The Times, They Are A-Changin’
The Internet has changed our economy, and it’s also eliminated a wide variety of professions. So you might be thinking something like this: “Hey Rhonda, I can spruce up my house, take some nice pictures and get them to pop in Photoshop, upload them to the Internet, maybe run an ad on Craigslist, and I’ve basically done everything a real estate agent would do, right? I mean, I’ve got 600 or so Facebook friends, so how hard can it be?”
First, you’re right that the Internet has changed things. Technology in general has affected the way homes are bought and sold in amazing ways, and the transformation is still ongoing. Mobile apps, drone helicopters for aerial photography, virtual walk-throughs, real-time interactive video chat between buyers and agents… all of this is being rolled out and applied to see what works and what doesn’t. Realtors embrace changes that make work more efficient, because it means better results for our clients. But the notion that Realtors are now unnecessary is far from the truth. Here’s my top 5 reasons that hiring a real estate agent hasn’t lost any of its curb appeal.
1. The Multiple Listing Service (MLS)
A real estate agent will get your house listed in the Multiple Listing Service (or MLS), an online database describing all the homes in a region that are under a listing agreement with a real estate broker. The MLS enables brokers to share important information like asking price, property details, photographs and more. The MLS provides some portion of this information about a property to the general public, but much of the information is only accessible to brokers and their agents who have been licensed by the state. The local Board of Realtors pays for the upkeep and maintenance of a specific region’s MLS. In Huntsville, this is the Valley MLS.
The primary purpose of the MLS is to enable real estate brokers associated with different companies to cooperate in establishing sales contracts. This is why an agent listing a house through Keller Williams (where I’m an agent) has no problem accepting an offer from a buyer represented by a ReMAX agent, or vice-versa. Real estate agents are eager to take prospective buyers to any property listed in the MLS, not just those listed by their own agency. This cooperation is a win-win for everyone involved, including the home seller.
If you’re going to try the For Sale by Owner route, you can’t put your property into the MLS yourself. Listings in the MLS can only be input by a professional who has been trained and licensed by the state.
2. Professional Network
I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying “it’s not what you know, but who you know”. In real estate, it’s both. And don’t underestimate the “who you know” part. When real estate agents have a new listing, one of their first goals is to get other real estate agents excited about it.
I recently blogged about Realtor Caravan, and how it benefits the seller. This isn’t the only way real estate agents network. I’ve asked agents, and been asked by agents, to visit a property for advice on staging, or thoughts on marketing strategies. This type of collaboration leads to more awareness of the property and more feedback on how to get it sold.
While we’re on the topic of networking, here’s a free tip: If your real estate agent enlist another agent to host your open house, don’t worry. It’s a good thing for your property to be seen by other agents. A really good thing. Networking… it’s your friend!
3. Market Analysis
If you’re going to sell your home today, how much would you ask for it? Would you try to find out the price of a house a block over, and apply the price per square feet to your house? That might be a good number, but how long has that house been on the market? If it’s been up for sale a long time, is it overpriced, or is there maybe something wrong with it? How would you know? This is where mistakes can be costly.
Real estate agents know the number. You may not like the number, but they know the number. The price to list your house for is exactly what the market will bear, which changes over time. It can be determined by looking at comparable houses in your neighborhood, and what they’re selling for. Even identifying comparable houses is a bit trickier than you might expect. How many sides are brick, is there a basement or detached garage, swimming pool, how many bathrooms… all of these details can change the picture.
A real estate agent, by way of the MLS, can work out a fair market value for your home. Keep in mind that most buyers need financing. It would be a costly mistake to line up a closing attorney, and then find out your prospective buyer’s financing fell through at the last minute because the lender doesn’t agree with the value the seller has placed on the house.
Which brings me to my next point…
4. Screening Buyers
Are you going to invite just anyone into your home? Sure, there’s a risk with open house, and everyone takes that risk, whether using a real estate agent or doing For Sale by Owner. There’s sort of a safety-in-numbers mindset during an open house. But are you going to open the door on the odd weeknight to any stranger who drives up to your house unannounced? Are you going to sign a sales contract with a complete stranger, schedule a closing and trust they’ll show up with financing on closing day?
It’s a risky world, and time is money. A real estate agent will ensure a buyer has a pre-approval letter from a reputable lender. They know who the buyer is, and how much they can afford. They’re not going to waste their time as an agent, or your time as a homeowner, showing your house to someone who can’t possibly afford it.
5. Rate of Success
This is the real bottom-line. According to a 2012 survey by the National Association of Realtors, only 6% of homes sold in the United States were sold by owner. Many more than that start off as For Sale by Owner, but fall back to selling with a real estate agent due to lack of success. How much of your time are you prepared to expend before enlisting a professional?
My top 5 reasons for hiring a real estate agent are the five things you gain:
- Listing your home in the area’s multiple listing service (MLS).
- A network of real-estate agents that work together to pair the right buyer with the right home.
- Comparative market analysis to help you establish pricing specific to your market.
- Screening potential buyer’s
- A much higher rate of success through knowledge of the process and the right connections.
Your real estate agent is still the highest probability you have for selling your home. They know what to do, and who to connect to. They’ll help get your property ready to sell through staging. They may bring in decorators and/or photographers to better market your house. They’ll negotiate with buyers on the selling price, arrange for inspections and closing, and all the other legally required steps, and they’ll be a source of advice for every step of this complex process.
A real estate agent only gets paid if your house is sold. They have every reason to be your best advocate, and they’re your best asset in selling your house.
P.S. If you can’t tell, I love my job. And I’d love to hear your feedback in the comment section below!