Ever since the real estate world turned the corner and plunged full bore into the virtual world of home computers, cell phones and iPads, local home buyers and sellers have benefitted greatly. There had been an issue about the fate of the once closely-held and jealously-guarded Secrets of the Kingdom—“the listings.” The area listings are the compilation of current details about homes that are up for sale in town. There is no single national clearing house for U.S. listings. They are run regionally at local and state levels. But in just about every part of the country, being in possession of the latest listings book was a necessity for real estate professionals.
As computers and then dial-up modem connectivity put real estate offices in touch with new digital listing databases, it became possible to replace the once-a-week listing page mailings with instantly updated listings. Even the most stubbornly technology-resistant could not deny the obvious superiority of electronic listings. Next, as Internet access became more and more common, it became clear that the digitized listings could go online for clients, too …creating something new: instant public access.
You can imagine how much resistance many in real estate’s old guard put up against that development! Historically, the only way a buyer could be sure to find out what local properties were for sale had been to thumb through an agent’s listing book, or to have their Realtor® copy the relevant pages. Giving away that irreplaceable asset seemed to some to be the height of foolishness. On the other hand, the forward-looking segment of the industry saw the writing on the wall and embraced the idea that easy, universal access to listings was going to be inevitable. Their vision won out.
A surprising thing then happened—pretty much the opposite of what the foes of open access had feared. Although the volume of homes sold by rose and fell, all right—it did so in the same way as before: up and down as the economic fortunes of the country waxed and waned. Town real estate brokers and agents didn’t wind up losing business at all. In fact, with clients now freely browsing through instantly updated listings, they were becoming more knowledgeable on their own. They were becoming better and better clients!
It turned out that the real estate pros’ services continued to be in demand by both buyers and sellers. Today, the percentage of sellers who choose to rely on a Realtor is actually rising. When it comes to everything from creating conforming listings (with buyer appeal) to handling all the technical details involved in completing a sale, going it alone—even when the online tools are so tempting—is still a last choice for most.
Ditto for the buyers, who now frequently begin their house hunt on their own. The choice to opt for professional help is popular not just because of the support services they receive, but also because of another feature buyers appreciate: they’re available at no cost to themselves.
There’s no doubt in my mind that the advent of area listings online is a terrific boon, across the board. It’s a valuable addition to the experience I bring to facilitating the buying and selling process—equally accessible with a simple phone call to my office!