A recent report predicts that real estate agents will have less and less involvement year after year. The prediction is that in a decade or two, the job of the real estate agent will only be to open the door to showings. A new report is titled “Fast Forward 2030: The Future of Work and the Workplace” and was prepared by realty consulting firm CBRE and China-based Genesis, a property developer, after interviewing 220 experts. By 2030, a majority of real estate transactions may be made online. And most of them will be made using real time marketplaces, the report noted.
On the other hand, Steve Berkowitz, the CEO of Move (MOVE), which operates Realtor.com for the National Association of Realtors, told HousingWire last month that he doesn’t anticipate Realtors ever being completely removed from the home buying process.
“Humanity is something that we don’t think will ever move out of the transaction,” Berkowitz said. “Zillow is a cold, calculated estimate. It’s just numbers going into a database. A home is more than that.
“There are roughly five million transactions a year. Those are transformational for the consumer. The role the agent plays is much more than just facilitating the transaction. They’re offering that sense that the transaction is life-alteringly important.”
Hem-young and I tried to walk through a transaction without real estate agents and hit technical snags that probably can be worked out with existing technology. The idea that a potential buyer can log in to a massive data base of homes for sale is possible now – Zillow, Redfin, Realtor-com, Google and many others offer that service. We think that if a potential buyer wants to see eight or ten properties, a service will probably pop-up so that a potential buyer doesn’t have to call eight or ten sellers, but instead contact a coordinator of sorts, whether it be a real estate agent or another kind of “door opener.”
Once a buyer decides on a property, will he feel able to negotiate himself, or will many be intimidated or feel at the mercy of a savvy seller or vice-versa? It seems difficult to conceive of a one-size-fits-all purchase agreement to overcome this, so a negotiator – attorney or other trained professional — seems likely to appear in the transaction, too.
The transaction needs a ton of disclosures, reports, and other forms and materials to satisfy legal and financing requirements, and it seems unlikely that an escrow officer or title representative will take on the risk to help the unsophisticated buyer or seller.
Perhaps the real estate agent will be replaced by a showing agent and attorney? A robot Realtor? It’s hard for us to imagine otherwise. What thoughts might you have?