You’ve decided to sell your home, and you’re looking for the right real estate agent. You go online but are overwhelmed with an enormous amount of information. Every day, you’re used to seeing “for sale” signs from big-name real estate agents planted in front gardens. The first thing that pops into your mind is one of these epic franchises. After all, we’re brought up in a culture of brand recognition. Bigger means better and must do because they’re big. It’s an elementary equation that success equals size equals reliability. The reason they got to be so big in the first place is their consistent strike rate. The size of their franchise gives them power that the independents don’t have. Or does it? Is this devotion to names and brands steering us away from better opportunities? Are there valid reasons we might choose an independent real estate agent instead?
What Do The Big Brands Have?
When you sell your house with a big brand franchise, your decision is influenced by a trusted brand name. Whether it be LJ Hooker, Ray White, or Raine & Horne, they’ve been around forever. You’ve seen their ads on TV, noticed their signs in people’s homes, and their logos instantly come to mind. It’s like deciding whether to buy fast food from McDonald’s or Barry’s Burgers. You go to Macca’s. You’ve never heard of Barry. He has no brand recognition. What kind of burgers is this joker selling? What’s his reputation? You’ve got no way to make a comparison. In the end, you think, we’d better stay away from Barry. Who the hell is he anyway? What type of third-rate junk food is he selling? By all evidence of the rules of commerce, Barry’s a loser. If you eat at his restaurant, there’s a good chance you’ll get food poisoning.
The comparison is apt because both McDonald’s and the real estate agents we’ve mentioned are franchises. They’re a part of a network that spans the entire country, with every area covered. Given this interconnectivity, they have more listings. Their customer base is larger. They have untold connections. This gives them an expanded reach. With that big brand name and franchise network comes a higher level of trust. Sellers may be more inclined to sign with a big-name agency because it lessens their fears of a poor result. Likewise, they offer greater advertising potential than a smaller agency. They have slicker websites and greater buying power for advertising. They produce glossy brochures and have access to all types of media. In short, they’re so big that they can offer a client all the bells and whistles. Simply put, your house stands a better chance of being exposed to more buyers.
How Do Independents Compare?
The slogan “quality not quantity” comes up when discussing the benefits of dealing with an independent real estate agent. Everything bigger is not always the best. Dinosaurs were colossal creatures, and look at what happened to them. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. “Bigger” is not always best or right for you. And so we dispense with the cliches. However, you get our meaning. The same qualities that make a big franchise appealing may provide small independents with a competitive advantage. Firstly, you are not paying a franchise, so the independent option is likely to prove a cheaper scheme. The smaller the company, the more likely you will get a more personalised experience. The independent will have more time to devote to you without a demanding burden from several clients. This will enable both of you to develop a better working relationship.
A real estate agent working for a big firm may be a jack-of-all-trades; they aren’t necessarily focused on a niche. But an independent agent just might provide the speciality area that your property calls for. Say, for instance, you’re selling a fixer-upper. You might only get a perfunctory service from a brand agency with bigger and more valuable clients. The smaller firm might well have greater experience in selling such houses in your neighbourhood. This is often the case. Similarly, you are not tied to the franchise’s policies regarding marketing, branding, and service standards. The independent, therefore, has more room to manoeuvre in the creativity of the campaign. You are not signing up for a one-size-fits-all approach to selling your house. Perhaps the greatest advantage an independent can offer is an intimate knowledge of the local market. All of these are immense advantages, and what’s more, you are the focus.
Should I Sell Privately?
The Australian real estate industry currently employs an estimated 235,500 people across its services. These are Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures. That amounts to 1.8 per cent of employed Australians. Over the last five years, the industry’s workforce has grown by 7.9 per cent. That means a lot of agents out there trying to sell houses, which is a reflection of the healthy state of the property sector. But becoming an agent is so much easier with online courses. This shortcut into the industry has come in for some deserved flak. A novice agent is a potential liability without the proper training or experience. This is being felt more so by renters, whose complaints about unscrupulous and uncaring property managers are rife. Big agencies are evidently offering them breaks. However, greenhorns are in no position to set up an agency. Therefore, do you even need a real estate agent?
The Internet has made the property market more accessible to private sellers. Over the years, it has facilitated the development of original business models. The growth of sites like Domain and Realestate.com has revolutionised the industry to an extent. Private sellers are free to advertise their properties without an agent. The market reach of these sites theoretically makes the need for an agent redundant. Likewise, models such as Purple Bricks have already tumbled. They entered the Australian market in 2016. Although it did not prove successful, they offered yet another service. Based online, it used genuine real estate agents and charged a flat fee only. A significantly lower fee structure was their selling point. Aside from offering a property appraisal with a “local expert,” they just advertised on the aforementioned sites. Furthermore, the company has faced criticism for overstating its sales record.
Has Technology Made Real Estate Agents Redundant?
A great deal of excitement is generated online by businesses feeding off the real estate dollar. They will claim all sorts of things, like that by listing on their site, you cut out the middle-man. Their message is that by paying them a fee and supplying a photo of your house, they will empower you as the seller. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Successful private sellers do exist. But they are the exception and not the rule. Moreover, they are more committed to selling their property than simply uploading a picture and a paragraph of copy. There is a great deal more involved in selling a house than the equivalent of a Facebook post. The artistry of selling property lies in networking and, more importantly, in negotiating. The idea that you can simply base the sale of your house on similar neighbourhood properties is flawed.
Under these circumstances, negotiation remains a human skill. It cannot be replicated by a computer, and the property market does not function like eBay. The only way that such businesses could drive traditional real estate agencies to the wall is if they proved better. This is unlikely to be the case, although there will be sellers who find the services satisfactory. The underpinning concept is paradoxical: a real estate business that doesn’t believe in real estate. This is the conclusion to be taken away from those working totally in virtual spaces. Admittedly, there is an enhancement to the way a regular office operates, such as virtual inspections. These offer time-saving incentives to buyers. But you would take a big risk by buying sight unseen, so boots must hit the ground eventually. All in all, sellers will benefit from the online disrupters as agents are forced to up their game.
Arguments exist on both sides: some services are unique to both franchises and independent real estate agents. But big is not always better. Ultimately, it depends on whereabouts the seller’s property is and what returns they are expecting. Both options are better than going it alone. Without the negotiating skills of a qualified real estate agent, a seller is more than likely short-selling themselves. A website cannot replace an expert with a strong knowledge of the area or the contacts that an agent has. Nevertheless, there is much to be said for independent agents in the way of lower fees and higher flexibility. But your choice should not come without professional advice. At Perfect Agent, we can help. If you are selling your house we can match you with the right real estate agent for you. Our service is free. Contact us today!