How The Internet is Changing Real Estate

By on 28 October, 2010 in Real Estate, Sandra Nickel with 1 Comment

Time was, buyer prospects decided to move and they started riding around, looking at signs and writing down addresses. This “windshield shopping” led to calls to one or more real estate agents, requesting appointments to look at properties. That agent (or agents) would then open their “top secret” MLS books and select other homes that might also be of interest to the prospect.

When I was licensed 29+ years ago, it was not at all unusual for a real estate agent (and, no, not all real estate agents and brokers are REALTORS) to show a prospective buyer fifteen, twenty, thirty  or more homes before the perfect one finally popped up. Those of us who previewed (looked at houses before showing them to prospects) were able to reduce the number of showings. After all, we’d already seen a lot of houses and eliminated all but the best.

Today’s buyer, however, does his/her/their “advance shopping,” not from the front seat of their car, but from the comfort of their home in front of their computer screen. The first contact with one or more real estate agents is made via email inquiry and may come 12-18 months before the planned move. When we real estate agents actually get to talk to buyers “live” — either in person or on the phone — it is not unusual for them to have a short list of properties they (not we) have selected.

The differences are photographs and visual tours. In the old days, we (real estate folk and buyers) had only an exterior front photo to look at. And homes-for-sale magazines often provided only frustration because by the time the magazine hit the street, some of the best houses were already sold. What’s more, most ads did not contain enough information for a buyer to know much — not even the price!

Now, the various real estate web sites contain not only addresses and prices, but allow visitors to see 25 or more photos, often including not just the house, but the surrounding neighborhood as well. And as a result, buyers disqualify many houses based strictly on how they photograph.

The message to would-be home sellers is pretty straightforward: you home not only must be very competitively priced to sell in today’s market. It must also photograph “like a million bucks!” So if you’re thinking about selling, grab your camera and shoot oodles of photos. Then download them to your computer and look at them as if you were a buyer. Is your refrigerator covered with memos, menus, lists, etc? It’s amazing how visually unappealing that is in a photo. Ditto lots of stuff on the kitchen countertops. And how about your bushes? When was the last time they were really trimmed back? Overgrown vegetation can make your lovely large home appear quite small.

Gone are the days that agents picked out houses for buyers to see. They’re doing their own picking today, and a picky bunch they have become! Next time, I’ll talk about how HGTV has changed the game.

Sandra Nickel has been listing and selling residential real estate for over 29 years, most with an intense focus on Montgomery’s Midtown neighborhoods. Sandra serves on the Mid-Alabama Coalition for the Homeless, the Cloverdale Business Coalition, Historic Southview, the Volunteer and Information Center, Landmarks Foundation and her own neighborhood Garden District Preservation Association.

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  1. Jay Croft says:

    I have friends who saw at least 100 houses here in Montgomery with an agent, plus more on their own. They were set to make an offer when word came that he will be transferred to another city.

    Oy veh!

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