In today’s world the internet has replaced some important societal roles. Websites like Hotwire and Priceline have replaced travel agents; websites like Amazon and Netflix have replaced video stores; and websites like TurboTax have replaced personal tax accountants.
The question is, will real estate websites like Zillow, Trulia, and Realtor.com ever replace real estate agents?
What Do Real Estate Agents Do?
To answer this question it is important to understand what real estate agents do to assist their clients as they navigate the housing market.
The first and most important role of the real estate agent is to understand their client’s needs, wants, and limitations. By actively listening to their clients and taking proactive steps to get to know their clients, the agent is able to lead their clients to ideal properties.
The second role of the real estate agent is to inform and teach their clients. The agent is able to provide information on the housing market and teach their clients what they need to know to make informed buying decisions.
Third, the real estate agents are experts in their local areas. They are able to assist their clients in finding the right neighborhoods because they know the area very well. They can use their knowledge of the client’s lifestyle to pair them up with the best neighborhoods.
Finally, real estate agents act as transactional guides to assist their clients through deals. They are expert negotiators and walk both buyers and sellers through the process of negotiating the best deal possible so everyone wins.
What Do Real Estate Websites Do?
On the surface, it appears that real estate websites are able to replace agents, however, these websites are very limited in what they can do.
First, they cannot understand their client’s needs, wants, and limitations. Yes, they can filter information, and provide a list of potential properties for users, however, the user will miss out on some properties that could be perfect for them because the website doesn’t really know them.
Second, real estate websites are great at informing and teaching. They provide information on available listings and provide education on the buying process. This frees up real estate agents to focus more on helping clients find the perfect properties, rather than educating them through the process.
Third, real estate websites can provide a good snapshot of the local areas by providing demographic and other data driven information, but they are not as good at pinpointing the perfect neighborhood for
users to live in. Unlike a real estate agent, a website cannot truly know the character of the neighborhood.
Finally, real estate websites cannot act as a transactional guide to assist users through making deals. They cannot negotiate. This is a function that only a person can perform.
How Realtors and Real Estate Websites Can Work Together
Real Estate agents and websites can work very nicely together. The websites can provide information and education for the users and help users narrow down the choices. While the agent is able to truly understand the client and help choose the best properties based on their local expertise. Finally, an agent can guide clients through the process of brokering the best deals for all parties involved.
When it comes down to it, the CEO of Zillow, Spencer Rascoff has it right:
There will always be a real estate agent in the transaction because, for most consumers, it’s just too important and too expensive and too infrequent and complex to screw up, so they need an agent.