• The three ways agents can help self-empowered clients are with understanding the community, leveraging search tools properly and problem-solving.

The rise of online real estate brokerages has given homebuyers and sellers instantaneous access to more data and resources than ever before.

With the growing availability of real estate advice — reality television shows about buying homes, renovation and décor blogs, Pinterest pages and interest in DIY — real estate has transformed into entertainment and is inspiring consumers to seek a more hands-on approach.

Consumers now have access to what they need to make informed decisions around buying and selling real estate through online property valuations, mortgage calculators, historic pricing data, future value predictions and transparency in pricing of recently sold comparable properties.

Having access to these tools is influencing the way self-empowered consumers approach real estate and is consequently shifting the standard role of the real estate agent.

Technology-enabled tools are making it easier for consumers to be highly proactive in their home search with the ability to easily browse houses, book home tours and have instant communication with their agents through real estate apps.

And these tools are giving consumers more confidence. According to (my company’s) Owners.com 2017 Home Buyer Study, 85 percent of potential homebuyers indicated they would be willing to undertake some real estate-related work themselves using web-based tools.

In an industry where the consumer is much more proactive and self-educated, it becomes the role of agents to offer a next-level experience through unique insights and high-touch service to add value to discerning clients.

Even with the emergence of accessible tools and data, agents remain key players in today’s real estate industry by offering experience-based advice and neighborhood insights that buyers can’t access anywhere else.

Three common considerations that homebuyers have once they’ve entered into the real estate market where agents can really help them are:

Buying a home is more than just purchasing a property; it’s about becoming a part of a greater community.

What buyers often don’t know is that every neighborhood comes with unique financial requirements that may not be clear in the online listing. One of the greatest unknowns when purchasing a property is the hidden fees and contingencies that often come with a home sale and increase the cost way beyond the property price.

For example, the West Palm Beach area is known for its golf course communities. In these communities, beautiful properties can sell for as little as $100,000, which looks like an extremely attractive deal.

However, many clients aren’t aware that the low listing price comes with a huge cost of living. Purchasing one of these villas requires a $70,000 golf membership at closing, $10,000 in equity and a monthly $2,000 in HOA dues.

In situations like this, the agent has the advantage of having this information and can help a buyer save time by explaining the true cost of living in the community upfront. The agent-buyer team can then focus only on properties that fit all budget parameters.

A big component of finding the right home is leveraging search tools properly.

Many buyers fall into the trap of using search criteria that isn’t broad enough. A good agent should help clients expand their search horizons to avoid missing an opportunity.

For example, there are online tools that help buyers search based on niche property preferences but don’t eliminate options that could also be appropriate fits.

Beyond technology tools, agents should advise buyers on new neighborhoods, HOAs or unique properties that may not have come up in a search.

When clients are struggling with components of the home search, it’s often because they need help problem-solving and are viewing the transaction process as one-dimensional.

Real estate is more than buying and selling existing homes. It’s easy for buyers to forget that when obstacles arise to any part of a transaction there can be more than one solution available to them. Part of the agent’s job is to suggest alternative solutions to help push the needle.

I recently worked with a couple who were set on buying a relatively inexpensive home in one specific location, but the property required substantial renovation. The couple feared that they were going to have to sacrifice the location because they couldn’t afford the renovation costs upfront.

The solution? I worked with their lender, and they ultimately secured the funds needed for their renovation. I take pride in helping my clients get into their dream situation, and the most rewarding part of my job is to open my clients’ eyes to the “what-ifs.”

My best advice to new agents is to listen carefully to what clients want and help them explore all available options. It’s important to keep in mind that the buyer may have dedicated a lot of time and effort to inform themselves before they reached out to you, and that should be acknowledged.

By gently guiding buyers to additional resources and providing smart support along the way, you will be affirming their proactive approach to real estate while also providing your own expertise.

This combination leads to a trusted relationship, and, at the closing table, your buyers will clearly feel the value of having worked with you.

Katrina DiMare is an agent with Owners.com in Palm Beach County, Florida. Follow her on Facebook, or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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