After writing last week’s post about the impact of technology on the real estate market, I started thinking about how the role of the agent has changed over the years. What was the core responsibility of an agent 30 years ago versus today? What skillsets were most important 30 years ago versus today? How were leads generated? How were home searches performed? My list of questions goes on and on.

In the 1980’s and early 1990’s, a time we will refer to as the Pre-Internet Era, a Real Estate agent’s job description was more administrative in nature. It was the agent’s responsibility to sit in the reception area, answer the phones and greet any walk-ins. But the agent had a motivation to do this. Anyone who called or walked in became the agent’s lead to help buy or sell a home.  

This time agents spent answering phones and greeting walk-ins is affectionately referred to as “Floor Time” and still exists today. However, it looks much different than it did then. Today, sitting floor time is largely a great time to catch up on email, pay some bills, or surf the latest gossip site. Nobody walks in anymore and about the only phone calls that come in are from vendors or corporate representatives looking to speak to the office manager.  

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The change in purpose of floor time is directly correlated to how the home search process has changed. In the pre-internet era, brokerages literally maintained a three-ring binder. When an agent obtained a listing, the agent would go out to the property with their polaroid camera. Take some instant photos of the property. Then come back and place those photos in the brokerage’s binder. When a buyer was ready to begin a search, they would walk into a brokerage and ask to see the binder.  

Today though, there are no more three-ring binders. With the launch of Zillow, Realtor.com, and a host of other search platforms, 90% of buyers are beginning their home search online and agents now pay these sites to be featured on them in the hopes someone searching the properties will reach out to needing assistance with the process. This is lead generation in 2019.  

Pre-Internet, working with an agent who was an expert in your area of interest was vitally important. There were no navigation systems, no school ranking sites, no local community sites. Your agent was the walking encyclopedia for the area you were shopping in. It was important to be working with someone who could provide you with the insight you needed to make an informed decision and, maybe more importantly, find their way to the property without needing to consult an atlas!!

Today all of this can be done via the internet before even speaking to an agent. So, the question is then, what value does an agent add today? The answer is… A TON. A good, experienced agent who adds the necessary value to a buyer or seller today has adapted to a whole new set of skills. Even though an agent is legally required to refer questions to a licensed expert in each field, today’s agent must have a working knowledge of law, finance, marketing, IT, building codes, and so much more.  Executing a real estate transaction in today’s environment can look like a well-choreographed ballet with a good agent or a low budget horror flick with a bad one.

But the real work for an agent today begins after a buyer and a seller agree on the purchase of a home. At that point, the agent becomes a de facto project manager. Coordinating with Attorneys, financial institutions, appraisers, inspectors, title companies, and a lot of times with local municipalities to keep the deal moving forward. But most importantly, keeping the deal intact.

All of this creates a need for a deeper understanding of business principles and tactics that far exceeds what most obtain from a high school diploma (today’s eligibility bar to obtain a real estate license). The good news is that real estate commissions across the nation recognized this rapidly growing gap in an agent’s skillset and developed a continuing education program to help impart these required skills into the agent of today. Plus, an increasing number of agents are entering the field with business and other types of advanced degrees. All of this is critical for the real estate industry to keep pace with how today’s buyers and sellers shop for a home. Especially given the increased number of them who are utilizing an agent which has risen from 69% in 2001 to 87% in 2018.  

It is great that so many people recognize the important role a good, experienced agent can play in the process. However, 70% of buyers/sellers go with the first agent they are introduced to. Like any industry, there are top performers and bottom performers. Those that have developed the skills to stay relevant and those that haven’t. With statistics providing that a home can sell for 25% more on average when you utilize an agent, it is important for a buyer/seller to make sure their agent has developed the skillsets necessary to properly represent them in a transaction. This may mean taking the time to interview a handful of agents to ensure the best fit for you and your real estate needs before making the ultimate decision of who will represent you.

Todd Wilkinson is the Founder and Owner of FonHome Realty.   FonHome is a customer-centric brokerage where our clients are in control and our experienced agents are respected for providing the positive and exciting experience the real estate transaction should be. Todd is an accomplished real estate investor with an undergraduate degree in Financial Economics and a Masters’ degree in Business Administration.  Todd has held senior management and executive level positions with the world’s two largest retailers and a successful startup venture.  Todd has served terms on the University of Arkansas Advisory Board and is actively involved with the St. Theresa School in Kenilworth.  Todd opened his own brokerage after feeling underserved in his personal experiences with real estate transactions and wanted a firm whose mission was on serving the fiduciary responsibilities guaranteed to the Buyer and Seller.  Contact Todd today for a free Comparable Market Analysis for your home or for advice on beginning your search for a new home at www.fonhomerealty.com.

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