If it’s true that information is power, today’s buyers and tenants are becoming a force to be reckoned with! Traditionally the pricing of real estate, both for sale and for rent, was the domain of agents. We had the experience at the coalface, seeing through hundreds of homes each year, and recording their sale prices and rents. Over the past 14 years we’ve had subscriber only access to full government data on sales and ownership, so agents could advise sellers and buyers from a relative position of power and authority.
Now that great ‘information equaliser’ the internet has opened up records access to everyone for a handful of dollars. Less than $60 gets you last sale details on anyone’s home along with suburb medians, recent area trends and a bunch of comparable sales. Driving past a Brisbane home that’s for sale? An Australian SMS service will tell you what the current owners paid and when. It takes a couple of seconds and costs $5.95.
The USA web giant Zillow.com offers “Zestimates”, a dollar amount you could expect your home (or the one you’re negotiating to buy) to sell for, along with records on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and when the home was built. They claim to have data on 57 million homes, a price accuracy within 10%, and realtors in the States have been in uproar claiming the site’s fancy algorithm that predicts prices might do them out of a job!
What’s it all mean? Buyers have always shopped around to determine value: now they’re better informed than ever before and are telling the agents about recent sales. Collating and digesting prices from newspaper ads and signs wasn’t practical – but now buyers and tenants type in their home criteria on their choice of web portal, sort them in price order, and have instant market information.
So are we about to witness the extinction of real estate agents?! Some perhaps, especially those that relied on pricing and discounting for their results. For the rest of us we’ll get on with what we believe we’re really paid to do – focus on better marketing. Consumers understand value is more important than price, and eye-catching ads that genuinely entice them will continue to get results.