As I was making my way home two days ago, I ran across a young couple who had stopped on the side of the street so that the young man could pull flyers from two homes for sale right across the street from each other. Seeing this as an opportunity to help them as well as my own business, I stopped my vehicle, jumped out and introduced myself to the young man. I offered him my hand as well as a business card and told him that I could make his search for a home a more streamlined and comfortable process. You would have thought that the devil himself had presented himself before this young man's eyes. His look was one of surprise and skepticism. The look of surprise was warranted as the encounter with him was unexpected on both his part and mine. The look of skepticism was one to which I am quickly growing accustomed. I must admit to you, though, that I do not fully understand the attitude of skepticism that the public shows to professional real estate agents.
I understand that I know more about my abilities than he does. I understand that I know my own level of honesty and integrity more than he does. And, I understand that working with a stranger in today's society arouses a certain level of suspicion in all of us. What I do not understand, and what concerns me even more, is that his look of skepticism was not necessarily focused at me, but at the entire profession I have chosen.
In today's society, independence has taken on a new meaning. A vast majority of the American public is becoming less and less dependent on professionals. My wife uses a website to diagnose her illnesses. My Dad used a website to do his stock trading. A buddy of mine bought a computer program for fifteen dollars and wrote his own will. Another friend of mine used another computer program to design plans for his new home. With the vast amount of information available to us through a mouse click, we are becoming a smarter and less dependent society. This is affecting the real estate business to a great extent.
There are internet sites available by the hundreds that offer complete inventories of homes available for purchase by the consumer. Some of these sites are better than others, but the bottom line is that the consumer can look for a home without the aid of an agent. There are internet sites available to assist homeowners value their own home without the aid of an agent. Granted, some of the home values given by those internet sites are not accurate in the least, but they still give the public the perception that the use of an agent to value your home is not necessary.
I, however, remain convinced that the purchase of real property (usually a very large investment for most folks) should include the use of an agent. Here are three reasons.
First, the use of an agent normally ensures the buyer that the value of the home being considered is appropriate for its location. Going back to the story above, the young man I met had never lived in our state. He was not from here and by his own admission, did not know anything about the neighborhood in which he was pulling flyers. As a matter fact, it just so happened that the flyers he pulled were both from houses being sold by their owner without the use of an agent (see my blog on selling FSBO for more information). Both of these homes are vastly over-priced for the area they are in. How will this young man know that unless he asks an agent for a market analysis? The answer is, of course, he won't. How will he know there is a police station being built just across the street from this subdivision that will include a jail facility? He won't unless either of the homeowners let it slip. In short, unless this young man and his wife end up consulting a professional real estate agent about the home they end up purchasing, they will most likely overpay for their purchase.
Second, the use of an agent normally means that the buyer is put in touch with only the highest qualified vendors throughout the purchase process. During the purchase of home an agent will supply a buyer with referrals to loan officers, home inspectors, structural engineers, appraisers, and various contractors who are in the business of repairing or remodeling homes. Do you think for one minute the buyer's agent will refer the buyer to vendors who do sub-quality work? It will most definitely not happen if the agent is concerned about receiving any future business from his current client.
Finally, the use of a buyer agent ensures that the contract will be written and constructed to offer both buyer and seller a win/win situation. This should be the ONLY focus of a successful negotiation...a win/win outcome for both buyer and seller. Furthermore, the use of an agent ensures the buyer, in most cases, that the contracts are being written on State-approved forms and comply with all regulatory agencies involved in the purchase process. How important do you think this might be should something occur that requires the adjudication of the contract in a court of law? The buyer's peace of mind that the deal was done above and beyond reproach cannot be overemphasized.
I hope the young man I met the other day will call me. I hope he comes to the realization that I will provide to he and his family a value-added service. I hope he resists the urge to remain totally independent during the home buying process. I hope he sees the value of retaining a buyer agent, even if it's not me.