Buying a home – should agents just get out of the way?!
On your way home tonight would you like to take a look at a home that’s just been listed for sale? Even if you’ve been out to dinner and it’s 8.30pm? And would you like to be able to wander through alone, take your time and talk freely with your partner without an agent overhearing? That’s the new reality of realty in some US cities right now, as technology literally opens doors.
American I-Buyers are heavily-funded companies that buy and sell homes and are squeezing down their costs by keeping agents out of the sale process as much as possible. And apparently US buyers are loving the option of touring a home without our Realtor cousins! An app allows a buyer to register and get a personal code to unlock the door and turn on the lights. These unaccompanied ‘open homes’ operate from 6am to 9pm. The company has motion sensors that record your movements, apparently setting off an alarm if the behaviour suggests a teenage party or something else suspicious. Small printed signs point out “new carpet” or other features that mightn’t be obvious.
Is this the future for buying Brisbane real estate? We know an agent adds their biggest value in the marketing and negotiating processes, and showing a home can be done without much skill. But we do question whether a printed sign can really sell the benefits to that particular buyer! A good agent finds out what’s important to their search, the reasons behind the list of features this buyer must tick off. And a good agent uses their experience to match make. Importantly, knowing these things and seeing a buyer’s reactions at the inspection is a huge advantage when it comes time to negotiate an offer. And to achieving the best result for our seller clients.
What’s become painfully obvious is Brisbane home buyers don’t love Saturday open homes! Here’s some of the honest feedback we hear: “There’s a mad rush from one inspection to the next. They’re all on at the same time! Where do I park? How do I find the apartment? Can’t stay long, need to get to the next one. Had a question but the agent’s busy chatting to someone. Why are they locking up – I just got here!” And all this assumes buyers can get time off from kids’ sport and other commitments with many working themselves on a Saturday morning. Tenants also hate open homes as they’re kicked out or made to feel uncomfortable in their own home, even if no-one turns up.
We think it’s time Brisbane home buyers got better service and sometimes we can learn from history. At 8am on a Sunday I could start work, go out to the window of our agency and meet hungry home buyers, learn their needs and then run them around in my car until we found a match. It was 1991 and our cluttered office window display was still the place to find a fresh listing! But the service to buyers was excellent and the time spent one on one enabled me to really understand their needs. (The service to sellers was poor however and my fuel bill was huge!)
The Bees Nees sales team have recently introduced new technology enabling home buyers to click through from an online ad to book a viewing at a time that suits them. It’s user-friendly, simple software. We open up inspection windows on days we know we can get access to the home, giving buyers greater flexibility, less rush, and more chance for us to genuinely help. It might be a lunch break or after work, and these personal inspections make home buying so much more convenient.
We also learn more about the market’s view of that home and can collect far more valuable feedback for our sellers. Buyers are the real experts in their narrow section of the market as they’ve seen many competitor listings and weighed the benefits of each. This intel is gold for the seller/client that pays us and ironically gets better as we increase the time spent with the customer/buyer. Learning more from them is difficult at an impersonal open home.
Will open homes go the way of the dinosaurs? Most sellers and almost all buyers will likely hope so. But will the unaccompanied app-opening inspection be the new norm?! It may be too early to call the end to open homes but we do know it’s time real estate agents stepped up their service levels and took advantage of new technology.
Love to hear your comments. Would you like to do a sneaky look through a home with no agent around? Or maybe you’re that one home buyer who loves the Saturday run-around?!