It's 2016, and it seems our need for real live people is ever-diminishing. There's self-checkout instead of cashiers, selfie sticks instead of photographers, self-driving cars, self-watering plants, self-administered colonoscopies … well, you get the idea. Given that technology has become so important to buying and selling homes, you'd also think real estate agents would be a dying breed -- yet they aren't showing any signs of slowing down, with approximately 2 million active real estate agents throughout the country.
So why did real estate agents make the technology transition fully intact as opposed to, say, travel agents? We asked some experts to weigh in.
Reason No. 1: Selling is complicated
For many people, "a real estate transaction is financially momentous and complex -- the most complex transaction people do in their life," explains David Reiss, a law professor and academic program director for the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship at Brooklyn Law School.
Comparatively, personal travel agents -- the kind where you'd walk in their office and have them book you a hotel and a flight -- have gone the way of the dodo, because now that's all simple DIY stuff (to be fair, not all travel agents are out of a job -- there's still a healthy travel agency sector that thrives on corporate and luxury bookings).
"People like having an expert when dealing with large, complicated transactions," says Jeff Tomasul, founder of Vespula Capital LLC, an investment management company based in Greenwich, CT. "Why do people still have financial advisers? They want someone who does it full-time to make sure they are not doing anything wrong." Same with real estate agents.
And real estate transactions are often anything but straightforward. Some deals, like short sales, can be "much more intricate than a regular transaction," Reiss says, with lenders who have requirements that "a regular person would have no idea about."
Reason No. 2: Buying ain't easy, either
Buying a home, even if you come in with all cash, is not a cookie-cutter task, and you can find yourself drowning in paperwork and stressed out juggling things like meeting buyers, and dealing with the seller's agent, lender, and title companies. Agents ease the whole transaction, and it's something that has kept their profession alive.
"They can hold your hand through the process," Reiss explains. "They might say, 'This lender takes a long time, so put in your contract immediately and sign this and that paper and get all this stuff ready before you're walking over hot coals with the lender for money."
Reason No. 3: It's their top priority
Your own interests and priorities will very likely always be split -- because of those pesky little things like, say, job and family -- but a Realtor can be laser-focused on getting the deal done. "A Realtor has a singular aim: to sell houses," Reiss says.
Simply put, having a real estate agent can make your life easier. Tomasul found himself in a frustrating position when he tried to sell his apartment in Manhattan without an agent. "Showing it was so tough with my schedule, and it was hard having a full-time job and keeping up in a timely matter with potential buyers," he recalls.
That means the less you make time for buyers, the longer your place will stay on the market -- and that's not good for your bottom line.
Reason No. 4: They know the market, and the players, better than you
"The agent knows the market intimately, even more than a pretty informed resident," Reiss says. And all that knowledge saves time. "Tracking sales, knowing listings, spending a lot of shoe leather on houses already for sale -- right off the bat, they know more than the ordinary Joe and Jane. They understand condo boards and title companies. As a player in the game, they know what the other players are looking for and how to deliver."
Reason No. 5: They're objective
Without an agent showing your house for you, you have no shield from criticisms that can -- and will -- be made about your house from prospective buyers. Your favorite room in the home might be described as "tacky," "needing a renovation," or much worse. Sometimes such comments are negotiating tactics. Sometimes they are heartfelt, off-the-cuff opinions. But either way, they can lead to problems.
"It impacts objectivity for a seller to hear negative things about their own place," Reiss explains. " Realtors aren't emotionally invested. They don't take comments personally. It's not 'Oh, you don't like my chandelier? Then get out of my house.'"
Reason No. 6: The cost is worth it
We're not saying a 6% commission is chump change. It can be a good amount of money when you're selling your house. But using an agent saves a ton of time. Even with a 6% commission, time is money -- for many people, time saved negates the cost. Plus, given that home buying and selling is a negotiation where you can save big if you bargain right, skilled real estate agents can step in to fight on your behalf, saving you major money. In other words, typically the money you pay an agent will come right backatcha.
Feeling a bit more confident than ever that you should have a real estate agent watching your back? Then Find a Realtor now and get moving.
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