Enter Google, Craig’s List, FSBOs, and a Shakeout

The Wall Street Journal Online is reporting on the erosion of Realtors’ hold on home listings.
This may come as a surprise: I am excited about the changes that are taking place in my industry and welcome the competition.
Let me explain. There is absolutely no denying that the face of the industry is changing and Google and Craigslist are not pioneers, in fact, many would say that they are a bit late to the party.
That said, I absolutely believe that real estate agents better be prepared to bring a lot more to the table in their attempts to solicit business. The playing field is going to become more even and the marketing savvy and negotiating skills that a broker bring to the transaction will become increasingly important, as will the ability to accurately price a property.
Having access to data is not the ultimate solution for sellers who wish to take on the process on their own. It will help, but nothing can substitute for the experience of a professional who knows how to interpret and what to do with the data available to her/him.
Now for the “sleaze factor…”
Google, Craig’s List and the like will probably mean more people will list their properties themselves, as FSBOs (For Sale By Owners). That trend will almost certainly force a bit of a shakeout among real estate professionals.
From James R. Hagerty’s article in the Journal:

Shoppers can’t rely on agents to tell them about for-sale-by-owner offerings, because agents often don’t earn commissions for introducing buyers to these properties and find such transactions more difficult to complete. Agents also may fail to tell potential buyers about homes being sold through discount brokers.

As disgusting as this may be, it is all too often true! I have personally encountered agents in my industry who are distraught when a buyer that they have worked with finds a FSBO (for sale by owner) property that will result in them losing that commission. They do all that they can to convince clients to avoid such properties, often compromising their integrity.
My take on this is that it is far better to show or make buyers aware of ALL available listings (including FSBO’s) than it is to risk betraying a client’s trust.
Over the last 14 years, I have assisted many buyers with their purchase of FSBO’s–from coaching them on offers to preparing co-op board applications–with only the prospect of their future business as payment. When a lot of good properties are on FSBO listing services, and those that will combine FSBOs with broker listings, brokers who avoid them will be hurt or put out of business… I say BRING IT ON! The industry could use it.

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