The Internet has evolved into a wonderful resource for home buyers, and with new innovative technology, it's fair to say the vast majority of them will begin their search and even locate their ideal property online, without any help from a real estate professional.
But that doesn't change the fact that consumers are increasingly reliant on real estate professionals, now even more so than in the old days, according to data from the National Association of Realtors.
The NAR says that fears of technology displacing the real estate agent may have been exaggerated, even though its statistics show that buyers do tend to find homes on their own with the help of the internet (8 percent in 2001 compared to 51 percent in 2016). But while the web is a great place to find a property, most consumers still seek the assistance of a real estate agent to guide them through the home buying process. Indeed, some 94 percent of real estate transactions in 2016 involved a real estate professional, which is up from 84 percent in 2001.
Greg Fox, owner and broker at Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Alliance, told Inman News that real estate agents "should be looking at the medical industry if we really want to look at our future, understand why our relationships are so important and be aware of the challenges ahead."
Fox says the Internet is a good thing as it helps consumers, but it doesn't mean they think they can go it alone without a real estate professional.
“I think it’s very similar to medicine: Recommendations, checking ratings on websites, and trying in-person visits are all normal,” Fox said. “I believe finding a home and searching for my personal medical treatment are very parallel. I want my agent and my doctor to care about my family. I want them to be knowledgeable, familiar with the specialists I need, punctual, personable and so on. … My real estate agent is part of my family life for a month or longer during each transaction. I like personalized service with continuity and connection. I want my doctor and my agent to understand my financial position, my family situation and my needs. I want one person to know these things so I don’t have to explain everything several times to new people. This is all very personal; the relationship is about my needs.”
Fox therefore says that real estate agents should stop being fearful of technology advances. Instead, he reckons that a lack of relationships would be the true biggest threat and cause the most damage to the real estate industry.