Vol 5 No. 22- February 16, 2005
On-line shopping no substitute for real broker
By Louise Bolger
SUN STAFF WRITER
Theres been a lot written recently about
using Internet resources to search for real estate to purchase.
The Bradenton Herald and TIME magazine had pieces on it and I wrote
a column, all making it sound like something whose time has come.
But "just shopping" on line is one thing; actually purchasing
requires a leap of faith most buyers cant bring themselves
Its easy for a buyer surfing the Net to become excited by
the prospect of finding his dream home for less money because commission
rates are cut to the seller, in addition to inducements given to
buyers to purchase through these sites. But the phrase, "Let
the buyer beware," has never been truer.
Competition in the real estate market has always been fierce, but
it was fierce among traditional real estate brokers. As TIME magazine
pointed out, the way real estate is sold hasnt changed since
Eisenhower was president, until now. Discount Internet brokers are
challenging the traditional brokerage community. Nationally, the
average commission on a house sale has slipped to 5.1 percent from
5.5 percent during the past few years.
Buying a home, the largest financial transaction most Americans
ever take part in, is not like buying stocks and bonds, which have
really taken off on the Internet. A home is a much more personal
transaction, requiring the advice of a combination of David Rockefeller
and Martha Stewart.
I investigated some of the most popular Internet brokers and was
surprised by the lack of choice provided. Some of the sites: domania.com
and houeandhome.msn.com provided a lot of listings, but just referred
you to a conventional broker. Good for doing some research but no
E-realty.com, ziprealty.com, homegain.com, lendingtree.com and forsalebyowner.com
do provide discounts to buyers and sellers but were limited in the
listings provided. For instance, homegain.com asked you to practically
fill out an on line questionaire before you could get into its listings,
lendingtree.com only gave me two available listings on Anna Maria
and fosalebyowner.com gave me all of Manatee County, even though
I only asked for Anna Maria Island.
The main thing not provided by these web-sites is access to the
multiple listing service, the mainstay of the real estate industry.
Until the discounters can crack into the closely held listings of
traditional real estate brokers, they dont, in my opinion,
have a competitive product.
That being said, nothing is forever, and according to TIME magazine,
the Department of Justice is reviewing new rules that have been
proposed by the National Association of Realtors restricting access
to the multiple listing services. The government is concerned that
restricting access is an antitrust issue the National Association
of Realtors counters that argument by maintaining listings really
belong to home sellers not to real estate agents. And dont
forget real estate commissions are and always have been negotiable,
like any other commodity. You get what you pay for.
It does appear that the real estate industry is in a transitional
process, but until the transition is done, the best way to see everything
available for sale is still through a conventional real estate broker.
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