By Adam Contos
Although the vast majority of U.S. home sales involve real estate agents, the notion in the industry that consumers would be fine buying or selling a home without one is not really a new one. After all, the for-sale-by-owner route has been an option forever, and other industries have shifted to a “buy-it-now” mentality that some suggest will fit real estate, too.
But with all due respect to consumers who try to go it alone—and those in the industry who encourage consumers to go it alone—it’s a terrible idea.
DIY real estate is on par with DIY surgery or DIY legal defense. When so much is at stake, it’s always best to have a professional on your side. Period. That certainly applies to the largest financial transaction of a person’s life.
The good news is that most buyers and sellers agree.
Most People Agree
The National Association of REALTORS®’ 2018 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers report notes that 87 percent of the buyers in the survey used an agent or broker, while another 6 percent purchased directly from a builder or builder’s agent. That leaves only 7 percent who made their purchase without the guidance of a professional.
The figure on the selling side is similar: 91 percent of the surveyed sellers worked with an agent. For-sale-by-owner properties accounted for just 7 percent—the lowest share since the annual study began in 1981.
Gen Z Weighs In
It’s worth noting that the value of an agent crosses generational lines. A recent Homes.com survey of more than 1,000 adult Gen Zers (aged 18-24) showed that nine in 10 plan to use an agent when the time comes to house-hunt. It’s telling that this group—the most digitally inclined generation yet—understands that buying a house isn’t as simple as purchasing a commodity, arranging a ride or planning a trip. The risks are exponentially higher.
The fact is, there’s much more to a successful transaction than meets the eye. It can all seem so simple, especially with online home search being what it is today, but there’s a big difference between seeing a great home online and walking in the front door as its new owner. An expert real estate agent can provide guidance an app can’t touch—and, at the same time, provide all the value and data that can be found on the app.
In the Right Hands
Technology provides all sorts of advantages, but in the end, it’s a tool. Technology in the hands of an expert agent, though, becomes much more. That’s when data meets real-life instinct, insight and local knowledge. That’s when agents deliver their irreplaceable value by negotiating, working through contingencies, being a voice of reason and guiding clients through a long, complicated process.
The real estate industry is clearly targeted for disruption, and we should all celebrate innovation that elevates the customer experience and raises the standard. At the same time, make no mistake—nothing in practice or on the horizon matches the value delivered by a great agent who’s armed with great technology. That remains an unbeatable combo.