THE HUMAN FACTOR vs VIRTUAL OPTIONS

PUBLISHED 23 JAN 2019   

With the unprecedented rise of the internet, businesses worldwide have had to jump on board as quickly as possible or be left behind. An online presence is important to provide widespread exposure for any successful business. The internet allows access to a plethora of information, globalisation in all industries and a unique buying and selling experience. With this in mind, it is no surprise that online virtual real estate agencies have begun to emerge in a technologically-driven world demanding immediacy and ease. These online agencies provide an agent-less service, completely online. A question that has been raised recently among professionals in this industry is: How effective are these remote offerings and is there still need for a human component within the real estate industry?

The initial allure of online real estate agencies is the promise of lower commission rates for services provided to a Seller. If you choose to sell your home exclusively using one of the sites, most of them will offer a professional photographer to take photos of your home and may even offer drone footage. They will market the property on their site as well as well-known portals like Property24 and Private Property and on social media. They may include a viewing schedule, an online calendar used to arrange dates and times for people to book a viewing, verification of viewers, and online support. Some online agencies also offer ‘for sale’ boards, ongoing legal assistance, a valuation of your property and daily online support. For these services, online agencies offer a commission fee of 1-2% of the selling price or from R39 500, excluding VAT, and in some cases a nominal initial fee is required. 

At first look, the virtual offering ticks all the boxes, but there are many other factors to consider. The property layman may not necessarily know the steps in the process of selling a property, the time-consuming and tedious back and forth between parties, advertisement needs and how to organise and conduct show days. Online or remote agencies may offer aspects of these services, but the seller will have to do the leg work. Traditional real estate agents also have access to similar technology to provide a full service. “Property.CoZa prides itself in being ahead of the crowd when it comes to technology and automating functions and we believe this should be used in conjunction with forming trusting relationships with our clients. This will afford real support through the selling experience and our property professionals dedicate themselves to every aspect of their client’s needs”, says Sandy Walsh, MD at Property.CoZa. Consultants from online agency may not physically meet you, reducing the possibility of a personal, trusting relationship forming and you may have to deal with the negotiations with buyers when they view your property. This requires knowledge and experience and agents generally provide the comfort of experience to guide you through this process. 

“An estate agent is required to complete a mandatory qualification within a certain timeframe, in terms of their regulating authority, the Estate Agency Affairs Board. An agent starts their career serving a one-year internship under the guidance of a professional real estate mentor.” Says Walsh.  “This internship lays the foundation for the agent to learn and earn with the full support of a mentor to provide knowledgeable service to a seller.”  With experience and due diligence, a good agent will have a network of professional contacts, including; the support of their own sales team and fellow estate agents from other agencies to source more buyers, compliance inspectors, attorneys, landscapers, contractors, etc. to manage the sales process. “If a virtual agency is earning commission, the people who are assisting you should have these qualifications too.”

A traditional agent will have extensive knowledge of your area, a good understanding of the market trends as well as any potential legal pitfalls and will know how best to price your property to present to the market. Marketing and advertising properties is second-nature to an agent and exposing their stock of properties on relevant property portals using professional photo and, where appropriate, drone or video footage is how they implement their normal marketing strategies. Negotiation skills are what makes a good agent and presenting real interest from the market to a seller is best received face-to-face. Once the sale is in progress, professional resources within their agency to ensure legally sound contracts and financial services for the buyer, where a mortgage bond is required, should be provided to facilitate the transfer of the property. Feedback is essential at this time and this can be automated or personally provided by an agent.

“Viewings and show-days provide the perfect opportunity for agents to meet buyers and present their properties as well as the opportunity to listen to the buyer’s needs. There is usually time for deeper discussion and the opportunity to form a relationship”, says Walsh. “Virtual agencies expect the seller to present their property to potential buyers and this may be difficult and limit negotiations”. As a Buyers often see the value of a property differently to the Seller, it is best that both parties are given guidance by a third party to avoid unpleasant interactions.

For buyers, having one property professional representing your interests with an expert eye on finding the property of your dreams is the best.  A show day may be where you find your dream property, but there’s always that niggle that there may be something else, a good agent would have several options to show a buyer. 

“It will be interesting to see the effectiveness of these disruptors in the real estate industry given that they’re fairly new and not really disruptive to the traditional, established agencies”, says Walsh. “Online agencies offer a platform of applications and services to sell houses which are only a part of what a property professional can provide and experience, market knowledge and social skills are difficult to discount when it comes to negotiation and closing a deal.” 

Selling a property can be stressful and careful consideration should be given to how much time and energy, both mental and emotional, is required to navigate the complexities without the comfort of an experienced professional to guide you and negotiate the best price on your behalf.