Will Real Estate Agents Be Made Obsolete by 2025?

by | BiggerPockets.com

Real estate agents are on their way out. How can they save themselves? Why is this so important for property investors to watch?

Once upon a time, there was no internet. Real estate brokers had exclusive access to real estate listing data. There was hardly any transparency, scale, or speed in viewing listings, checking comps, and making offers. Everything was offline—and very controlled. Things are completely different now.

In a couple of seconds, buyers can see everything on the MLS, as well as online for sale by owners. They can check comps and market trends. Sellers can even get instant offers for their homes.

Essentially, many of the reasons that real estate agents were needed or had value have vaporized. It’s not unlike many other jobs. Still, this technology shift in the real estate industry is likely to be one of the biggest and most impactful yet.

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Related: Is Becoming a Real Estate Agent a Good Path to Investing — Or a Pricey Distraction?

Disrupted by Technology

If real estate agents fail to separate themselves and find ways to deliver value, they will be disrupted and rendered useless by technology.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I like and respect agents. I even work with a lot of them. Some are very valuable; others not so much. I wish more could save themselves and their careers by seeing how urgent this is and making the change while they still can.

There are several ways the real estate industry can do this. One is the old tradition of lobbying, creating new regulations, and using legal battles to protect their turf. There is no question this is happening, and if it is not, it is a tool that should be used. Real estate groups are one of the most powerful, well-funded, and impactful in this area—though chances are, this may not last forever. Look at how Uber and Airbnb are acing those legal battles while disrupting service industries that never innovated.

tenant-management

Related: The 3 Biggest Drawbacks of Being a Real Estate Agent in This Day and Age

Offer Unique Value

The other way to beat this is to strive to offer more value and service. What can you do or offer to add value to buyers, sellers, renters, and agents? Maybe it is a better experience. Or it could be mastering new knowledge or providing more efficiency and profitability than can be achieved alone.

Right now, two of the areas where agents still add value is managing all of the old school paperwork and processes and acting as a buffer from liability. Of course, these factors are likely to be streamlined by technology as well.

This is all important to watch for real estate investors too. To sustain success, you have to be using the best and newest technology. You have to anticipate change and strive to offer incredible value beyond just being able to make offers and advertise properties. You also have to operate incredible efficiently in order to continue to compete.

How are you keeping ahead of these trends?

Let me know your thoughts with a comment!

About Author

Sterling White

Sterling White started in the real estate industry at a early age back in 2009. The company he co-founded Holdfolio is a real estate crowdfunding platform based in the Indianapolis market. Before founding Holdfolio Sterling and partner Jacob Blackett were involved in the purchasing and selling of 100+ single family homes nationwide. In his free-time he trains for a World Record

28 Comments

  1. Like this post.
    In max 5 years the realtor will like yellow cab or yesterday and stay in library. All other fields are facing huge challenge to have transparency, to have profit by provide the unique value, have creation, what about realtors!

  2. Joshua Martin

    Hey Sterling. Interesting article. You’re right about the necessity to improve and offer something that really stands out, but I also don’t totally agree with your analysis. While even today the average person can go FSBO and do it successfully (and they may discover without a ton of difficulty), I don’t think everyone will want to, and realtors will still be viewed as something with a unique value proposition just by being so plugged into local markets and knowing those markets on a very basic level much better than zillow has the ability to do. Additionally, I believe many people will see the work involved as something better left to a professional.
    Months ago when I started working as an agent I thought what the hell really is our function?! Several months later I see quite clearly that most people, homeowners, etc., don’t know a thing about real estate even though they are so involved with it.
    And what about investors? Who do they first turn to in order to learn an area or the qualities and tenant bases, etc., of particular areas? (No doubt down the road they learn to cut realtors out, as they should).
    Lastly, I can see commissions being driven even further down. 6% on high end listings I think will quickly be a thing of the past, despite all the agents that think they’re ‘worth it.’ I’ll always try for it, but I’ll also work for less. With all marketing happening online anyways, it’s hard to justify the costs of selling and marketing a home when there really aren’t that many costs…
    Good stuff.
    Best,
    JTM

    • Bob Carlson

      The real value an agent can bring these days has to be providing that hands on asssistance to buyers and sellers that they need to guide them through the transaction.

