Considering the Present & Future of Real Estate Agents
During the pandemic, people buying and selling homes embraced technology to an unprecedented extent. Although online platforms, such as Zillow and Redfin, established a strong industry presence before the Covid-era catalyzed this rapid transformation, real estate agents operated, more or less, in traditional settings, adapting to technological advancements at a snail’s pace. However, now, as open houses and real estate offices return to their normal(-ish) operations, clients can choose either to act as their own real estate agent, or seek out a professional for assistance. In other words, relying on an agent’s expertise is no longer a given necessity in the buy-sell market.
The newfound agency clients gain in today’s fraught housing climate, presents a timely opportunity for exploring both sides of the issue, weighing whether real estate agents truly become obsolete with so many innovative options at clients’ fingertips. Looking closely at arguments on both sides of the debate will provide the best picture of the current reality as well as the future role of real estate agents in housing transactions.
Arguments Against Using Agents Today
To get straight to the point, not using a real estate agent means not paying their high commission rates. Commission rates for home sales are on average 5-6% of the cost of the home. Clients save tens of thousands of dollars by opting out of that traditional process. But, if that’s not incentive enough, a self-conducted search offers additional benefits as well.
Electronic advances give consumers more access to home listings than ever before. With various apps, clicks, and swipes, a home search online can become more efficient versus the in-person experience with an agent, which generally takes more time. The hours saved from not visiting your real estate agent at their office, or from not driving to multiple open houses around town can also ease stress.
The convenience of searching for specific features in a dream home allows buyers the freedom to compare prices and neighborhoods independently. Also, applying for a mortgage over the phone instead of facing that three-foot stack of physical paper, or opting for an e-closing, appeals to many modern buyers and sellers.
However, even when foregoing the assistance of an agent, we recommend in-person visits to a buyer’s top choices instead of relying on virtual resources alone. Photos and videos can serve as an excellent starting point for narrowing down a long list of options, but even the best online images and virtual tours simply cannot capture that full sensory experience. When visiting an open house, a gentle breeze wafts through the freshly cut grass, carrying the scent with it. And, many of a home’s problems, such as that major crack in the foundation of the garage, remain conveniently hidden in those virtual renderings. As a buyer walks the property, chatting and envisioning summer barbecues with your family, it becomes easier for them to move in mentally.
Side note: Even without a real estate agent, clients will still need a lawyer (by law in some states) to formalize and handle paperwork, such as the purchase agreement. They will oversee the process on closing day as well.
Buyers and sellers can bypass the traditional, agent-led transaction and benefit from…
- Extensive information online for researching property details,
- Less travel and more convenient searches without scheduling conflicts,
- Streamlining tools that include new ways of touring, financing, and closing,
- And, a ton of money saved on commission costs.
Arguments For Continuing to Use Agents
Sharing a home buying or selling experience with a real estate agent who can advocate on a client’s behalf or offer reassurances is more comforting than talking to a disembodied virtual assistant. Touring homes in person with someone who can provide an insider’s perspective makes it a more personal and enjoyable process.
In other words, when a buyer or seller enlists the help of a caring agent, they gain access to their expertise and experience. They know the market, understand the legalities of these transactions, and contribute their negotiation skills to the process, easing some of the burden and leveling that steep learning curve, especially for first-time buyers. For what will probably be the average person’s biggest purchase of their lifetime, they’ll want this exciting, but stressful purchase to go as smoothly as possible with as few surprises as possible.
A real estate agent can also personalize every step of the process, including in-person showings. When an expert guides buyers through a showing, it can transform the experience. A real estate agent’s live, on-site feedback can direct buyers’ attention to details they might have overlooked otherwise.
Real estate agents provide…
- Insights based on their experience and expertise, including catching potential issues,
- A more robust & tactile tour with immediate feedback,
- Personalized service tailored to each client’s situation.
The Reality of It All
The truth is that there’s no one size fits all solution to this debate. What works best for one seller, won’t work for another. Thus, the decision to use a real estate agent or not depends on the unique situation of each buyer and/or seller. A person’s comfort level with learning the ropes of the industry, their budgetary constraints, their support system, or their ability to rely on friends and family who’ve been there, will all contribute to the choice they ultimately make.
However, everyone will benefit from leveraging the available technology, even those who decide to seek out an agent’s expertise. With all of the new online resources, including new drone technology that presents a bird’s eye view, and records accessible through the assessor’s office, buyers can do a lot of research on their own. They can look at past sale records, photos, and sometimes even videos in order to narrow down the choices without using extra time to view houses that don’t interest them or fit into their budget.
Still, real estate agents, even today, perform many important tasks. They’ll help buyers find a home, negotiate the terms, make sure every legal requirement is met, and address problems as they arise.
How Will Real Estate Change?
Home purchases involve many moving parts and technology can only accomplish so much. But, the information now available to consumers enables them to narrow down their search and enjoy a less stressful process. While some people will want to do everything themselves, others would rather not take on the challenge of negotiating, or dealing with problems that arise. As technology continues to evolve, people will most likely prefer a more hybrid model that allows for the freedom to research alongside reliance, to varying extents, on a helpful agent.
Where Does AptAmigo Fit In?
As a startup, AptAmigo combines the advantages of emerging real estate technologies with the benefits of using actual agents. In other words, our proprietary software merges technology with excellent customer service. Because of our specific business model, our apartment hunting clients don’t pay for our service. They gain access to our agents’ extensive industry expertise for free when they enlist our help, and commissions come from the apartment buildings where they sign leases. Moreover, AptAmigo’s apartment locators manage the process with our own apartment listing website and Customer Relationship Management Software, giving them access to exclusive deals and insider information that only we possess.
Become an Apartment Locator
Thinking about a real estate career that employs both your customer service and technical skills? Then consider becoming an Apartment Locator for AptAmigo. In this role, you’ll work with a company that prepares you for success in a supportive team environment. If you’re ready to shape the future of real estate agents, check out our real estate career blog & career board.
AptAmigo is proud to be an equal opportunity workplace and does not discriminate based on race, religious creed, color, national origin, ancestry, genetic information, physical or mental disability, medical condition, marital status, gender, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, veteran status, or any other characteristic protected by applicable law, in connection with any aspect of employment at AptAmigo.
Jennifer Schmidt is a freelance writer in Vancouver, Washington, who specializes in real estate topics.