I always hate it when I get asked a BIG question like that, and I just did it to myself! The short answer is yes there will be Realtors in 50 years, but there will be changes.
Before I get too far into this, let me tell anybody younger than I am how real estate use to work: The agents were the only ones who had access to what was on the market, what a place was worth, what the comps were, what the PVA records were. You know, the dark age before the computer put ALL this and more at our fingertips.
Flash forward to today: I think a lot of agents are scared to death that consumers have the same info they do. I think a lot of agents wonder if they really are needed. People sell by owner all the time. Buyer’s often have more information that the agent does. To be polite, it really FREAKS out agents!! I have to laugh when I hear agents talk about the future of real estate. It reminds me of a scene from Gone With the Wind. The one where all the southern landowners are sitting in a mansion getting all excited thinking they are gonna kick some Yankee butt because nobody is gonna make them give up their “Lifestyle”. That’s the way most Realtors are today. They want to hold on to the past so they can justify getting paid to do what the public perceives as easy. The MLS is the only real foothold we have left. You have to list with an agent to get on the MLS (Multiple List Service).
Let’s face it, real estate transactions are not rocket science and Realtors are not scientists. Most of them only know how to fill in the blanks on the contract, having never really read the document. These are the ones you see advertising that they can help you find your dream home. This is especially funny to me when they say that online. I am thinking, as you are, that anybody who sees that ad online can probably find their own dream home. Finding a house you like is really easy.
All right, I know this was going to be about the future of Realtors, so I better get there before you hit the back button. Real Estate has always been about information and it aways will be. That won’t change. So many fields are really about information. I take my kid to the doctor, who asks a bunch of questions, then INFORMS me what the problem is and how to fix it. If it does not require surgery, the doctor hasn’t had to really DO anything except draw on his experience and training.
I see a future where what we do is to act more as a consultant. When I take my kid to the doctor I have all the information about his symptoms that I will ever need. What I don’t know is how to interpret that information into anything that can help him. So, I go to the doctor. (Wouldn’t it sound silly if the doctor offered to help you find the symptoms? That’s what agents that have nothing to offer do.)
We, as agents, need to quit thinking about just the “NOW” of real estate. It is really easy to find the present value of a house in Lexington. You find 3 close comps of a similar size, type, quality that are in the neighborhood, then you cut and paste the pros and cons of all in comparison to the subject house. The end result is the approximate value of the subject house. When a buyer of mine picks a house, I also try to look 5 and 10 years down the road. I ask myself what external forces are present that will cause the area to improve or decline? Is the neighborhood large enough to not loose its identity to an adjoining neighborhood? Does the neighborhood has well defined perimeters? Good or bad traffic patterns? How will market fluctuations effect this property? Does the house fit in with others well (I mean size, building material and all, not socially.) Why do we need to do all this? Because there was a time when Split-Level houses were popular. There was a time when people thought they were going to get 6% appreciation EVERY year. There was a time when a pool was viewed as a positive. Heck, there was even a time in my old neighborhood when having Tates Creek Elementary/Middle/High Schools so close drew buyers!
Agents will also need to know more about the legal aspect of real estate transactions. Most of the nightmares people have when buying or selling a house can be prevented by wording it in the contract. Most agents write the contract as if there will not be a problem. There probably won’t be, but if there is, you want to cover your you know what in the contract. My attitude is that even if you are 100% right, it still sucks to have to go to mediation. I frequently hear where, say, a seller removed the refrigerator. The buyer’s agent just wrote “All Appliance come with house” or “As listed on the MLS” in the offer. If the buyer’s agent had written each appliance in the offer, the seller wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. One thing I do is to never take an amount for earnest money that exceeds the limits of small claims court. Our contracts have a mediation clause, but better to be on the safe side if mediation goes nowhere fast!
So, yes there will be Realtors in 50 years. Yes we will need to “See” the future a little more. Yes we will be needed to help people make wise decisions. Yes we will need to protect them legally. I just hope other agents will do these things rather than just offer to help you find your dream home. The sooner the better!