Will The Flood Of Internet Technology Replace Real Estate Agents In The Future?
It is obvious that technology - - namely the Internet - - has had an undeniable impact on the real estate industry, from how consumers search for and find homes, to how properties are advertised and marketed, to the wealth of information available at the touch of a button or click of a computer mouse.
So, are real estate agents in danger of being replaced by technology any time soon?
When the Internet began to play a role in the realty business, it was largely that of creating a broader audience for real estate brokers to share their listing data and property advertising.
Specialty websites within the industry, such as Realtor.com or sites from major real estate players such as Century 21®, began to attract a following. Consumers liked having the ability to directly find and evaluate properties before actually engaging the services of an agent.
Along the way (and with the help of a major DOJ ruling about broker MLS services), Consumer-targeted websites such as Zillow began to take hold as third-party ‘portals’ to the information-rich databases that are the various Broker MLS systems. Additionally, these third-party sites, not being real estate sales organizations themselves, began to collect data and ‘leads’ through their sites that they were able to offer back to real estate agents at a fee.
As such, an entire multi-million dollar ‘cottage industry’ was born around offering real estate information, not actual real estate sales or realty services.
The Technology Explosion
As the trend of the Consumer seeking more detailed and varied information continued, Internet real estate companies began to expand their offerings: Automated estimates of home values, online mortgage calculators, emails alerts associated with property searches, and more and more real estate related information has become available for free and without hassle.
Traditional real estate companies followed suit and expanded their own public website offerings to compete in this space in the hopes of directly capturing potential Buyers and Sellers. (Better to direct people through your site than have them wander onto a competitor’s site or show up on a third-party online site who captures and sells 'leads' back to agents.)
The State of the Art
Today, real estate has an online presence that includes Social Media sites, custom URLs (separate websites created for a specific home listing), countless Broker sites, individual Agent sites, and sophisticated information-capture technology - - all in an effort to connect with potential home buyers and sellers where most are spending their time - - in the digital world.
Property marketing itself has gone largely virtual as well: Professional Photography, visual online tours, recorded and live-stream Videos, Virtual Tours including newer 3-D technologies, the use of drone photography, etc. are becoming the norm. The battle for the Consumer’s attention online is in full swing.
The Shifting Role of The Agent
So, what does this mean for the traditional real estate agent?
Well, here are a few considerations:
First of all, an Agent or Team that isn’t utilizing a mix of both state-of-the-art technology and a number of time-tested traditional methods when listing homes For Sale is simply missing out (and so may be their clients!)
As Top Producing Agents here in Northern Virginia, we at The Art of Real Estate Team like to call our approach to listing and marketing homes “Tra-Digital”, which is a balance of the best of both Traditional and Digital Marketing approaches. This combined approach ensures the 'best of both worlds' when exposing a home to potential Buyers.
(See more information on “Tra-Digital” Marketing)
One invaluable service that an experienced real estate agent can provide is in helping a Seller to ‘read the tea leaves’ and understand what the available data is suggesting. The Internet has made information once held by the real estate community exclusively, such as basic home sales data, an easily attainable commodity.
The role of agents representing Sellers has therefore shifted from being the providers of the information to that of evaluaters of the information. Said a different way, an experienced agent can help a client to evaluate, consider, and understand how all of the information that is out there affects their specific situation, if at all.
The role of agents representing Buyers has also changed from that of providers of information to evaluaters of information. Consumers can easily locate homes for sale themselves. What happens after that is where an experienced real estate agent is still very necessary, for example:
What price should I offer? What contingencies should be included in the sales contract? What protections are included in the agreement? Does the agent have quality resources, such as a reliable professional home inspector, that are valuable to the Buyer? What about financing? What are the prospects for the best re-sale value?
Despite so many new and exciting technological advances in our society in general and in real estate specifically, it appears that the need and value of a seasoned real estate agent as a trusted advisor and objective resource for Consumers is not likely to change any time soon, and, in fact, may become even more crucial in the face of a continued ‘technology onslaught’ over the next several years.
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