When I bought my first home, I found it myself. The property came to me in a Zillow notification email that I had setup for a particular area and price range that fit my needs and where I wanted to live. But just because I found the home myself, could I have used the app to replace the Realtor?
Finding a Home
Finding a home is the most time consuming part of buying a new home. The real estate search process used to require days of driving around with your agent looking at home after home after home.
In the old days, the only way to find out about homes for sale was from an agent with access to an up-to-date list of properties. The agent was the only person who could tell you about nearby schools, zoning, property taxes, and other information about the property.
Today, you can log into a website and do a very specific search for a home in a few seconds. You can see pictures, size, and other information about the home on one screen.
Pricing a Transaction
Zillow has a Zestimate and other real estate apps like Trulia and RedFin have property value estimator tools. These are based on nearby recent sales, listed square footage, and other variables that are input into the online algorithms.
Of course, a computer doesn’t know everything. It can’t always do a great job of gauging market sentiment, the value of the 6th floor vs. the 11th, and what a big balcony might fetch compared to a small one.
Still, for a 6% fee, a Realtor charges a lot for their expertise. When you can get a close, reasonable estimate for free online, a Realtor may look obsolete.
Negotiating a Deal
My first home was listed at $164,950, but after a few back-and-forth offers I bought the home for $138,000. That is a 16% discount.
I didn’t do that on my own. My Realtor was with me every step of the way and acted as a trusted advisor and go-between when I was negotiating my deal.
I had never bought a home before, so I had little idea what I was doing. How could I push the price down without getting rejected right away? How could I get what I want without angering the seller? My trusted Realtor helped me through it.
Dealing with an appraiser and inspector is not always fun or easy. They talk quickly, take lots of pictures, and use terminology that might not mean a lot to you. Between the jargon and the reports they produce, it is helpful to have guidance.
I knew that it was good when my inspector told me that the home’s wiring was good, but didn’t know what it would cost to fix the polarity of a couple of outlets (not much, it turns out). My Realtor did know what that all meant, and was able to get the seller to fix or pay for everything that was wrong with the place.
Paperwork and Contracts
Anyone who has ever bought or sold a home before can tell you that the stacks of paperwork in real estate transactions are intimidating. Just listing a home for sale involves signing nearly half a dozen places around different documents.
Unless you are a lawyer, you don’t know what is standard and what is out of the ordinary. Doing it alone is scary and can lead to very bad consequences if you don’t know what you are doing.
Real estate applications have a big role in the real estate search process today. What you used to rely on Realtors for completely has become a partial self-service process.
It is amazing to see how quickly we can find homes and areas we like online. It is great to get a reasonable price estimate with a few clicks, and look around to see if there is something you’d like even more around the corner.
At the end of the day, however, Realtors work hard and still play a vital role in the transaction process. You might find a place you like online, but you can’t necessarily buy it on your own. You can find it yourself but it still takes a Realtor to unlock the door.
Want to know which apps could replace Realtors?