My wife called to me last week to watch a segment on the Today show (no link to the story) focusing on Sellers choosing not to have representation when selling their houses – some call them FSBOs. The gist of the story is that the internet has somewhat leveled the playing field for those marketing their homes. While accurate to some degree, one cannot minimize the impact that marketing via the MLS has. The MLS is currently the single-greatest aggregator of real estate property information available.
To market one’s home through the MLS requires one to work with a Realtor. There are several different business models available in today’s market that will simply post (usually accurate) listings in the MLS for a certain fee, but will not provide any negotiating, representation or any other assistance. There is a place for that – no question.
The future of today’s Realtor is going to depend more and more on the representation aspect of real estate transactions. Any monkey can do data entry (look at some of the MLS listings and you will think that a monkey could easily have done better; there is no excuse for not putting in at least eight photos with a property). Representing clients is a far more difficult and learned skill.
Representing the minutiae of a transaction – the seemingly little problems that can swiftly become seemingly insurmountable, managing the people and emotions involved, knowing about and doing those aspects of a transaction that can make a transaction a good or a painful memory – those are the parts of this profession that will
Being able to successfully represent clients will define the future of this profession. There is much online competition (update:bad link) for the real estate industry – Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Google – that will fragment real estate search. Picking up the pieces by representing clients and their best interests will define the successful Realtor. No amount of online data will replace a walking into a basement and immediately knowing whether there has been water infiltration recently, or whether the wood floors are real 3/4 inch wood or a laminate-type product.
The next several years will be fascinating. My prediction (and hope) is that there will be fewer, better, more professional Realtors.