It is easy for most homebuyers to find a home. All they need is Internet access and some imagination. In the 1980s it was much harder to find a home and buyers relied on Realtors to let them know about homes on the market.
Most of my buyers find their own homes. I have little information about homes that the average consumer doesn’t have or can’t find. I am not at all threatened by the idea that few people need help finding a home. It just makes my job easier.
I stopped marketing my services as a personal shopper, or the person who can find buyers their dream home, years ago. I don’t see it as a skill or service that is in demand and I don’t believe that most homebuyers would pay for that service when they can do it themselves for free.
Sometimes I have buyers who do need that service and I can provide it. I always offer but also encourage the do-it-yourself search approach.
A good Realtor is so much more than a home-finder or a chauffeur. As I work with informed, tech-savvy consumers, I can clearly see the value that I add for them. It comes down to experience. Most people buy a few or maybe only a couple of homes in their lives.
It is my experience that makes the buyers I work with comfortable with making the largest purchase of their lives. They don’t need to be sold a home, they need help finding the right one and they need to buy it with confidence.
If I still used ’80s-style marketing, promoting that I can find homes for buyers, I would be marketing myself out of a job. That part of my job in most cases has been replaced by the Internet.
This month I have been working with four tech-savvy, educated buyers, two with master’s degrees and two with doctoral degrees. They are working with me for very specific reasons and they met me through my blog.
The reasons have nothing to do with my ability to search the multiple listing service and find that perfect home. In all cases, they are in control of the search and know what they are looking for and where to look.
It doesn’t bother me that when I meet them they are often carrying property sheets that they printed off of a large competitor’s Web site. They are prominently branded by the competition, but they signed buyer’s contracts with me.
If they had asked me which site is the best for local searches, I would have mentioned mine but recommended the competitor’s site, because it offers the best local home search on the Internet. …CONTINUED
They find the homes and let me know that they want to see them. I set up the appointments and we go look at the houses. They are in charge and I am along as a subject matter expert to give advice when they ask for it.
When they find a home that they really like, they ask me what I think about it. Sometimes they tell me they want to buy the house and ask me if it is OK.
Last week, I negotiated an offer for a week on behalf of buyers. I specialize in older homes and there are always issues that frighten buyers — especially first-time buyers.
After the negotiations were over and the buyer got what he wanted, he called me just to say that he could not have done it without me. After all that work, his words were music to my ears and a reminder that I cannot be replaced by a Web site. A Web site cannot do what I did.
It can’t answer the buyer’s questions or find the words to put on the addenda so that the sellers understand but don’t get irritated with the buyers. A Web site can’t present the offer the way that I did or read between the lines of the counteroffer and make recommendations on how to respond.
That isn’t to say that I couldn’t be replaced by a Web site one day, just that today is not that day. And as long as I find ways to add value and provide service, I will have a job. What I do may change over time, and it should or I will be disintermediated.
Consumers are deciding what they want, and that is what we need to offer them.
Our jobs have changed. The services that we need to focus on include customer service and providing expertise that the average person, no matter how well-educated, doesn’t have — and no matter how tech-savvy they are, they can’t find it on the Internet.
We add far more value as experts than we do as home-finders or gatekeepers of information.
Teresa Boardman is a broker in St. Paul, Minn., and founder of the St. Paul Real Estate blog.
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