Someone asked me the other day whether I thought the Internet was killing real estate brokers.
(The question really did come up over dinner, a situation when most sane folks would much rather be discussing the Oscars, the health-care debate or even how to save Social Security. Such is my life.)
In fact, research has shown that nearly nine out of 10 home buyers in the U.S. scour Web sites in search of a potential purchase. My experience in Manhattan and, even before now, in the Washington, D.C. region certainly validates the research.
To my mind that’s a good thing. Here’s why:
- To paraphrase Mr. Syms, an educated consumer is the best consumer. Or something like that.
- Listings that buyers find often are out of date and unreliable. They invariably lack important information.
- Checking the broker databases (e.g. OLR) is hardly an intellectually demanding part of my job, and the databases churn out new listings automatically anyway. Besides, a buyer’s focus is bound to be sharper than mine, if only because even the most questioned customer rarely is able to reveal all of his or her requirements.
- Buyers with whom I work appreciate that my knowledge of the market and my ability to ferret out and supply additional information is essential. (Of course, there are many other such brokers.)
- Finding properties for buyers doesn’t add nearly as much value as evaluating those properties, assessing comparable sales, negotiating the best price and seeing a transaction through to its fast, efficient and fair conclusion.
Thus, clients who use the Internet for their searches merely supplement my activities and save me time.
Now, whether any of my readers actually want the Internet to kill me and other brokers is another story. Heaven knows, there’s a huge constituency in commenter land that views all brokers as some combination of lazy, stupid, self-dealing, avaricious and incompetent. Feel free to provide your own adjectives. (What I wouldn’t do to sell used cars instead.)
So, no, too many buyers are not resorting to the Internet. Where would all of us be without it? As my high school chemistry teacher, Mr. Libby, used to say, we’d be “up a creek with leaky oars.”
(That’s virtually all I remember from his classes except maybe that HCOOH backwards – is that vinegar? – spells, well, you know, something far more drinkable.)
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022