Similar to stockbrokers feeling queasy over job security with the advent of online trading, real estate agents’ roles are expected to change amid consumer savvy real estate sites. The role of this long-standing middleman is expected to evolve with most multiple listing services available online. With many people finding information online, new models for home sales are changing commission rates — creating some savings for sellers and buyers.
By: Amanda Maher
Amanda is an independent real estate broker with many years of experience using modern online tools besides MLS software. We’ve asked Amanda to look at our application; here are her comments:
Looking back on my early days as a real estate agent, I can’t help but recall my fears over finding clients. I knew I didn’t want to hound my friends and family. The idea of cold-calling people terrified me. I could join a big agency, but then I’d be the bottom feeder—most likely, they’d make me lease rental apartments until I grew my network.
I eventually found my way, but it wasn’t easy. I spent a lot of time driving first-time homebuyers around to dozens of properties, only to have many decide they weren’t ready to buy after all. I joined rotary clubs, chambers of commerce and industry organizations to take advantage of networking events. I wined and dined mortgage brokers and attorneys to try and get a slice of their business. For the first few years, I was spending more money to find clients than I was making!
From the conversations I’ve had with other agents, I’m not alone. Finding clients (especially as a rookie) can be really challenging.
The rapid evolution of technology has made finding clients more challenging than ever before. With real estate listings readily available online, many people are questioning whether they even need an agent. From 2013 to 2017, nearly one in five people bought a house without using an agent – a record high! Some industry experts have gone so far as to ask whether real estate will eventually become obsolete.
When I think about these trends, the same fear washes over me that I once felt as a novice agent. Will my job someday be replaced by a robot? Can a mobile app provide as much expertise as me? I look at the value real estate agents bring to the table: we advocate for our clients’ best interests, provide around-the-clock support to answer questions, complete paperwork and monitor deadlines, and help our clients move through the closing process with ease, just to name a few. Can technology really do this all for people?
No. It can’t. It simply can’t.
I’ve scoured Trulia, Zillow, Redfin and other websites that aggregate real estate listings – but that’s really all they do. I’ve talked to homeowners who have listed on FSBO websites and they’ve told me how they eventually gave up, instead of turning to an agent for guidance and support.
Then a friend introduced me to www.JustClose.com. The online platform is unlike one I had ever seen before. Yes, it connects buyers and sellers directly—but the company also understands that most buyers and sellers don’t want to forgo the use of an agent altogether. JustClose allows buyers and sellers to call upon the expertise of agents as and when needed. I was officially intrigued. This, I thought, could be the future of how deals get done.
I decided to register for JustClose to give it a try.
For a $10 monthly subscription, I now had access to a highly targeted customer base. I understood that these were people interested in buying and selling directly, but they were using JustClose for the site’s enhanced services, including its roster of on-demand agents like me.
Unlike other For Sale by Owner (FBSO) services, JustClose allows buyers and sellers to set up their own “Virtual Workspaces” where they can communicate, aggregate documents, track deadlines and submit deposits. If they want ad hoc support from real estate agents, lawyers, or other related real estate professionals, they can easily invite them to join their Virtual Workspace.
JustClose has a similar mechanism to coordinate a “Virtual Closing” where all parties on both sides of the transaction can “meet” to digitally sign and distribute documents efficiently and securely.
JustClose is a game changer.
While I now have an established roster of buyers and sellers that provide me with a steady stream of work, there will always be ebbs and flows in the market. When things slow down, my outreach and marketing have to kick into high gear.
Unlike the expensive strategies I employed as a novice agent, JustClose provides me with an affordable alternative. Using this platform has opened doors to buyers and sellers I would never have otherwise met. I might not be making the same 2.0% to 3.0% commission that I would make as a full-service agent, but I’m also not traipsing around town to dozens of houses and praying a deal closes. I can work with clients on JustClose from the comfort of my own home, on my terms and at times that are convenient for both my client and me.
I also imagine that many of the sellers using JustClose will eventually decide, as many usually do, that listing their home on MLS isn’t enough to get them through to closing. They’ll want the expertise of an agent. In highlighting that expertise to FSBO sellers on JustClose, I expect many will then turn to me as their full-service agent if they ultimately decide to go that route. JustClose knows this may happen, and all the site asks from the real estate agent is a $175 referral fee for homes that they eventually sell to buyers they found using the website. That’s a fraction of the cost of the memberships I pay for to help drum up new business!
JustClose is still in its early stages, but it is proof that technology will force real estate professionals to evolve how they do business. As a successful real estate agent, I’ve learned how important it is to stay ahead of the curve. JustClose is helping me do just that.