Buying or Selling Real Estate: What’s Changed?
Brokers took out multiple pages of print advertising in the local paper (sometimes even in color), advertised in local home books, printed proprietary glossy homes magazines and some even had TV listing shows.
No one had a personal computer. There was no commercial Internet; e-mail and file sharing was impossible. I had a pager and I did have a very expensive “brick” cell phone, but few did. Buying clients were totally dependent on me to find available properties, and sellers needed me to give their listings market exposure. There was no way to compare agents other than by the volume of transactions they did. Service was something ephemeral and never quantified.
Obviously this was a broker/agent-centric business model.
Now if we fast forward 25 years, much has changed. The business model is now customer-centric.
Technology has had an effect throughout the business. Print advertising and the need for large numbers of offices are things of the past. Property-related information is ubiquitous. Thanks to the Internet, broker websites and listing aggregators like Trulia and Zillow have most clients arriving to us thinking they are well informed. Buyers may know the properties they want to look at and the price range they qualify for, and sellers have questions about pricing and marketing strategies based upon their research.
Technology has also changed marketing and communications. Agents conduct business anywhere and are now accessible 24/7 on their smartphones. Social media plays a role in staying in touch, and dynamic content-rich websites are powerful tools in property search and marketing.
But technology is a tool. In the hands of an experienced agent, this tool can improve communications and refine the service experience.
The value proposition of today’s agent is three-pronged. The first is consultant and trusted adviser. The real estate transaction is likely the largest financial investment a client will make and is relatively complex. The sheer volume of data from untested sources really requires interpretation and vetting; foreclosures and short sales now add more complexity.
The second prong is arguably the most important. That is the role of skilled negotiator. Both buyer and seller are trying to make the best deal possible which is determined by a combination of price and terms. Though the client is the decision maker, having a skilled negotiator on their side is a critical. Some forward-thinking agents have chosen to become Certified Negotiation Experts (CNE), and clients can search out these credentialed specialists.
The third prong is the role of expert facilitator. Once the price and terms are agreed upon, a series of activities are commenced to get the transaction from contract to closing. Many issues often arise during the financing or inspection process, but having the services of a professional facilitator can make all the difference in getting to the closing table.
But how do you select an agent? Some use sponsored real estate portals, social media or referrals to greater or lesser success. Ultimately, it’s all about service and the agent’s track record. What has largely been subjective can now be measured. Some agents in the local market are Quality Service Certified® and detailed client ratings which are derived from independent post transaction surveys are posted on a national and local websites. Clients can now select an agent based on proven customer service.
Much has changed, but the role of a professional agent today is even more important. Selecting the right agent is critical to a successful transaction.
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Debbie Barnett is the president and owner of Tomie Raines, Inc. The company was founded in 1977 and Barnett has owned the company since 2002. She began her real estate career in 1985 after attending Michigan State University and was an award-winning agent with two other local firms before joining Tomie Raines, Inc. in 1995. Barnett also owns TRI Title Agency and Tomie Raines Home Warranty Company.