“I know the Internet makes it easy for buyers to identify homes that might suit their needs, but can they actually buy a home online? What role does the real estate agent play now?”
— A curious Palisades homeowner
The Internet has Changed Real Estate
Many sellers check the Internet to see what is currently for sale, to find an agent, or to consider trying to sell their house themselves. More people each month are finding how easy it is to search for such information and to view homes online 24-hours a day.
The Internet has brought a tremendous efficiency in communication of information useful to buyers and sellers. It is also essential to real estate agents who wish to provide the quality of service that can justify their role in the process. Their traditional professional skills are even more valuable in combination with the science and art of doing business online.
What Can’t the Internet Do?
It is highly unlikely that the Internet could ever entirely replace real estate agents, or that it would be in the consumer’s best interests to try to complete a sale or purchase of a home on the Internet. On the other hand, the Internet-empowered buyer or seller will benefit by using the Internet to research whether the agent being considered to sell or buy their home is fully using Internet tools and features.
Many experienced real estate agents have risen to the challenge of what it takes to work effectively with the Internet-empowered consumer. Although a surprisingly high percentage of agents are still slow to regularly use e-mail as a means of client communication, many have adjusted to the concept of checking their e-mail at least once a day. Also, many have realized the importance of providing full exposure of listings on several Internet sites, with numerous color digital photo images and full descriptive text, so prospective buyers anywhere in the world can view a home and its property.
A recent development that has created difficulties for some buyers and sellers is the “e-realtor”, an agent who only works with brokers that are only on the Internet. Such agents have no local office, do not personally network with other agents, generally have little or no support staff or team to assist in all the details involved in a transaction, and many have no expertise in the specific area a property is located. These agents often offer a financial incentive to attract clients.
Although the Internet has revolutionized the process of real estate, I think that professional counseling skills will always be of high value to both buyers and sellers of homes. The decisions and actions involved include a tremendous amount of legal, financial, practical and emotional detail and issues. Research on computers is no substitute for actually seeing and feeling the homes, and the knowledge and negotiation skills of an experienced real estate agent can easily make a difference of tens of thousands of dollars.
An experienced agent may also help in creative problem-solving, disclosure issues, and in resolving differences between positions or viewpoints held by buyers and sellers. Personal service will always be highly useful and valued in transactions where hand-holding and resource-providing is essential to the success of buyers and sellers.
How Can a Buyer or Seller Find Out Which Agents Are the Most Internet-savvy?
Check the quality, depth, and ease of use of the agent’s personal Web site. Is the information current and does it link to active multiple listings?
Send an e-mail message to each agent under consideration, and note how long it takes to get a response. If more than one replies within a few hours, follow up with a second message asking specific questions.
Review each agent’s listings on Realtor.com. Carefully compare the number and quality of photos included, the amount of detail in text descriptions, and the ease of identifying listing agent information and linking to their own Web site. Find out if their listings are among the first and “featured” homes listed on Realtor.com in the specific area your home is in.