Real estate agents do things that only a human mind and touch, understanding, and empathy can achieve. Through his personal experiences, Jay Thompson explains how invaluable agents are and why they’ll never be replaced.

Jay Thompson is a former brokerage owner who spent over six years working for Zillow Group. He retired in August 2018 but can’t seem to leave the real estate industry behind. His weekly Inman column is published every Wednesday.

As expected, last week’s column, Why listing feedback is a terrible idea, drew quite a few comments, and some great discussion resulted. I always appreciate readers contributing, whether or not they agree with my opinion. The world would be a pretty boring place without differing opinions.  

Matt Laricy left a comment that got me thinking. If you don’t know Laricy, he’s the managing broker for Americorp Real Estate in the Chicago area and leads the Laricy team. He’s a powerhouse. 

(Laricy may not remember it, but I had the pleasure of speaking with him several years ago when I was searching for successful Chicagoland agents and brokers to participate on a panel at a Zillow event. He’s one of those folks that you can tell within 30 seconds of talking to them that he’s got his act together and when you hang up, think, “Damn, that guy is sharp.”) 

In his comment, Laricy echoed what some other Inman readers expressed, long before I started writing for Inman almost three years ago.  

“All Inman does is essentially promote about how agents are soon to be irrelevant. Not providing feedback is another example to fuel Inmans fire about Realtors not providing value.” 

He then tactfully explained why he disagrees with my stance on listing feedback and concluded his comment with, “Inman maybe you should concentrate less on promoting bad practices and more on promoting good ones.”

While I disagree with (though understand) Laricy’s thoughts that all Inman does is promote agents’ impending irrelevance, he makes a valid point. Promoting good practices needs to happen more often.

“Don’t do this!” is negative reinforcement, something every parent on the planet struggles with the difficult job of raising their children. While negative reinforcement is necessary at times, it’s easy to get into a mode where that is all you do, whether in child-rearing, education, self-improvement or life in general.  

So let’s chat about some things agents do well. Why they are worth every dime they earn. Why agents will never be replaced by an app or become irrelevant.

I can’t think of better examples of great agents doing it right than those I have worked with while listing or buying my own homes.  

Local conditions

We worked with Nick Klintberg during a corporate relocation several years before I had a real estate license. As I wrote in Keep in touch! 7 effective ways to maintain past-client relationships, Klintberg was a master at maintaining contact after the transaction closed. But what he did during our transaction was more critical. 

I’ll never forget when we stepped into a listing and said, “This is the one.” Klintberg proceeded to tell us all about the neighborhood, not just the house. He knew traffic could be a mess at certain times due to a nearby elementary school. 

He knew that a dairy farm just down the road would send obnoxious dairy-farm smells wafting over the home at certain times of the year when the wind blew from a specific direction. He knew things you’ll never find on the internet. That in-depth knowledge of his local market was invaluable for us as buyers. 

Market knowledge

There was Ken Nash, who we worked with to purchase a condo in Edmonds, Washington. This happened long after I got licensed and ran my own brokerage. 

All my real estate sales and brokerage experience were in Arizona, and this home was in Washington. 

Although I was well aware of how different transactions can be from state to state, Nash’s in-depth knowledge of local contracts and processes, network of real estate service providers and ability to communicate with the listing agent in a challenging seller’s market landed us in the perfect home. 

Long-distance solutions fueled by communication

Rich Jacobson listed that condo after we moved to Texas. Trust me when I tell you that selling a home when you live 2,300 miles away is a royal pain in the backside. 

Flawless communication from Jacobson, not just between us, but with the buyer’s agent, the homeowner’s association, and the necessary repair services again provided us with a fantastic experience in a tough and stressful time. 

Unique property know-how

Finally, our agent in Texas, Amy Eubanks, used her local knowledge to help us secure our “forever home.” We were clueless about the ins and outs of buying a waterfront home. 

I extolled her virtues in How my agent has been invaluable during this pandemic. Suffice to say that Eubanks’ local knowledge, connections, and likability — again all unfindable on the internet — made the often painful homebuying experience actually pleasurable. Plus, she saved us tens of thousands of dollars in repairs by providing education on things that we did not know despite our real estate sales experience. 

Go back and read Laricy’s comment on my listing feedback column. Read closely, and you’ll find his “secret” to success — “When you look at people like me, and say how do you sell over 300 million a year, I can say I do the stuff other agents won’t.”

Do the stuff other agents won’t. Remember that. Practice it. 

The vast majority of agents I’ve interacted with, both personally and professionally, number in the thousands. To be frank, I hear more complaints about Realtors from other Realtors than from consumers.

Are there lousy agents out there? Of course, there are. Welcome to humanity. But countless agents are doing amazing work — work that cannot and will not be eliminated or made irrelevant by an app, technology or the latest “disruptor” in the industry. Agents are invaluable to real estate buyers and sellers. Heck, they are invaluable to our economy. 

Can you improve on your skills, hone your craft to deliver even more value to your clients? Absolutely. Be like the agents mentioned above. Know your market inside and out. 

Build your network of service providers and other agents. Understand and explain every nuance of your contracts, addenda and paperwork. Do the stuff other agents won’t.

Meanwhile, keep up the amazing work, never stop learning, and take care of yourself. 

You are not going to be replaced by an app. You can leverage technology to build your business, be more efficient and better serve your clients — past, present and future. Worry not about losing your job to an app or a couple of folks in a garage somewhere planning out the next significant disruption. You do things that only a human mind and touch, understanding and empathy can achieve. Go forth and prosper.  

Jay Thompson is a real estate veteran and retiree who lives in the Texas Coastal Bend, as well as the one spinning the wheels at Now Pondering. Follow him on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. “Retired but not dead,” Jay speaks around the world on many things real estate.

Jay Thompson
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