I hate the term real estate. It's cold and business-y, everything that tends to make me hide under the bed. What I write about is space: homes, cafes, places where you can do work, pet the cat, and Google your next-door-neighbor from 10 years ago. I write about places. And I like to do it from a personal perspective.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

"The real estate agent's very purpose is coming into question."

Very interesting Slate article on a C-21 attempt to boost the idea of your friendly local Realtor.

"Home-buyers have discovered they can use the Web to scout out listings on their own," it reads. "Meanwhile, sellers are demanding flat-rate deals and a la carte services in an attempt to minimize the agent's cut. People are starting to wonder: Why do I need a real estate agent at all?"

Agents want to be known as the go-to people, taking people through a process that they cannot understand as well on their own. They want to be marketed as a buyer's shrewd best friend.

But, as the Slate article points out, only one half of this might even be necessary: "Sure, it's great when an agent becomes a pal and confidante, consoles you with tender notions about 'memories,' or (as happens in the spot titled 'First-Time Buyers') hands over your new house keys, says 'Welcome home,' and gives you a big bear hug," it reads.

"But thoughtful gestures and congenial chitchat are not services worth thousands of dollars. Much better would have been a campaign that portrayed these agents as shrewd negotiators, or sharp assessors of a home's true market value. Those are the skills people might be willing to fork over that 6 percent for."

What the article misses is the friendly factor. Is a personable agent, the one who's going to bring you flowers upon a succesful close, the best one for you? Quite possibly not. But people -- and Americans in particular -- respond to the smile, the soft sell. Agents know this. I agree with Slate -- nice, schmice, get me the best deal at the best terms -- but sometimes the nice guy doesn't finish last.

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