Real Estate Agents: Do We Really Need Them?
M and I have been looking to buy our first place for just under two years now. Then our real-estate agent insulted my wife and we decided to put the search on hold (besides, we need to save more money).
The incident with our agent, along with the whole search process, got me thinking about why we even need these people to "represent us" when we buy and sell homes. With all the tools available online and the prevalence of social-media sites that allow everyone to share what they know, all the information you could possible want is available to you if you just do a little digging.
I understand the argument that a real-estate agent can get all this information for you — that's his/her job. But why wouldn't you be willing to do the research yourself when you're about to make the biggest purchase of your life? It's almost like going through a travel agent — does anyone do this anymore? Typically, you can find a better price by just going online and booking the trip yourself. No need to go through a middle man. (See also: The Process for Purchasing a House With Cash)
Let's say I want to buy a house in a certain neighborhood. I could use Redfin to get all the basic details about the property, and even stuff like recent price drops. That's everything you'd find on an MLA listing. If I want to see what the facade of the building is, I'd use Google's Streetview function.
Still not convinced? Do what M and I did — we hopped on our bikes and rode around for ourselves. Sure, it was research, but it was also fun. And like I said, this is a big deal, so why wouldn't you put in some work yourself? After all, it's your money and it's going to be your house.
What else would you need an agent for? To tell you that the building across the street is owned by a guy names Stan who is "great" and will never build up to block your great view? Is that worth thousands of dollars in commissions? Not to me it isn't.
Just like Yelp can give me tons of feedback about a restaurant, I can get just as much feedback about a neighborhood or an area by doing a little research online. It's all out there, you just have to find it.
What About Viewing Places?
Here's how viewings typically went for us: we found listings on Redfin or other real-estate sites and sent them to our agent. He called the agents on the other end and scheduled (his assistant scheduled them, actually) viewings one after the other so we could go see four or five places in one night. Awesome!
But it was still us sending him new listings that we were interested in. We were doing the work, he was doing the "scheduling." Then one day we were out and about and I saw a For Sale sign (these become like catnip after a while) in a nice neighborhood. I really wanted to check the place out so I just called up the phone number on the sign and left a message. The agent called me back the next day and said she could show us the place the very next day.
No agent, no fuss.
Why would I go through an agent when I could just do this myself?
I Know, I Know
I know that I'm probably a little bitter right now because of the recent incident I had with our agent. I know that having someone with experience help you out with what is a huge deal can be very helpful. But are they really worth the thousands of dollars they get for basically doing the busywork that you or I or anyone could do?
All because we're afraid to do it ourselves?