Technology is no Substitute for a Realtor

by Kara McGregor, Sr. VP of Business Development, Independence Title Company

Technology is No Substitute for a Realtor

When real estate markets are healthy and information resources plentiful, some home buyers and sellers inevitably engage in a discussion about whether they can/should bypass the real estate agent and manage the process of buying and selling property on their own.

For would-be home sellers, this consideration is almost entirely about saving the cost of commission paid to an agent.  For potential home buyers, shopping without a Realtor is more about a maverick, DIY spirit than about cost – typically the agent for the buyer shares the commission paid to the listing agent by the seller.

In any case, there’s a truth that cannot be ignored: buying and selling property is more complicated than ever, and increased access to a tsunami of information online does not simplify the process.

A lifetime ago (aka the early 1990’s), MLS data on homes for sale was still printed on dot matrix spreadsheets, bound in massive books, and delivered to real estate brokerages to be closely guarded by the real estate community as proprietary information.  Realtors were the gatekeepers, and there was no equivalent public resource for the information in those books.

Flash forward through a couple of decades of explosive technological development, and all that information is “out there.” The interesting thing is, consumers need the guidance of a real estate professional more than ever, in spite of – and because of – the proliferation of information available to the public.

In the interest of full disclosure, I myself am a licensed Realtor, for the sole purpose of gaining access to education and information relevant to my role with a title company. I have never represented anyone as a Realtor, not even myself.  When I buy or sell property, I work with an experienced real estate agent, even though I’m licensed and have access to more resources than most savvy consumers.  It’s that important.

Here’s a short list of just some of the services, resources and protections that Realtors provide their clients that make a difference in the short- and long-term success of a sale or purchase:

  1. A good real estate agent is a finely tuned filter on the overwhelming flood of available information about homes.  Ultimately, you only want to know what’s relevant to YOU. Let the Realtor filter the noise and shine a bright light on the things you need to know, the homes you need to see, and the legal and financial considerations that pertain to your specific needs and goals.
  2. A Realtor has a network of other trusted professionals that will play an integral part in making your transaction a success.  Within every profession, there are the star performers and the mediocre plodders.  Choosing an inspector, loan officer, contractor, surveyor, or title company from a Google search is a high-stakes gamble with potentially disappointing and expensive consequences.
  3. Never underestimate the legal and financial liabilities you can incur when entering into a transaction as complex as the average home sale. The multitude of disclosures, contingencies and legal responsibilities can come up to bite you without the advice and guidance of an experienced real estate professional.
  4. Don’t underestimate the personal risk involved in letting people you don’t know into your home, or entering the home of someone you don’t know. Part of a Realtor’s duty is to secure your home, your possessions, and YOU.
  5. Along those lines, a real estate agent is equipped to vet potential homes and home buyers to maximize your time and energy.  Imagine a weekend spent cleaning up to prepare for a potential buyer who ultimately is not able to qualify for a mortgage, or spending your evening driving to see a home that looked great on the internet, but has a multitude of problems that are apparent as soon as you walk through the door.
  6. Many of us are familiar only with our own houses and those of friends and family.  We don’t know how our home will be seen by others, or how it will compare to other houses on the market.  You may not know that the apple-green bathroom, tilting garden shed, or full litter box will materially affect your ability to sell for the price you hope to get. A Realtor provides an objective viewpoint on how to prepare, stage, price, and promote your home for maximum positive impact.

Sum it up this way: a Realtor knows what you don’t know, sees what you don’t see, and smells what you don’t smell.  Literally and figuratively.  

For most of us, a home purchase is the biggest financial investment and potentially the biggest financial risk we will ever undertake.  There are many do-it-yourself projects that can be successful: by all means tile your own bathroom, grow your own tomatoes, and change your own oil.  Don’t act as your own attorney, perform your own root canal, or buy or sell a home without a Realtor!

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