Last week I took a mandatory continuing education class. The instructor said something that I used to hear all the time. He was gloating over the fact that even though Minnesota consumers now have access to information about homes that were sold in the last two years, they do not have all of the information about the homes that Realtors have.

Our multiple listing service now provides listings of sold homes, and consumers can search for them on our Web sites using the same search that they use to find homes for sale. They can now see how much the home down the street sold for.

The instructor, who is also an agent, sees the Internet as a threat to our industry. He sees himself as the source of information for his clients and believes that if they can get it on the Internet they don’t need him. He is right: Consumers no longer need to go to him just so they can find out what a home looks like, what the price is, or other important details.

He is missing out if he thinks his only role is to dole out information. The Internet has made my job better. Most of my clients find me through the Internet, which reduces my costs from the days when I had to find them. They are savvy homes buyers and sellers who have educated themselves on the basics before they contact me. They know what they want and where to find it.

Some of my clients pick out the home they wish to buy and give me a call. That doesn’t mean that I never show them homes. In most cases they want to do their own home search and then they tell me what they would like to see or even buy. When they need my help searching I am there for them.

So why do these buyers come to me when they have the information they need on the Internet, complete with pictures and the name of the listing agent? They use my services because of the experience I have gained through numerous real estate transactions. They can go it alone but they don’t want to. They want to work with someone they know and trust.

They sometimes have the same information as I do, yet they ask my opinion or they ask me to explain information they found on the Internet. They value my opinion and expertise and knowledge of my market area, and know that I understand the intricacies of real estate contracts, can negotiate, and am able to handle any surprises.

They have information about neighborhoods and prices that they found on the Internet but when they go to make an offer they always ask for a price opinion. My opinion is based on the same data they can get, but it is also based on experience. No software or Web site has yet replicated the kind of fuzzy logic that an experienced agent who knows her market area uses to price real estate. There is bad information on the Internet too, and consumers know it. There is so much information that it can be confusing and even misleading.

Withholding information is not job security; people will just find the information elsewhere if it is available. This is the information age and the Internet has exploded with Web sites where consumers can learn more about real estate.

I can’t add value by keeping information to myself; I add value by sharing it. The Internet has made it easier and less expensive to share information. The interesting thing is that the more I share and give, the more business I get.

I think the instructor should stick with teaching and let the rest of us work with consumers.

Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog. Boardman will speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008. Register today.


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