My doorbell rang a few days ago, and an alert popped up on my phone. Unable to physically answer the door (I was in another state), I chatted with the person, figured out what they needed, opened my garage door remotely and then watched them grab something I had left there for them.
As we move deeper into the information age, we tend to take for granted previously unimaginable levels of knowledge and connectedness. I remember reading the Dick Tracy comic strip as a kid and marveling as he used his wristwatch radio. Nowadays, that’s business as usual.
The caveat to modern technology is that it comes at the cost of the erosion of our privacy. We are tracked when we go online or use our phones. Cameras on street corners monitor our every move, and facial recognition software checks our identity at airports. Even my doorbell identifies known visitors.
One of the few remaining privacies we still enjoy is the sanctum of our homes. Home is where we can unwind and “let down our hair.” Here, we can peel away the coverings that protect us, engage in intimate conversations with loved ones and be truly “real” without having to modify our behavior to adapt to the preferences of those around us. At home, we can belt out Sinatra favorites in the shower, attempt to emulate Gordon Ramsey in the kitchen and prance like Fred Astaire down the hallway.
Realtors make “home” happen. They facilitate sales, working with sellers to prepare and maximize their homes to get the highest possible return on their asset.
Realtors hold buyers’ hands through the acquisition of a new home and help them navigate the landmine-infested landscape of inspections, appraisals and more. Realtors are the ones who get calls days, weeks and months after the sale with requests for “how-to” information and ongoing advice.
Unfortunately, Realtors as of late have been assailed on every front. If you Google, “We’ll help you find a place you love,” you quickly discover it was a Zillow tagline. Countless other companies are competing to grab a slice of the real estate market pie, and entities with billions of dollars are trying to remove Realtors from the equation altogether.
Close to the end of the 1998 movie You’ve Got Mail, in a tender scene, Tom Hanks’ character Joe Fox proposes to Kathleen Kelly (portrayed by Meg Ryan). Kathleen is clearly confused by the choices before her, so Joe responds to her dilemma with the classic statement, “If only.”
That’s my response to Zillow and other companies who fail to acknowledge fundamental facts: It is Realtors who secure listings, Realtors who hold sellers’ hands through the preparation process, Realtors who place homes on the market and pay for the marketing, Realtors who open the doors so buyers can gain access, Realtors who write up offers, negotiate contracts, navigate the complexities of escrow and more.
Realtors are the ones who keep slogging away writing multiple offers in the hope that one might be accepted for their clients. They are the ones who help clean up their client’s credit and answer the phones on a Sunday evening when their client’s roof springs a leak — and so much more.
Although online portals do have a value to consumers, in most cases, they are nothing more than data aggregators that provide a convenient point of access to listings and automated market analysis.
Ironically, most Realtors have the exact same thing in the form of convenient apps branded to their brokerage, and as anyone knows, a comparative market analysis from a Realtor trumps a “Zestimate” or other automated valuation every time.
At the end of the day, ironically, the same information and technology that makes our lives so much more livable, but all the while assails our privacy, is being used to attempt to remove the very individuals who seek to provide the one respite from unending attacks on our individual privacies.
Whether Realtors remain independent contractors or become employees, whether Zillow shifts to eliminate Realtor positions, whether the real estate process becomes fully “Uber-ized” — one simple fact remains. Realtors make home happen.
Carl Medford is the CEO of The Medford Team.