Are Real Estate Agents on the Brink of Extinction?

10 years ago you would have had to depend on a real estate agent. 5 years ago it was likely you still needed their services. Today, with the plethora of alternative options, you could reasonably buy and sell your house on your own, without ever setting foot in a real estate office.

I’ve never had any success with an agent helping me to find a place. And now, I’ve gotten pretty good at taking advantage of easy tools to let me sell houses on my own. The only person you can’t cut out of the real estate equation is the lawyer. :-) does a decent job of showing houses on the market, but now there are a magnitude of similar sites - some better, some worse, but all getting into the on-line property game.

Facebook’s Neighbourhoods application has partnered with Point2Homes, showcasing houses that are for sale in your neighbourhood, and allows you to browse other neighbourhoods! Virtual tours, digital photography, ubiquitous internet access all mesh to reduce our dependency on agents. Who wants to spend an afternoon with a stranger, looking at houses that *they* think you will like? Aren’t you the best judge of that?

If you want to *sell* your house, there are still many options, and most of them are painless. Social networking sites like Facebook, eBay, Craigslist. You name it, you can sell it. People in the market for a new house have no problem being interested in cutting out the 5% of the sale price that has to be inflated to cover the cost of the agent.

Historically, the value that real estate agents brought to the table was one of audience. Agents controlled the audience of people looking to buy and looking to sell. There were no alternatives to easily discover houses for sale (unless you spent countless hours driving through the neighbourhoods you were interested in). There were no alternatives to advertise your home for sale either. Now both of those activities are easily subbed out to various different internet applications.

The value of the real estate agent today? Administrative paper-pushing. Agents know what paperwork needs to be filled out. I recently sold a condo on my own. A few google searches, and wham… I had all the paperwork I needed. The other value that an agent brings to the table: mediation. People are generally uncomfortable with negotiating the price of their home. It’s an emotional sale. But if you can wrap your head around dealing with a little personal discomfort to save $15,000 or more, it’s a worthwhile pain.


How are you going to buy or sell your next house?