What is the Role of the Real Estate Agent in Today’s Tech-Driven Marketplace?

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As consumers gain access to more and more data through popular search portals, what is the role of the realtor?

Our experience running Canada’s largest tech powered brokerage and most popular search portal has shown that the real estate agent still plays a vital role in this critical transaction.

Given that the average Canadian will buy or selling four to five times in their life and that home is most Canadian’s largest asset, it is reasonable to assume that there is a role for agents in the process to facilitate and support the transaction at a reasonable fee—but in the light of recent technological advances, what is the role?

As true Canadian’s driven by universal access to everything, we were lucky to get a Multiple Listing Service (MLS) owned by the local real estate boards and the national association, that allows every consumer to see every listing—but there is a catch. The MLS creates rules to keep a few tidbits to itself and its realtors. But hey, the rest of it is free so its a pretty good deal.

These rules vary across Canada but the Toronto Real Estate Board rules allowed them to keep a few extra tidbits; they kept the “sold history” for example. This past week the Competition Board made a preliminary ruling that looks like the TREB will have to open up this data saying that this created an uneven playing field. Historically, agents have used this information as a reason to use a broker: they can provider buyers and sellers with otherwise inaccessible data.

But eventually this data will end up everywhere, and everyone will have it, buyers and sellers. Now we have a totally even playing field, right?

No.

Consumers will have access to lots of data in real time, but they need professional support and advice in real time. The consumer with the better agent who moves quicker will get the better outcome.

The vast majority of transactions have four parties the Buyer and their agent, and the Seller and their agent. Today’s successful agents are more responsive than ever. Responding to the online browsing habits of their customers and are expected to have more data at their finger tips to keep ahead of their customer. I can tell you lots of people start their search sitting at home in their pajamas—do you want to work at 9pm?

Our data shows that less then 5% of consumers buy the first house they inquire about. Our data also shows that an agent will show between four to 12 homes over a number of outings identifying and directing the process towards the right home. In today’s market Consumers are frequently writing multiple offers before they are successful – the Realtor is often the key to success by setting expectations and keeping momentum.

Add the fact that this infrequent act of selling or buying a homes aren’t homogenous, every combination of buyer seller and property are entirely unique. Realtors are trained to know the legal implications and structure of the contract, as well as learn the risks associated with that unique property—do I need a property inspection, was this a grow-op? No one is perfect but an agent is always going to be a critical part of structuring a deal, negotiating a deal and getting it done.

We love data and use it already to value homes and neighbourhoods, provide market conditions and even allow consumer to develop their own strategy. All to help them work with a realtor and get their home. We use just as much technology trying to match and connect consumers with Realtors. Now we just need to pick up the phone.

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