As I was writing this column, ironically I was receiving a voice message from Zillow offering me a “zip code” that they would feature me in if I paid them a nice fee.
There are dozens of Internet sites that reveal how much your home is worth. These tools crunch their data with publicly available numbers from several listing services, combine them with regional trends and set a sale price for your property. Cool, right? Now, here is the question that every seller asks: Do I still need a real estate agent?
In an article posted in the October edition of Florida Realtors Magazine, Realtors speak out and share their feelings about other listing portals, syndication and technology. Regarding Zillow and Trulia, how is it possible that Realtors have a code of ethics they must follow and are highly regulated by local authorities and boards, yet these companies can do whatever they want with very little, if any, oversight?
Realtors are subject to fines and disciplinary actions if they do not keep listings up to date, yet these websites are rife with inaccurate data.
I’m not against Zillow or Trulia. My point is, we should all play by the same rules and if the public is going to use these portals to search for properties, then the legitimate brokerage firm should be displayed. This would assure that the relationships of the public and the Realtors are not compromised.
I wonder what would happen if any of these MLS portals tried to charge the public as they do Realtors for access to their sites. One reason pocket listings are increasing is to keep the MLS from sharing our info to third-party sites that sell our leads to other agents. In the real estate business, we advertise our phone numbers and ask people to contact us. There is an expectation that if someone sees a listing on Zillow at 1 a.m. they can call us or send an email and we will answer or get right back to them. In fact, responding quickly to emails or phone calls usually exceeds our clients expectations.
Sometimes we lose touch with the fact that real estate is still a relationship-based business. It doesn’t matter if we build relationships by direct mail or through Twitter, it’s the relationships themselves that bring us business. Those relationships are not generic or magical. They take time and effort and are usually built one at a time.
These internet portal tools are not always accurate and here is where a Realtor’s experience counts — a lot — in this process.
Real estate agents are trained to do a comparative market analysis for every property they list for sale. This includes going to the property and literally inspecting the home, the neighborhood, everything that will help pin down the ideal listing price range. But, mostly, this gives the Realtor the ability to “articulate” to potential buyers how the selling price is the right price.
There are several factors contributing towards the price of a home that the portals do not necessarily catch. Several pieces of information compose the valuation range of a property. Market data is only one of them. The rest is very property specific, such as whether upgrades have been made or is the roof too old — just to name a couple. And, are there good schools in the area? Can you just walk to the shopping center or do you have to drive a long distance? The AVM tools simply cannot “know” all these things. Agents who have been successful for longer than a few days — or even a few years — all say the same thing: They work hard. There really is no “magic”, and technology and social media are great tools, but nothing replaces hard work, along with consistency and nurturing relationships.
So work with your local experts — Realtors — who value your time and relationship as much as they do the sale in creating the best marketing plan for your home.
June Savage is a Realtor associate in the Coral Gables office of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty, 1430 S. Dixie Hwy. She may be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 305- 666-0562.