How have our expectations and needs for real estate agents changed over the years?

Being a real estate agent today involves many tasks that weren’t necessary ten years ago. From market and policy changes to the endless resources arising online, the logistics behind the real estate landscape have shifted in big ways. How has the role of the real estate agent changed, and where is it going?

Changes in the Real Estate Landscape

The rise of online listing sites

Just a few years ago, anyone looking to buy a home needed to first develop a relationship with a real estate professional. With their access to the MLS, real estate agents were the initial point of contact and the best way to gain access to what homes were out there on the market. 

Now, sites like Zillow and Redfin make it easy for anyone to start browsing available listings in their desired area and even look into market updates and statistics online, all without a realtor. In many cases, sites like these even match prospective clients with specific realtors. For example, when a user clicks to find a showing for a listing on Redfin, they’re prompted to set up an appointment with a Redfin realtor. 

For many hopeful homebuyers, these listing sites have become step one, whereas a few years ago, the first step was always to reach out to a trusted or referred agent. 

More widespread education 

As with information across all subject areas, education around real estate laws and processes has become more accessible and widespread as the breadth of content on the internet continues to grow. 

Just as potential clients no longer need a realtor to search for available homes, they also don’t necessarily need to speak with a realtor in order to have their up-front questions answered. Instead, they can hop over to any luxury real estate Instagram and scroll for a few minutes to get a sense of the process, or head to YouTube and search for video tutorials. A quick online search will generally turn up multiple blogs and articles that can help users find the answers to their questions without ever having to speak to an agent at all. 

For Sale By Owner listing sites 

Especially in a strong seller’s market, like those many areas experienced throughout the last year, many sellers have opted to cut out agent fees and instead list their homes “for sale by owner” (FSBO). While this isn’t a brand new practice, online FSBO sites have made the process easier than ever, meaning that in some transactions, seller’s agents aren’t involved at all. 

What’s the role of the agent now?

With so many opportunities to DIY the real estate process, where does the current real estate landscape leave agents? In other words, what can luxury real estate professionals still bring to the table?

Local expertise

No matter how many internet searches or deep-dives into Google Earth someone performs, it’s extremely difficult to get a full understanding of the feel and qualities of any certain area without speaking to someone with local insight.

Many people starting out in the home buying process are relocating, sometimes even across state lines. With very limited time to visit and take in the local culture and atmosphere, buyers rely on real estate agents to share the most important details about an area. 

As a real estate agent, your local expertise allows you to advise clients about the varying neighborhoods in your area and what needs they meet best. If your clients are young professionals looking for social opportunities and nightlife, you can guide them to check out neighborhoods with plenty of events and activities. If they’re new parents, you can help them find homes in the best school districts. 

You know best about price ranges in each area and how to meet the criteria of your clients within your city. This expertise is invaluable and can’t be replaced by a website — neighborhoods are ever-changing and nuanced, after all. 

Market knowledge

Just as you’re intimately familiar with the neighborhoods and offerings in your area, you also hold a deep knowledge of your local real estate market because of your work and experiences there. 

When people list their homes as for sale by owner, they may have a few key numbers to work with, but they likely will not have the depth of knowledge about market cycles, local nuances, and area-specific listing strategies that you do. Likewise, when someone enters your local market looking to buy a home, you’re much better equipped to tell them what to expect than any Redfin search. 

Negotiation skill

A large aspect of the role of a real estate professional is working with other real estate professionals to reach an agreement that works for all parties. Every area has its own culture among agents, different small practices, and ways of communicating that are generally shared. Great relationships with other local agents can go a very long way in achieving desired outcomes for the buyers and sellers you’re assisting. 

These relationships and skills of negotiation are not easily replaced. Your personality and your market savvy are essential for providing a stress-free experience and the best outcome for your clients. 

Listing strategy

Many agents have caught themselves flinching at poorly-presented local listings as they browse the MLS with clients. The fact is, many FSBO listings do not include professional photos of the home or call out with polished listing copy. Even more commonly, the photos used are decent but the staging isn’t up to par and the home still appears dark or cluttered. 

Luxury real estate professionals know how to stage and market homes to look their very best. From the photos to the marketing copy to the property marketing websites, agents are able to provide tried and true strategic marketing for each and every listing. 

Even in the strongest seller’s market, a poorly staged or badly photographed home is unlikely to perform well. While using a listing agent does come with a fee, an excellent seller’s agent will help the home earn top dollar, helping the client’s bottom line in the long run with less stress and less time required on their end. Strategic and creative agents are worth their weight in gold for the ease and efficiency they bring to the listing and selling process. 

Simplifying processes and paperwork

The wealth of information available on the internet means that it’s technically possible for anyone to learn the basics of real estate contracts and processes without ever speaking with a real estate professional. 

But does that mean they should?

State and local guidance and practices vary greatly from city to city and are updated periodically. Real estate jargon within contracts can make practical meaning difficult to understand for those who are new to these documents. 

Real estate agents help to boil down the most important takeaways from any piece of communication during the real estate offer, negotiation, and inspection processes. From start to finish, there are countless small decisions to be made that might feel overwhelming and confusing without the help and advice of a professional in the real estate field. 

Buying or selling a home is already a large life decision and one that can be stressful and emotional. The ability of a great real estate agent to make each step feel simple and streamlined is an indispensable asset during this important milestone. 

Ongoing guidance

As a first-time homebuyer or even a seasoned house hunter, it’s common to run into stressful or even distressing situations in the real estate process. Whether your clients fall in love with a home during a bidding war or come across an ugly inspection, they’ll need your guidance and reassurance many times along the way. 

Likewise, while staging or even once homes are under contract, sellers may encounter various stressful details as closing day approaches. The role of successful real estate agents now involves being emotional support, offering a voice of reason, and providing advice for clients when needed. Not every bid will win, and not every contract will close, but with you and your wealth of knowledge on their side, your clients should feel confident that they will achieve their real estate goals. 

No matter how much information and education becomes available online, the real estate industry will always need real people to walk clients through this nuanced and emotional life decision. Your experience, knowledge, and expertise pairs with your personality and skills to make you an invaluable asset to your clients in their journey to buy and sell their luxury homes.