The internet has changed a lot of things, enhanced many industries, and even made several job roles obsolete. Real estate has always been considered an industry that is relatively immune to technological changes, and one that does just as well in difficult economic conditions as it does in periods of economic boom. However, it can’t be denied that technology has had a significant impact on real estate as well. Whether that is in the form of people being able to see property listings from across the world through the internet or the ability to have virtual property tours through 3D modeling, the way real estate transactions are conducted has changed quite a lot.
It’s not just one party that is reaping the benefits of these changes. In the same way that buyers now have more options as it relates to where they can sell their assets, buyers too have more ways that they can find properties to buy. Just as how sellers are now able to make their offerings seem more attractive, buyers also have methods by which they can get a better understanding of the asset that they are considering.
One of the biggest changes for both buyers and sellers was when multiple listing services went online. In the past, these resources were limited to a local audience or to a select few that had connections to the owners or had the rights to use these lists. When this data became available online, more people could subscribe to the listing service just like how more data could be published on these platforms. However, this was only the first step in a long series of changes that were yet to come.
The Role Of Real Estate Agents
The real estate market has been dominated by real estate agents. It is a market in which realtors have a lot of power over both the sale and the purchase of the property. The actual owner of the asset or the buyer of an asset can only do so much to mold this to their favor.
For instance, recently realtors have been allowing property owners to publish data on the realtors’ websites. Even though this gives the property owner more exposure because they are available on a site that has a lot more traffic, they are still limited to the regulations that the realtor has for people that want to publish on his or her platforms. Similarly, the realtor still holds the power to integrate this data with a multiple listing service, and any sales that are generated are still done under the control of the realtor and not the property owner. The realtor will consult with the property owner about whether they want to sell or not or how much they want to sell for, but in a market that is controlled by realtors from all angles, it becomes close to impossible for a property seller or buyer to simply act according to their own inclination.
Technology in the form of major real estate portals, multiple listing services, private realtor websites, and various other property trading platforms have constantly been taking away power from the realtors and transforming it into free knowledge that is available for everyone. Yet, sometimes this accumulation of power can also create a problem.
The Power Of Real Estate Portals
One of the biggest things that real estate portals have going for them is the network effect. This is when a business or organization benefits from having a large network, and the larger the network becomes, the more power the institution has. Job portals are very similar in this regard. The more people using the job board, the better it is for all concerned parties. Employers get to select from a larger pool of professionals, and job seekers get access to a larger pool of jobs. It’s a win-win situation for everyone. Your location is also something you need to constantly keep in mind while searching; let’s say you’re based in or around Georgia, then consider looking into Showcase IDX’s Georgia Multiple Listing Service (GAMLS) home search, you will find over 40,000 listings specifically in the greater Atlanta metro region. This makes it a well of knowledge for anyone that is looking to buy or sell an asset in this region.
The network effect also acts as a defense mechanism for the institution. The more people use a service, the more powerful it becomes, and the harder it is for anyone else to enter the market and steal the top position. Even if a competitor has better services, better functionality, or is superior in any other technical aspect, the fact that they don’t have the same number of group members makes them a less viable option for both buyers and sellers. However, consumer needs are changing, and big real estate portals are finding it difficult to give customers what they are looking for.
Changing Consumer Needs
In the past, people had more time to make a decision on which property to buy. Getting financing was easier, the property prices were less volatile, there were fewer realtors helping people buy property, there were fewer ways to find a property to buy, and overall real estate was a much slower industry. Today, things are much quicker. Just through a quick internet search, you can uncover information that would have taken someone weeks or even months to get to just a few years ago.
Speed has become extremely important for both buyers and sellers alike. Sellers don’t want to waste time targeting a huge audience out of which only a small percentage will buy, just like how consumers don’t want to browse thousands of properties out of which only a handful are relevant to their requirements. Major real estate portals are very crowded markets and consumers often shy away from them simply because of all the filtering that needs to be done. The modern consumer wants to be able to find what they want with the least amount of effort because there are so many things that will have changed by the time they have spent a month looking for the right property.
