Can big tech build relationships? We’re not counting on it.

— Weichert Franchise

With the U.S. real estate market worth upwards of $30 trillion, it’s no wonder everybody wants in.

Even Zillow, claiming it had no intention of becoming a full-service brokerage, recently did just that. And although it’s a tech company, its Zestimate, mistaken by many as an appraisal, prompted confused consumers to file a class-action lawsuit in 2017.

So, will the “next big thing” upend our industry? Will apps replace agents? Algorithms usurp human connection? Not a chance. Innovative technology will only add to our arsenal of client resources and reconfirm the value that a trusted professional brings to the picture.

Why relationships always win

Weichert was built on the belief that “people buy people before product or service.” It garnered massive success for Jim Weichert in 1960s New Jersey and continues to boost real estate client retention for our affiliates across the country today.

In fact, agents have become more valuable to the real estate market as new technologies continue transforming the industry. According to NAR, 88 percent of buyers in 2020 purchased their home through an agent or broker — a share that’s increased from 69 percent in 2001.

Why the steady increase when virtually everything can be done … virtually?

“Buying or selling a home isn’t a cold transaction,” says Bill Scavone. “It’s emotional. It’s not an Uber that takes you from point A to point B. It’s not a movie rental you have 24 hours to watch. It’s where families build their lives and cherished memories are made. For most people, having the guidance of a knowledgeable, trusted professional is priceless.”

Even the advent of iBuyers, whose instant cash offers were meant to simplify the selling process, are only satisfying a small segment of the market –– homeowners wanting a quick out. For the majority of sellers, speed is not the highest priority. It’s gaining an accurate understanding of market conditions, getting a fair deal, and protecting their greatest asset.

Why good agents are golden

In a certain way, Zillow’s move to full-service brokerage, which brings agents into the transaction, only demonstrates that real estate is built on relationships. Despite saying that “streamlining” was its primary objective, it’s now offering agent guidance because that’s what most people want. What Zillow just discovered is what we’ve known all along:

  • Major investments call for thoughtful oversight: With median home sales hitting a historic high of $329,100 in the spring of 2021, having a fiduciary advisor committed to the client’s best interests just makes smart financial sense. A good agent helps remove emotion from the experience, stays focused on the goal, and can handle the evolving, sometimes complex negotiations that often follow an offer.
  • Technology has limits. Tech is fallible, impersonal, and devoid of nuance. While it powers our lives in so many positive ways, it simply can’t provide the personalized service needed during significant life events. An agent’s skills, honed over years of real-world experiences, can overcome the obstacles that may derail a successful sale. Real estate is also an industry built on a Code of Ethics that can only be upheld by people committed to doing the right thing.
  • Real estate is local. One reason that instant cash offers often undervalue properties is the lack of local knowledge going into the equation. Comps are just one data point necessary for accurate pricing. Lacking local insights, tech-driven transactions can net sellers thousands less than those managed by agents. Real estate marketing is also local as the best agents become fully immersed in their communities. These connections can’t be duplicated digitally.
  • Top performers stay on top. “Disruption” is part of every competitive industry. The most talented within each of them simply adapt, adjust, and use every new challenge to get better. As our friend Matthew Ferrera, a 30-year industry guru, recently posted on social media: “The best of the best work in every model we can imagine. Where you go in the future has little to do with the competition –– and everything to do with you!”

“Someone asked me recently if they could sell their house themselves,” says Michele Watson, Weichert’s brand marketing manager. “I said sure, but it’s like any other service you pay a professional for. Do you have the time and energy to do everything required to get the outcome you want? Scheduling showings, negotiating price, marketing the property, understanding contracts and legal requirements. Most of us don’t.”

For the average homeowner –– working full-time, caring for family, and juggling to-do lists –– buying and selling real estate isn’t a realistic option. There will always be people who do their own taxes, but the stress and potential errors that can happen simply aren’t worth it for most.

As Jim Weichert always says, “People do business with people they know, like, and trust.”

If you believe in the power of relationships and are looking to grow your brokerage and help even more people achieve their real estate goals, we invite you to learn more about our system. Have questions about Weichert technology and how it empowers our affiliates? Reach out today!

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