A Response to Business Week, Part One

This is probably not the right way to buy your next Vail Valley home.

Probably not the right way to buy your next Vail Valley home.

An article from Business Week entitled “How a Trulia-Zillow Merger Could Finally Change the Business of Real Estate” caught our eye recently. When we originally linked the article to our Vail Valley Real Estate News page, we lamented “yet another person who doesn’t understand what a good agent actually does.”

After re-reading the article, we’ve decided that author Brad Stone’s error is actually something more basic – he seems to be mistaking some very important parts of the home buying process for needless complication, and thinks that “online real estate websites” can somehow fix all of that for us.  This is simply not true.

Let’s start at the beginning:

“Despite the multitude of online real estate websites,” the article begins, “buying a home today remains stubbornly anachronistic, with dual real estate agents, proliferating fees, and reams of old-fashioned paper documents.”

We have quite a bit to unpack in this opening sentence alone.

First, it is true that there are several “online real estate websites,” these days.  Many have, in fact, made a positive contribution to the home-buying experience.  From virtual tours to contract software that enables you to sign electronically and save PDFs without needing to print, the real estate business has benefited, and continues to benefit, from the internet.

So, already, we can see that Stone’s contention regarding “reams of old fashioned paper documents” isn’t entirely true.  Sure, you’re still going to have to sign contracts.  For most people, a home is the biggest single asset they’ll ever hold. Legal protection and documentation of the buying and selling of property makes perfect sense!

Likewise, we’re not certain what the internet can offer in terms of mitigating the need for professional representation on both sides of a real estate deal.  Whether you are buying or selling a home, your agent is your advocate and guide through the process.  Believe it or not, you are already free to purchase a home without an agent of your own – it just isn’t a very good idea.  Just as contracts provide legal protection, working with an agent protects you by ensuring the process is handled professionally and correctly in a situation where mistakes can be costly.

What Mr. Stone asking for?  Perhaps he would like to simply click a picture of a home he fancies, add that home to his shopping card, and check out with a preferred form of payment.  While this works well for books, music and the like on Amazon, it is a terrible way to buy a home.

Whew.  All that and we haven’t even touched on “proliferating fees.”  We’ll explore that, and hopefully make some headway beyond the opening statements, in Part 2.

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