How can real estate agents demonstrate their value in the digital age?

by Jason Porterfield

An insider’s knowledge

“There’s Zillow and Trulia and so many third-party sites out there where you can gather information,” says Tom Bezanes, a broker with Baird & Warner. “In the old days, you went to buy a car and you said go see my friend and he’ll give you a great deal on a Chevy. And you went and that relationship helped you get the best price. Now, people walk in and they know exactly how much they should pay for that Chevy because of all of that information.”

But while consumers have access to all this information, they may not understand how to use it or how to best navigate the intricacies of the homebuying process. The NAR Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends report found that buyers still need help with the search process and negotiations. Sellers need assistance with marketing, pricing and selling within a given timeframe. Making clients aware of everything that the process entails and how much effort is expended on their behalf can be challenging.

“For buyers, anybody could set up an automated search and then sit back and wait,” says Deborah Hess, Realtor with CONLON/Christie’s International Real Estate. “I think a lot of Realtors just sit back and wait as well, whether it’s with their buyers or with their sellers. For their clients, that sort of leads the process.”

Instead, Hess takes the lead in her client relationships. She worked with a couple last year who were looking for a home in the Ravenswood Manor neighborhood on the North Side. She had been working with them for about six months and they were beginning to grow frustrated with the process.

“I said ‘What can I do?’ and I started networking,” Hess says. “My tagline for my business is ‘real estate with the inside information.’ Networking with other Realtors in the neighborhood, or in this case one of my colleagues at CONLON, who, by putting the word out and letting people know exactly what I was looking for, helped find their home.”

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  • Vanessa Willey says:

    In 2003 when I started selling real estate, I was sure that I would be replaced by technology within five years. This was based on articles I had read in the Wall Street Journal and other publications about technology and real estate. The assumption was that buyers and sellers could manage the entire real estate transaction with a keystroke. Information, carefully guarded by generations of pre-computer real estate agents, would be readily available, making Realtors obsolete. Today, buyers and sellers have ready access not only to home addresses, but comparable properties and estimates of value from multiple computer generated algorithms. Yet, the real estate industry is still relevant. Why, because not only do clients have more information, the real estate industry itself is data rich in a way not possible before computers. For the first time we can track multiple variables that lead to value, as well as the easy to quantify characteristics like square footage, and the number of bedrooms and baths. This rich data is brought to you through the hard work of real estate agents, who create and maintain the information that makes up each multiple listing system.. We are no longer just the guardians of addresses wanting to be sold. Good realtors know how to successfully navigate through a sea of information, adding perspective and context, which only comes from practicing their craft and becoming an expert in the real estate industry.

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