expert that a buyer would know that some roads become congested during certain hours, increasing commute times. Third-party websites will not have information on neighborhoods and can tell buyers that some areas have young families or retirees, a fact that could significantly alter a buyer’s decision where to buy. Only an agent can tell investors which areas hold value and have a strong rental market.
You have a unique perspective that gives buyers, renters, and investors insight on what it would be like to live in specific neighborhoods and cities. This kind of working knowledge comes from years of observing trends, absorbing information, and listening to clients. Your expertise is valuable and far outstrips any information found on websites.
Your role as an advocate
When your clients come to you to help them purchase a home, you take time to explain contracts, negotiate purchasing price, and settle on terms. You give them your expert advice and act as an advocate so that they are not navigating regulations and rules without support or advice.
As an advocate, you assume the position of negotiator so that your client does not feel uncomfortable or awkward when obtaining answers to questions or countering with a lower offer. You also protect your clients by shielding listing agents and sellers from knowing your client’s financial information. If your client is prequalified for a house for $900K and the home your client wants to purchase is $800K, the listing agent does not know that your client has another $100K available to her, preventing the sellers from countering with a higher price.
While your value as an advocate may not seem obvious, your role is crucial in ensuring that your clients receive the most impartial and fair treatment when buying a home. Without you, buyers are in a vulnerable position without any support or direction.
Your role as a guide
Searching for and buying a home is one of the most personal journeys we undertake. We often do not know what features are important to us or what we are looking for until we stop seeing a property as a house and start viewing it as a home.
You help your buyers narrow down what is important to them. You uncover your clients’ needs and prioritize them based on what is critical to their overall happiness. A common occurrence in the home search process is buyers falling in love with a certain city. An agent can help the buyers understand that purchasing a home in that city would take them farther away from their family and friends and closer to a more heavily trafficked area. With an agent’s perspective, buyers may decide that living closer to family and friends in a calmer area outweighs the beauty of a certain city.
Your ability to determine the delightful details that make a house a home is one of the strongest ways you provide value to your clients. You help your buyers examine their lifestyles and ascertain what characteristics are most desirable. When you ask probing questions, you can figure out what your buyers want – not what they think they want.
For first-time home buyers, you act as a calming factor. Between purchasing title insurance and home warranty, dealing with HOAs, and understanding Mello-Roos, it is easy for your clients to feel overwhelmed. As a guide, you can calm their nerves and help them tackle each task with little stress.
The ListReports team knows that agents are valuable and that technology has the power to enhance your business. Things are changing in the real estate industry, but the value of real estate agents has not.
Ajay Shah is the CEO and Co-founder of ListReports, a technology startup that provides FREE smart marketing material to agents. ListReports strives to make buying and selling a home a truly delightful experience.