Some of the biggest property portals are free to list on, so this means everyone and anyone that has a property will list it on this portal. On the surface, this makes the portal seem like a great place to find an asset, but there are more problems lurking below the surface. Some portals try to rectify this problem by having a small fee to list assets on their marketplace. While this does solve the problem to some degree, a small fee for an asset worth hundreds of thousands of dollars is no big deal for most realtors or private homeowners.
This huge amount of data also poses the problem of inaccurate or outdated information. Since the platform is free to use and anyone can join at any time, it also compromises the quality of the information that is available there, and this is reflected in the number of listings that have been sold but are still listed, or the information shared in the listing being inaccurate. Similarly, since these platforms aren’t regulated by a governing body there can be a huge variation in pricing. Some things are listed for far more or far less than what they are actually worth. Then there is also the possibility of human error. Someone might have listed something for $4,500 rather than $450,000 by mistake but this shakes the confidence of the customer.
A lot of times people are looking to buy property in a different city or a different county or even in a different part of the country. The last thing a buyer wants is to come across an asset that is listed for sale but actually isn’t for sale because it has already been sold or because the information was inaccurate.
Real estate portals, both paid and free, limit the ads that they display to different visitors based on the location from which that person is visiting the website. For instance, if a person from California is visiting the portal, they will most likely see properties from within that state or from neighboring states. Some will even restrict this to the locality that the visitor is accessing the site from. This is to optimize the investment made in marketing and advertising. Since it is unlikely that the visitor from California will be interested in a property listed in Washington, the ads from Washington just don’t show up. This poses another problem for the buyer because if they do want to buy something that isn’t in their region it becomes harder to find that property. For sellers, it also limits the audience that they are able to reach through paid ads.
Individual Agent Websites
On the other hand, realtors have the option to create their own website and start listing their own offerings on a private portal. For the seller, this is undoubtedly more work than uploading pictures and basic information on a portal, but it can be well worth the investment if done right.
Some realtors are even taking this a step further and creating dedicated websites for each property that they want to sell. These are known as single-property websites and these solutions are fetching the best prices.
One of the main reasons consumers prefer agent websites is that it gives them better insight into the agent or the real estate company themselves. On a property portal, there is only so much information that the seller can publish about themselves and as a consequence, this limits how much the buyer can learn about the seller. This creates a limitation in the quality of the relationship that is developed and the trust that is earned. A lot of buyers will meet with the agent in person just to gauge whether or not they want to work with them in a professional relationship, regardless of how attractive they find the listed property to be. Since real estate is such a high-value investment, people tend to want to work with people that they know or at least through referrals.
If a seller creates their own website and even a small portal for the assets that they are currently selling they get to sell a lot more information about themselves. Similarly, property portals only allow a certain amount of information about the asset itself. You are limited by the number of pictures or videos that you can post, the kind of information you can display, and even how long the listing will be visible. Individual agent websites give the buyer a lot more information about the asset that they are interested in, and a lot of this is stuff they would otherwise not be able to access through a portal.
Real estate is a highly specialized field that is only getting more specialized as time passes. When buyers are looking for a property their first priority is to buy from someone that they believe is competent in that particular job. If they are buying a shop, they want a realtor who is a commercial property expert. If they are buying farmland, they want someone who knows about the industry and can tell them the specifics that they want to know. Through a private agent website, they can learn about the seller and get access to this crucial information. This not only creates trust in the relationship but also makes the process that much more reliable for the seller.
The Future Of Real Estate Online
Addressing these consumer needs helps realtors to earn greater profits and create longer-lasting and more meaningful relationships with their customers. At the end of the day, the buyer is there to make a purchase, but they also want to buy a smooth and comfortable experience. After all, they are making a once-in-a-lifetime investment and they want it to be a great decision rather than something that they pursue half-heartedly.
As things continue to grow and develop in the digital real estate markets, the trend is likely to move in favor of private agent websites and even the more specialized single property websites. While portals are not going to be removed from the mainstream anytime soon, buyers are quickly seeing the drawbacks to this technology and are already looking for better alternatives. If you are a realtor who wants to be a step ahead, this is the time to invest in your own platform and create a space where you can establish yourself as the best property agent available. You can easily get started with free tools, but for the best result, it is recommended that you start with paid services and invest in offering the best customer experience right from the get-go.