Got scalpel? Would you operate on yourself?

The questions in the headline are something of an exaggeration and wholly a cliché that I was too weak to resist, but a new online service made me do it.

You can check yourself, then wonder how well the process would work for you in New York.  In a nutshell, the site describes its benefits this way:

Buyers can search homes for sale, request showings, and make an offer on a home online, while sellers can list a home for free, get information on low cost and discount ways to advertise their properties tapping the best of web 2.0, get professional yard signs, receive and negotiate offers, and finalize a purchase agreement in a private, online Deal Room.

From my biased point of view, I can’t imagine that even the site’s cafeteria of services would help buyers anywhere; as for sellers trying to unload a home themselves, that debate continues.

Although Robert Hahn, a consultant focusing on the real estate industry, sees the site as the beginning of the end of buyer representation, his column in Inman News predictably failed to win over me and numerous commenters.

Hahn celebrates the simplicity of the site, which sends the message that you can “be your own agent.”

While it is easy enough to list a home on Web sites, hold open houses and consider offers, it also is theoretically simple enough to take a scalpel to amputate a diseased finger without a physician’s help.  Would you do that?

The admittedly less dramatic undertaking of selling property is nonetheless best navigated with the help of a real estate professional, someone who can:

  • Guide buyers throughout the convoluted purchase process of a co-op and even a condo;
  • Refer buyers to vendors;
  • Rely on experience to point out pitfalls that could range from advising what sort of apartment that a family of four will need to what to make of nail heads showing through a hardwood floor;
  • Make sense of the most up-to-date comparative sales, and not only those for which information is finally available in public records;
  • Negotiate a price professionals;
  • Help sellers appreciate how a property must be staged;
  • Relieve sellers of the burden of holding open houses;
  • Engage in hand-holding, thereby offering encouragement and perspectives.

The foregoing list hardly is complete, it could be much, much longer.  Among concerns that commenters on Hahn’s column raised were these few:

  • The listing agent is going to get the full commission anyway, so a buyer who doesn’t work with a broker receives no price reduction on that basis;
  • Professional representation makes a difference, especially because “each transaction can be riddled with multiple problems. . . ;”
  • “Most consumers want to save money, myself included, BUT they don’t want to get burned in the process and gladly pay someone with knowledge to assist them;”

Responding to the comments, BuyerCurious founder Jim Lesinki countered by saying that “our position isn’t about being anti-agent; it’s about being pro-consumer.”  He continued as follows:

And in regards to consumers and buying situations, one size does not necessarily fit all. My bet is that everyone reading this article would agree that the level of sophistication among buyers varies widely. Along the continuum I think it’s fair to say that some need considerable help every step of the way; others are fairly self-sufficient, and still many more fall somewhere in between.

Perhaps my vision is limited by my recent experience with an educated young couple with two children who had many questions about wading into the New York City housing market and were close to choosing three properties that had tempted them on three occasions and would have landed them in trouble.

With all modesty, I am pleased to report that they listened to me about issues they needed to consider for their choices — the necessity of having more than one bath, the strain on their resources when they nearly reached too high, the costs of renovations that a contractor to whom I referred them calculated, and the liabilities of a neighborhood an hour’s subway ride from their current rental unit.

I just don’t see how BuyerCurious can work for most buyers and certainly for first-timers such as the ones I have described.  Nor do I conclude that the site can well serve sellers.

It is a visionary idea that I’d rank with trying to construct a time machine.

Tomorrow: Stamp your feet (to be posted late morning/early afternoon)

To take your own bite out of the Big Apple, you have the option here to search all available properties privately.

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

M: 347-886-0248
F: 347-438-3201
Web site

2 thoughts on “Got scalpel? Would you operate on yourself?

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