The Human Touch
In today’s Internet economy, information belongs to the public. This creates a particular sort of confusion for many people. Does access to one hundred medical websites make you a diagnostician? Does access to case law enable you to reason like a lawyer? Has the Internet made expertise obsolete?
As a leader in a profession which is constantly under siege by third parties hoping to either disintermediate real estate agents or take bites out of our commissions, I believe that there is still a vital place for the expertise we provide. Actually, for me the Internet has helped to delineate the difference between information and expertise. Since the online world is dedicated to the free flow of information, misinformation abounds. There is no review, no adherence to a particular standard. So the Internet can direct you to sites that will “help” you find the right real estate agent, or understand why Manhattan has no Multiple Listing Service because greedy brokers want to keep the whole commission for themselves. The Internet can direct you to popular sites where agent names and photos appear next to a listing NOT because these agents actually represent that listing but because they have paid big bucks to place their photos next to all the listings in certain zip codes. And you can find any number of sites reassuring you that renting or selling your home is easy and it is foolish to pay someone else to do it for you.
So here’s what we do which no amount of online tinkering can duplicate:
• We deploy our expertise to think on your behalf. About 20% of the deals we make as buyer’s agents involve the sale of properties which, by virtue of room count or location, did not fit within the buyer’s original criteria. Frequently it takes some convincing to persuade buyers to look at these properties, which they are so certain will not suit them. But because of our experience, we can often intuit the degree to which a buyer will sacrifice one desire in order to satisfy another which is higher on the hierarchy of needs. And because we are constantly engaged in combing our MLS (yes, there IS one, in spite of what the newspapers tell you, even though we call it an RLS) for numerous customers, we are frequently aware of properties which for one reason or another have not come up in the buyer’s own online searches.
• We possess a refined sense of what to eliminate and what to include. Not every agent is a photographer, and not every firm employs a photographer. Often, photos don’t do a listing justice. And equally often, the photos OVERSELL the property. Then there is the building, which may or may not have the services and reputation the buyer is looking for.
• We understand the complex process of shepherding a deal to completion. New York, unlike many other states in the country, does not authorize agents to draw contracts. The result is that there is often a period of several weeks during which the contract is being negotiated by attorneys for both sides. This is always the most perilous period for a deal. Will the buyer be struck by remorse? Will the seller get a higher offer? In crisis situations good agents add enormous value. We can often stabilize the situation, manage a renegotiation of terms if necessary, break a logjam by remaining focused on fact rather than emotion.
My daughter (and colleague) recently remarked to me that one thing technologists have in common is the belief that every problem has a technological solution. Not true. When it comes to nuanced understanding, or the emotional support to comfortably cross the finish line, or the ability to prioritize another’s needs maybe even more clearly than they can, there’s no substitute for a person.