In some cases, probably.
Everybody and their dog provides information on the internet for the world to see, free of charge. It makes sense that companies selling big ticket items like homes and luxury goods have spent heaps of cash researching their targeted buyers internet habits so they can spoon feed them their own branded tidbits of information. Sites like Zillow, Trulia, Redfin, Homes.com and others have made real estate sales and other statistical data readily available to John Q. Public. As long as you have a little patience, you can probably find your own home and determine what a fair price would be.
So really – why does anyone need us?
Here’s the bottom line, which was summed up beautifully by an attorney friend of mine. If someone wants to form a simple LLC, they’ll be just fine using a consumer site like LegalZoom. When there is no complexity, self service is often the best way to go. However, a home sale is still complex, and the ramifications of making a misstep can be devastating, including massive financial penalties and potentially even criminal charges. There are a vast number of state and federal disclosure requirements, potential health and safety issues to identify, as well as critical vetting of service providers, such as title and escrow. For example, a discount escrow company that has no cyber fraud insurance could wind up literally losing the cash for your sale if a bad actor commits wire fraud and defunds their trust accounts. It has happened more often than anyone wants to think about.
Who has the time to research all these moving parts?
Obviously, technology has changed the way we all do business, from buying real estate, to car shopping, and even grocery shopping. The internet brings tons of data to our virtual doorstep every minute of every day. This doesn’t mean that I’m going to study up on the latest tax code changes and prepare my own income taxes, or look into the latest and greatest synthetic oil for my car. I’m going to continue to hire professionals with years of experience in their respective fields to guide me. I certainly work more collaboratively with these professionals than I did in the past, as I hope all of you will with your advisors. The internet is there for me to fact check what they tell me if I have concerns.
And If a Realtor is not working as an advisor to inform clients of their legal obligations and any potential mine fields along the way, they need to replaced. More than one of my recent clients has had tough conversations with me, where I delivered news they didn’t want to hear. That’s my job. No one wants to be the bad guy. But if having an unwelcome conversation means keeping my clients on the right side of the law, you can be sure it’ll happen.
Here’s a horrifying statistic. There are now more than a million Realtors in the United States. Yet most have never been supervised, never had on the job training or ever been required to participate in any sort of apprenticeship. Many will be out of the industry within two years, only to be replaced by another batch of hungry neophytes looking for a big payday.
If agents were employees, perhaps performance and qualifications would suddenly matter to the local offices. And no, working under a broker is not the same as an apprenticeship, nor is sitting in class. A broker, despite the job description, cannot and does not mentor and shape an agent.
Why are there no apprenticeship requirements? Why does a hairdresser or appraiser have to complete thousands of hours of supervised work before becoming eligible to work independently? You should be alarmed by this. It certainly scares the crap out of me.
So does this new breed of untrained, unsupervised and inexperienced real estate professional bring you more value than gong it alone? Probably not. You’ll probably fare just as well on your own, sporting a copy of “Real Estate for Dummies”.
For me, at least for now, I’ll still hire my CPA, my Mercedes mechanic, my hairdresser and other legal professionals to keep may life humming along.
I sincerely hope that anyone who wants professional guidance and to know they are making the best possible real estate decisions, based on constant market research and my many years of contract negotiation experience, will hire me too. And feel free to fact check me. I like it.