There was a time when real estate agents advertised houses for sale to attract interested buyers. Now houses are advertised by internet companies to attract real estate agents. The focus of real estate marketing seems to have shifted from listings to leads.
That was Then ~ Boots on the Ground
When I started selling real estate some 25 years ago I had to be on my toes when it came to marketing homes. I had to consider which publications outside the normal local real estate magazines would expose the property to the most likely buyer. It made more sense to advertise a property that allows for horses in an equestrian magazine than a culinary publication. I also had to creatively craft property flyers and locate good places to put them. The only contact information in these property ads and flyers was that of me and my real estate company. The goal was to market the home and attract prospective buyers in the hope they would call me directly so I could sell them my client's home.
This is Now ~ Fast forward to internet times
Today the home marketing process is more of a media and fact gathering practice. Take great home photos, compile a list of amenities and craft some appealing remarks describing the home. Once compiled the data is uploaded to the Multi-List which is then sent to sites like Zillow and Trulia. These sites take advantage of a thing called Broker Reciprocity. Basically, Broker Reciprocity is the practice of allowing brokerages to display all properties for sale on their own websites as long as they display the actual brokerage that is listing the home. With the click of a button, it takes literally minutes for a home to be found online whereas in the past it took ten times the effort to find your target market in weeks and months.
The Ambiguity Associated With Today's Home Marketing
In a twist of marketing, the home for sale is now used by real estate websites to attract the paying agent. Of course, no agents would advertise on a real estate website that was not visited by prospective home buyers and the buyers would not go to the site if there were no home information that was provided by the listing agent. My issue is that there is little clarity on who the listing agent is on many of these websites. For Example, Zillow offers four agent selections on most home listings. The top listed agent is customarily the listing agent and the three below are Premier Agents, AKA, buyer or non-listing agents. If a customer requests information without selecting one of the four agents their request will be sent to the Premier Agent just below the listing agent. The position of the Premier agents changes every time the web page is reloaded. I call this Realtor Roulette.
The strange part of all this is that buyer agency was born out of a desire by consumer groups to clear up the ambiguity on who represents who in a real estate transaction. It is my belief that there is just as much ambiguity relating to who represents what in real estate as there has ever been due to the interpretation of Broker Reciprocity practiced by these online behemoths.
The ambiguity on who is a buyer agent and who is the listing agent is not an accident. I was told by a Zillow representative that over 80 percent of all home shoppers who request information on a property do not choose who they want to give them that information. This often means the listing or non-paying agent never gets the lead and the Premier agent or paying agent does.
The goal of this article is to make the online home shopping public aware of who they may be contacting to offer them information on a home they desire. If you are looking for general information and are not working with an agent you may want to contact the listing agent. If you are considering seeing the home and are interested in being represented contact a buyer agent, Just because you call an agent for information does not mean you are automatically forced to work with them.
The choices you make in your pursuit of a great home are important and can be impacted by who you talk to first. Make sure it is a person you desire to speak with and ultimately what their motivation and role is.
Knowledge is Power!