I’m in my 18th year of selling properties in Albany and I have seen the industry change a lot in this time.  I laugh at the memory very early on in my career of me telling people I was pitching for business from that one of the reasons they should list their property for sale with me was because “my agency has a website to showcase all of our listings on”. Back then you were a trailblazer if you worked for an agency that had its own website, particularly before big platforms such as realestate.com.au came to the fore.

Rapid growth in new technologies and improved data capturing by large companies means that Buyers and Sellers now have direct access to more sales information than ever before. It’s not that long ago that the general public relied heavily on agents to provide them with sales data and keep them up to date with what was happening with property prices in their neighbourhood. So with technology here to stay and the relative ease of communication that comes with living in the modern world, are real estate agents going to become redundant soon? Let’s delve a little deeper.

One of the main limitations of the data that consumers now have access to, such as sale price, sale date and physical parameters of properties, is that it doesn’t give any context. For example, a mortgagee or a distressed sale, where a result needs to be achieved quickly, may mean that the Seller did not have the luxury of time to wait for a buyer willing to pay a higher price to be found. A separation or sale of a property within a family might show an unusual sale price because the sale was part of a more complicated arrangement involving the exchange of other assets. And a private sale of a property to a friend of the owner may also be transacted at “mates rates”. A knowledgeable and conscientious agent will know the circumstances around each sale in their community and be able to identify the ones that were not completed at arm’s length.  An experienced agent will also be aware of other factors that have impacted on a sale, such why some properties took longer to sell than ‘normal’.

The human element of dealing with a real estate agent should not be underestimated. Sales people who have a terrific rapport with their clients can have a very big influence on what properties they ultimately purchase and what price they will pay. I’ve seen this play out on numerous occasions in my career and when a client really trusts their agent they will take their advice quite literally and without question.

Further more, humans are complex beings and I’m yet to come across a one-size-fits-all style of approach when dealing with Buyers and Sellers. When people are purchasing or selling a property it is usually a very big deal to them and what comes with this experience are very big emotions.  Highly skilled agents will be able to adapt to the different nuances of individuals involved in a sale and best handle expectations on either side of a transaction to achieve a result. A computer program certainly can’t provide the empathy and personalised interaction that an agent can.

Well established agencies such as Merrifield Real Estate provide property management and leasing services in addition to listing and selling properties.  A lot of our work across all departments involves educating people about the legislation associated with various aspects of real estate. We often find ourselves giving out free advice and sharing recommendations of other service providers relating to the sale, purchase, leasing or management of a property, such as settlement agents, finance brokers, building inspectors, timber pest inspectors, plumbers, electricians, gardeners, handymen, etc.  Agents help to foster communication in this sense and actively provide work opportunities to other local contractors and suppliers on a constant basis.

At Merrifield Real Estate we are also big advocates and supporters of our local community and we regularly give back in a variety of ways.  The agency holds a number of different fund raising events and campaigns during the year to assist with raising awareness and providing financial support to a range of different charities and organisations within Albany.  This sort of philanthropic activity will quickly disappear if agents are replaced by large impersonal electronic platforms to complete real estate sales.

As you can hopefully now appreciate, agents bring more to the table than just cold real estate transactions. Many qualities of a fantastic agent can not be replicated by technology or be outsourced to a computer program.  Interestingly, there have actually been an increase in the number of people working in the real estate sales industry across Australia over the last couple of years which is not what you’d expect if agents are expected to become obsolete any time soon.  I’m the first to admit that it is a lot easier to find a buyer for a property in WA at the moment, compared to when the market is less buoyant. However a top quality agent will know how to extract higher offers and really have a direct impact on maximising the outcome for the Seller.

As soon as the market cools down and it becomes more difficult to source Buyers, I expect there to be some natural attrition play out amongst agents. Agents who don’t possess the experience and skills required to work in a market that isn’t ‘on steroids’, like it has been over the last couple of years, shall struggle to get properties sold and there will be a fair number of sales people leave the industry as a result.

However, while there are inevitably going to be more changes within the real estate industry to come, I believe that agents will continue to play a key role in to the future, particularly those agents who are honest, ethical, fantastic at communication, provide brilliant service and have the emotional intelligence to effectively deal with the intricacies of human behaviour.

 

By Lee Stonell – Sales Consultant