Once upon a time, the best agent was the one who had access to the most information. Gathering data in the dog-eat-dog world of real estate was like herding cats. Information that is taken for granted today did exist in the world we used to live in, but back then it drifted aimlessly in the wind like an autumn leaf in the park.
Buyers waited for the Sunday Times to see new listings. Hero realtors walked around town with rolls of quarters, ready to jump into a phone booth the moment they had a lead on a new property. Mortgage brokers mailed good faith estimates to clients with numbers that were stale before they even arrived.
Fast-forward to 2019.
Gathering information is a problem of the past. Technology solved that riddle. Everyone has access to everything. In less than a minute, using only a cell phone, anyone, anywhere, can conjure up a list of every NYC apartment trading in any price range, and they can choose from dozens of apps and websites to see them.
But make no mistake, technology has not killed the real estate agent. In fact, their job is more important than ever. The free-flow of information only changed a realtor’s objective and changed the way we measure their effectiveness. It’s no longer about who can access information, it’s about what to do with the information once you have it – and some agents are better at interpreting data than others.
Some agents are so adept at interpreting data, they incorporate it into every aspect of their job, and it comes through in the conversations they have with their clients. But data is manipulatable. One agent can look at a chart and easily identify a trend and another might be completely overwhelmed. The data is so rich and so specific, it offers the capability to drill-down on numbers in specific neighborhoods or even specific units in a building.
An experienced analytical agent, with the vast tools at their disposal, can quickly become a market expert and share that expertise with their client. Understanding data can provide the clarity and confidence needed to appropriately bid on a property, ultimately resulting in a sound investment.
Thorough analysis can also help to properly manage expectations. For example, we can now separate (or bundle) properties of like-kind size, ownership (condo or coop) and neighborhood to determine patterns. How long is your block or area taking to sell? How far from the last asking price are properties closing at in Chelsea or Lennox Hill? What inventory is more available in Noho, condos or coops. We can now cross section the data and dive so deeply that the possibilities are endless.
It’s important to point out that some information exists that technology hasn’t quite figured out how to corral. For example, It’s widely known that automated valuation models (AVMs) used to estimate property values often supply inaccurate results because they tend to leave out important factors like the specific condition of a property, the motivation of a particular seller, potential roadblocks with a building’s finances or its board, or if a comparable unit was sold through bankruptcy or foreclosure.
Beyond the numbers
Technology is moving fast. Maybe a little too fast. But who wants to imagine a world in which you buy a property without any human interaction at all; A world in which all of your advice comes from a robot; With no conversations, just numbers and letters on a screen; Where no connections are made, and no long-term relationships are formed.
There’s still something very comforting and very human about having a conversation and getting advice from a person you know, and you trust.
Marie & Jeff