Will estate agents go the way of the Dodo?
We pack our own groceries, book our own flights and renovate our own homes after completing a handful of Saturday morning Bunnings workshops.
How long before we are selling our own homes, too?
Let’s face it: estate agents are among the least liked of professionals. The Image of Professions Survey, recently released by Roy Morgan Research, revealed that only car salesmen and advertising professionals ranked higher in the “least trusted” stakes.
With so much comparable sales data readily available online, surely it is only a matter of time before we are knocking up our own for sale signs at the front of our homes?
Let’s not forget the money we would save, as well, with estate agents charging between two to three per cent on average of the sales price.
How important are real estate agents anyway?
It’s the cream of the crop
Well, according to seasoned property investor and buyers’ agent, Ben Kingsley of Empower Wealth, the best agents are “100 per cent” worth the money we spend on them.
While housing data is easy to access – allowing most home hunters to assess the relative worth of their home quite quickly – it’s the so-called soft skills that matter the most.
Some agents have them, others don’t.
“The best agents get into the psychology of the buyer, and they manage to convince them that the property is right for them,” Mr Kingsley says.
“They look to elicit an emotional response from a buyer and they are able to get the best possible price.”
Mr Kingsley, who deals with agents on a daily basis, estimates only 20 per cent fall into this exceptional category, but argues they are easily identifiable by the level of detail they display.
“The best ones will have a narrative about the property, they will know the history extremely well, they won’t just be taking names at the front door,” he says.
“While more and more people are accessing land sales data on the internet, the real skill is in actively listening to what a buyer wants and delivering a good sales price for the vendor and these are the kind of skills that can’t be found on the internet.”
Beware the script
Mr Kingsley says the reason so many estate agents get a bad reputation is that they are all spiel and no substance.
“Even the most average of agents will have quite scripted presentations and they are very compelling,” he says.
“You need to ask some curly questions before you sign up with them rather than just take them at their word.”
Former Western Australian real estate agent Mark Schneider agrees and goes so far as to argue that more people should consider selling their own home.
“If you have the time and you have the confidence then there is no reason you cannot sell your own home,” says Mr Schneider, who even wrote a book on how to go about it called Dodging the Real Estate Rip-Off.
“It used to be very hard to list your property on all of the major websites, but now there are companies out there who will help you do it for a small fee.”
Mr Schneider also points out that homeowners can open their homes for four-hour inspections if they so desire – rather than the standard 30 minutes – which gives them a distinct advantage in attracting potential buyers.
Note of caution
Real Estate Institute of Victoria CEO Enzo Raimondo disagrees that homeowners are the best people to sell their property.
“Local agents know the area they operate in and can draw on their database of interested property seekers,” he says.
“Negotiating a sale is a skill honed with training and experience and is an area where a licensed agent can add significant value.”
Furthermore, agents have certain legal protections that may be extremely important.
“A licensed real estate agent must adhere to the legal requirements when dealing with property,” Mr Raimondo says.
“REIV member agencies are covered by professional indemnity insurance with all REIV members required to undertake continuous professional development.”
This may be true, but Mr Schneider insists it is easier than it looks.
“I wrote a book on the subject and it is fewer than 100 pages,” he says.
“That just goes to show you how hard selling your own home is.”