When I first got introduced to real estate in 2001, I never thought the internet would change real estate. If you ask agents what it was like, I’m sure they would agree that we as real estate agents got away with more. Communication, customer service, and being fast was not a requirement for the position. I heard more bad stories than good when I started real estate. It seemed to be a transactional process with very minimal customer service. If you made mistakes, showed up late, or ignored calls, the next day you could call the customer and they would maybe complain, but they stuck it out with you since there weren’t so many better options. We were the gatekeepers of the real estate inventory (MLS).
At least residential real estate was due for a change. Something that would require agents to be better trained, knowledgeable, and eager to provide excellent customer service. In 2005 a company by the name of Zillow opened up shop to improve many parts of the real estate search for consumers. I’ll be honest with you. I never heard of the company until about 2008 or 2009. Real estate agents would give access to potential homebuyers to all the inventory on the MLS. Before websites like Zillow, Trulia, Realtor, etc. Fast forward 15 years, these online real estate search websites have changed the entire industry and continue to do so until this day. For example, you can do a search, “Homes for Sale in San Bernardino, CA” and you will have instant results!
Like anything, there’s pros and cons to everything. There are many doubters about the motivation behind these companies. Some thought that these companies would become real estate brokerages while others thought they would monopolize the real estate industry. These websites have had good impacts on real estate agents, homebuyers, and homeowners. For example, for real estate agents, it’s made it easier and faster to find potential new customers. The mom and pop real estate company can have a competitive edge now due to ease of making connections with new customers. For homebuyers, these websites have also made it easier to find a home for sale and rent. Another great thing is that they are not limited to one agent or an agent that they do not know. Zillow and many other websites have adopted a similar model to Yelp with reviews. Zillow Reviews, provide an up to date review list of realtors you are interested in working with. Seeing the value of the services and agents before you deal with them is a big plus for customers. The transparency of an agent’s quality of work by looking at their reviews from past clients or current customers. It’s created a real estate industry that has to care about the result of the purchase or sale of the customers. Even many still have not adopted the change it’s going to make agents realize they aren’t the only ones and in turn hopefully the service to the customers improves for all.
In the Inland Empire, we all use the CRMLS (California Regional Multiple Listings Services). Recently I had one of our agents remind me that some of the MLS’s close to us still do not cooperate with each other. For example, the High Desert Association of Realtors has it’s own MLS system that we cannot access unless we have a dual membership. When you get licensed in California as a Realtor, you automatically think you can sell all of California real estate. Once you learn more, you find out that the local MLS boards are not all connected, so you are limited their inventory only, and you must pay an additional fee to have access to other areas. In places like the High Desert, the customer might have more information as to the inventory due to both MLS boards not sharing information with each other. Now here’s the fix. Zillow and other websites have arrangements with these boards individually so at times Zillow’s website may have more inventory than your local MLS. At times Zillow can be the most up to date system for both agents and customers inventory-wise.
As the tech companies that continue to break new grounds and disrupt many industries, they have adapted fast to the real estate industry. The drawbacks to those online real estate portals for customers is that the information sometimes is outdated and can be several days behind therefore a customer can lose out on an opportunity due to the delays. These homes sell at asking or above in less than seven days due to the lack of inventory and the high demand for Inventory. For agents, the delays create a problem. The client thinks they have the most current information and the real estate agent is keeping information from them or for some reason they are being told it’s in escrow and the online home search portals show otherwise. The MLS continues to be the most up to date information since the agents are the ones that update it then gets fed to the other portals. One last thing is the Home Value Estimates from third-party websites. As they state, the Zestimate is only an estimate. The customer tends to forget or doesn’t understand that those online home value estimates are an estimate and they should always consult a licensed real estate agent for a more accurate home value check. You have to keep in mind someone should see the condition of your home to give you a more accurate report. Better yet if you want a better opinion of the value of your home, pay an appraiser who only focuses on providing homeowners opinions of value of their home. As for real estate agents, the problem this poses is that you sometimes have to get into a price battle with the homeowner since they put so much weight on the estimates they find online. On the flipside, this gives the real estate agent and opportunity to prove their point and get a new home for sale on the market.
If you are for or against these online search portals, there’s no doubt they are improving the way we do business, and they are forcing us to provide more value to the customer. They are in the business of fixing and improving the process for their customers. We are Premier Agents on Zillow. They have had a tremendous impact on our business and continued to this date. They are a great real estate marketing portal that can help you scale your business much faster. As they improve the process for the homeowner, they are providing tremendous value for real estate agents.