Bill Miles, Executive VP of Connecting Neighbors, writes a very insightful article on RISMedia.com this week.
It discusses new challenges facing real estate agents with increased consumer access to neighbourhood and property information on the Internet.
As a buyer, you needed to see what homes were for sale and then access those homes to view the interior.
As a seller, you had to list your home on the MLS in order to market it effectively. Real estate professionals were the gate keepers.
Consumers now however, with the help of technology, are storming those gates and are just about inside the castle. Active listing data is widely available on the web.
Consumers can list and market their homes on the MLS with the help of discount brokers or on non-MLS associated real estate portals, such as ZillowTM, Trulia® or GoogleTM.
In another few years, consumers and agents will stand on equal footing with respect to access to and marketing of homes for sale. In addition, the real estate process is no longer a mystery.
Much of the documentation is available online or from low cost providers. If a consumer is willing, there are few barriers to complete a transaction without a real estate agent.
Miles, however, has an answer for real estate agents – develop a unique area of expertise and translate that into consumer value.
To prove his theory, he points to other industry groups that have been impacted by the proliferation of industry data on the Internet – Travel Agents and Stock Brokers.
Ten years ago, when consumers gained access to booking their own flights, cars and hotels, many predicted travel agents were doomed.
While many travel agents did change careers, still many others developed specialties and niches of expertise. This came through education and the development of an enhanced service.
For example, when you look for travel agents today, you might find specialists offering company sales trips, “all inclusive” family trips or African safaris. However, you find very few that will make a business flight for an executive to Chicago. That market is gone.
Those that have developed an expertise are being paid well and will have long careers. They deliver value beyond the traditional areas of service: scheduling the trip and making reservations.
A second example is the stock broker. Over the past 10 years, the Internet has enabled consumers to buy and sell almost any financial product offered in the market. Yet stock brokers have not disappeared. They have focused on financial planning or developed an expertise in certain financial products or industries.
In addition, similar to real estate, buying and selling financial products is a complex activity. Consumers will always need experienced, educated advice in this area. As such, stock brokers still exist, but with new value to offer.
With the increased public availability of web services (Google Maps, YouTube) and listing websites (Craiglist, Google Base), home sellers can get their property on the web in front of millions of prospective homebuyers on the internet – all without the help of an agent.
Real estate agents really need to embrace these new technologies to give their selling clients that the assurance that they will market their property using all the latest methods.
In Canada, some agents use UniqueHomeSites.com to create a website dedicated to an individual property. This technique demonstrates to the selling client that their agent has an up-to-date marketing plan and that their property is a priority.