Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DISINTERMEDIATION & Your Friendly Real Estate Agent

What Does a Good Agent Do For You?

You've probably never heard of "disintermediation" unless (1) You're an economist, (2) A complete nerd or (3) You attended the big Inman real estate agent convention in San Francisco earlier this year. We learned about it through option 3 with maybe a dash of option 2 thrown in.
Disintermediation is when intermediaries are cut out of a supply chain. More simply, it's when you "cut out the middleman".

The Internet has created a lot of disintermediation. The travel agent business is a good example. People can go to any number of websites to get much of the info they use to get from a travel agent. So there aren't as many travel agents these days.

The discussion at the Inman conference was whether this same thing would happen to the real estate brokerage business. Do websites like Zillow and Trulia create a situation where buyers and sellers just get together directly, eliminating the need for an agent? Is the agent a middleman, providing little value?

The most definitive answer is "NO" and it comes from a surprising source - from Spencer Rascoff, the CEO of Zillow - the 800-pound gorilla of real estate websites. He also created Hotwire, the popular travel-booking site. He was asked earlier this year why Zillow partners with real estate agents instead of trying to replace them like he did to travel agents.

Rascoff, insightfully and accurately explained the differences between booking an airline flight and buying or selling real estate when he said:

"There will always be a real estate agent in the transaction because, for most consumers, it's just too important and too expensive and too infrequent and complex to screw up, so they need an agent."
We agree. Rascoff's conclusion is supported by the most recent survey of homebuyers and sellers nationwide. Over the 12-month period studied, 89% of buyers reported using the Internet to search for homes, but this did not eliminate their need for an agent - 89% of those buyers also used a real estate agent. For sellers, 90% used a real estate agent.
Rascoff went on to say he believes the Internet is changing the role of the agent from information gatekeeper to skilled transactional guide with expertise in marketing, negotiating and local market knowledge. We disagree.

In our opinion, the role of a good agent has always been to be much more than an information gatekeeper. Rascoff forgot to mention skilled pricing analyst, exceptional stager, financing guru and savvy legal-beagle when it comes to contract preparation.

An agent we heard recently tell a compelling story of his first home buying experience before he was an agent and long before the Internet existed. This agent was buying his first home and wanted a ranch style, single-family property with 2 bedrooms and a basement in a certain area. He explained all this to the lady he selected to be his agent.

His agent showed him what he wanted to see but also showed him a duplex in an area he had never considered. It had everything he wanted plus hardwood floors that complimented his furniture and a renter next door that paid the lion's share of the mortgage. She negotiated a great deal on it and skillfully guided him through the whole process. He says it is the best real estate he ever owned and the best real estate experience he had as a consumer.

As an agent with CHR, we share this vision for the role of a real estate agent. At CHR, we are skilled advocates that bring our expertise in pricing, staging, marketing, financing, negotiation and contract preparation to bear in helping home buyers and sellers.

And for agents in this industry that aren't passionate about this expansive role, we are happy for them to be disintermediated.

Courtesy of Mike Cooke at Colorado Home Realty (c)