The last decade has seen IDX become industry standard with new innovations related to listing search and promotion coming at a furious pace. Very simply, “IDX” is the system that allows non-listing agents and websites like Zillow, Trulia, and hundreds of others, to display on their websites the listings “owned” by agents who list in any multiple-listing-service. Here is an example using the Flagstaff MLS.
Many real estate agents have seen themselves dragged into this new information age, kicking and screaming. They have hardly adapted their business model from what worked in decades prior, and they have essentially done the bare minimum required to keep their business functional in terms of technology. Forget optimized landing pages, drones for virtual tours, or a social media mix being part of the business plan; these agents do not even have email set up on their phone. We need to look in the mirror every day and make sure we’re communicating in the ways our clients want and need.
Much of what is discussed in articles about the potential obsolesce of real estate agents seems to have much more to do with old problems than with anything caused by new technology. New technology may simply make the agents’ bad performance more apparent to clients: Game playing with information, agents not communicating flexibility or motivation to the other party when negotiating contracts, the buyer’s agent not prequalifying their clients. Those are all pre-technology problems that arise from a poor choice of agent.
Where does this leave us? Can technology solve the age-old problem of bad real estate agents? Is an online auction model the way to go?
Auctions are part of the real estate landscape; however, properties have been listed on eBay for years and it hasn’t exactly been a game changer. MLS listings now refer to auction sites. A home is more than just another item being sold; it’s not a boat or a golf club.
A computer pricing algorithm does not know if counter tops were installed correctly, or what lies beneath those new floorboards, or if that third bedroom started as a garage. It most likely doesn’t know the motivations of the previous owner, upcoming development changes that may affect property values, and Zillow certainly cannot negotiate or write a binding contract protective of each party’s interests. Pricing a home correctly is art as well as science; experience and creativity count. To properly sell a house, real estate agents spend their careers learning about neighborhoods, rates of return on investment, title, financing, and contract-writing.
The real estate industry is about “real property,” but it’s also about the real human beings who buy and sell those properties. Every transaction has its own story; every seller has his or her own motivation; and every buyer wishes to achieve his or her own goals. Real estate professionals spend their lives as mediators and educators, using their experience to help a successful outcome to occur. That can’t be replaced by a computer algorithm.