Lately it seems like customer service is dead. Everything is automated, and technology makes new leaps and bounds daily. From cabs to Uber and Blockbuster to Netflix, the robots are winning in a major way. There is indeed always probably an app for that.
It’s tempting to think the same is true when it comes to home buying. Why talk to an agent when you can click a few buttons online and find out everything you need to know about a home without ever having to talk to a salesperson? Certainly this new tech-heavy do-it-yourself way of life hasn’t skipped the profession of real estate nor can agents kid themselves that they are the sole source of consumer data anymore. I often hear, “Our old agent didn’t even find us the house that we bought” or “We were always sending the homes to our Realtor that we wanted to see.” The perception still lingers in many people that as agents we are here solely to find homes and show up to open their doors.
With the ever-growing business of third party websites farming out Realtors’ listing data to their own portals, it’s more and more common that a consumer will in fact find their own future home. And why is that? Many times buyers will begin their house hunt with an idea of what they want and realize that they prefer something altogether different along the way. This evolution of personal preference can occur through trial and error, process of elimination or by happy accident driving down a street they hadn’t traveled before. I embrace the third party websites and the Matrix of technology. Bring on the robots, just make sure they aren’t Sentinels!
Real estate is a relationship business. It’s about trust and service, and you don’t trust someone you don’t know, at least not as well as you would someone with whom you have had a relationship. Raised by two Realtor parents, I saw this principal play out over many years, and now firsthand for the past decade in my own career in real estate.
Also, it’s not just about “finding” the home. That’s really the first step in a very involved nuanced process from contract to close. Many, many steps take place after the finding of the home, and that is what makes us valuable as agents. Meeting the appraiser, making sure the inspector shows up, does a through job and turns in his report on time. Juggling the communications between the title company, sellers and contractors as well as keeping things on schedule. We anticipate and know how to deal with situations that even purchasers of several homes may have never been through, and these are just a few of the relationship based activities real estate agents carry out daily for their clients.
Recently I represented a buyer from out of state. It was their first purchase and they diligently did their research online using third party websites prior to asking me to place an offer on a home. Their offer was flatly rejected as I had advised them it would be prior to presenting it. It was simply too low. The buyers were purchasing a home that was a traditional sale and what they had seen online were mostly distressed homes in far worse condition. Several recent traditional sales within the same neighborhood had not yet appeared on the third party websites so they could not factor those into their offer equation. The multiple listing service, which myself and all agents use exclusively, had all of those details the same day of those closings. I was able to determine the market value of a traditional, well-kept home in that neighborhood for them in less than five minutes. Although they went ahead with their initial offer a few days afterward, they presented a new offer more inline with local property values on a similar home in the area. A month later they were able to close on their home, and I negotiated a contract price $15,000 under the appraised value as well as got a portion of their closing costs covered. Nothing better than having instant equity in your home.
The real estate relationship connection extends further. As a home seller, the relationships an agent has with the community and past buyers may easily net a seller a higher sales price and faster. For the past year or so many markets including the Orlando and greater Central Florida area have been experiencing a shortage of inventory. Agents may pre-market homes prior to them being placed in the MLS through blogs, networking, signage and email blasts to other agents and people they know. In some cases creating an interest list can capture the right buyer for a home immediately, saving the sellers the hassle of prepping for repeat showings, open houses and other potential inconveniences. Veteran agents also know each other well. So, an agent’s reputation for representing serious well qualified buyers is likely known by other agents in his or her area, which in turn may weigh in their buyers favor when it comes to a multiple offer situation as is common now.
In terms of technology we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg, and that’s a good thing. Gadgets and technology that seem simple now – such as smart phones, electronic signage services such as Docusign and tablets – have already revolutionized real estate in a huge way. I can only imagine how much more we as agents can accomplish as we continue to embrace tech and automation. The future I envision is one where technology enables agents and consumers to be more effective and successful together, and still one where relationships rule.