      Listing, marketing, searching, closing, etc have all become ultra simple these days. I value an agent for taking the worries off my mind as I’m dealing with dozens of other things – work, family, loan acquisition, moving, etc. The agent should be there to deal with the stager, appraiser, inspector. I think the commission scale should be flattened out to reflect this changing role.

      • Darius Hollis

        I agree that hands on assistance is a major value proposition for agents, but listing and marketing are not as simple a task as they appear. From an uninformed perspective it would appear that owners looking to sell can just throw their home up on Zillow and wait for the offers to roll in, but 90% of FSBO listings fail and, after months of wasting time and losing value, the owners lists with an agent and “magically” sells; alternatively the owner can end up selling for 80% of the amount of money they could have gotten listing with an agent that can accurately price the property and negotiate well. It is true that anyone can “list” a home, but that doesn’t mean they can maximize their return.

  3. Darius Hollis

    Great content Sterling! You present a very interesting analysis, but I think often times people forget that agents bring much more value than access to an MLS. After an investor finds a deal, or a homebuyer sees their dream house, they have to actually put together a strong offer that will protect their interests and prevent them from being exploited. Many times people put together flimsy contracts that end up disastrous if the transaction doesn’t go perfectly. There is also the transaction coordination process that takes place after an offer is accepted. Without clearly defined processes to guide the transaction to closing; buyers, sellers and investors can run into headaches when they realize they do not have the time, resources or desire to manage the transaction. A good agent also has local market expertise, experience and knowledge beyond the average investor because they have their finger on the pulse of the market 24/7.

    Overall, an agent brings more value to the table than access to an MLS and if agent’s understand how to portray that to buyers, investors and sellers that may not see their underlying value, then they will never become obsolete because no technology can deliver all of the multidisciplinary expertise that a great agent can in one package. Good agents are well versed in economics, marketing, management, accounting and law. I doubt that anyone can create one platform that can affordably deliver all of these skills and tailor the application of those skills to the immediate and long term needs of their client. The reason more and more agents are failing and creating the false impression of obsolescence is because they do not understand their own value or how to communicate it effectively. Just like in any industry, the agents that can not sell themselves will fail and the agents that are aware of their value to the marketplace, and can convey that well, will succeed. It isn’t so much as creating unique value or using fancy tech that will lead a Realtor to success, that helps sure, but rather the true necessity for a great agent is an understanding of their purpose, the consumer’s psychology and how to bypass consumer biases that prevent them from seeing the value that has always existed. A lot of subpar sales training and misinformation leads many agents to fail as the mainstream is overrun with bad advice, but that’s a discussion for another day.

    Many Thanks,

    Darius Hollis

  4. As a broker/agent, I can tell you that IF agents do exist in their current form in 2025, it will be largely due to the practices and leverage of certain national organizations.

    Brokers have largely failed to adapt their practices to meet the new reality. Commissions of 6% could perhaps be justified when listings were protected and actually were in printed monthly publications (remember that?). That has changed dramatically over the past 20 years or so due to technology, yet 6% is still the norm. Good Brokers do bring value and many have significant market knowledge, but they (we) are not lawyers or doctors either. Consumers are figuring this out and many are looking at alternative ways to buy and sell.

    Several potential scenarios I have thought through could seriously disrupt the current NAR/MLS model, and I expect they will. How the industry adapts will be interesting to see, but regardless of exactly how it plays out, I see the role of the agent being diminished and consumers gaining more control and keeping more of their money.

  5. Jennifer plowman

    Hey Sterling! I enjoyed your article, and as an agent, I have to say I have been considering a lot of the points you made. I also got into the business in ’09 right out of college, I am also a full-time teacher and my husband and I have a small investment business. I enjoy talking to older agents in my office about just how much this profession has changed over the years. I do think there is a lot of value in a GOOD agent and that it is going to become increasingly importnant for Realtors to find ways to add value to their services and not become obsolete. I often wonder about the role of the large brokerages moving into the future as well. I see a future for agents, as the self contractors that we are, in a more direct role with customers that would have the customer cost lowered. Agents are becoming increasingly burdened with the brokerage fees that seem to just keep on getting piled on. Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  6. Douglas Larson

    The more information i have at my fingertips, the more I seem to rely on agents! They look for deals, find buyers and sellers for my wholesales and retail flips. They negotiate as an unemotional 3rd party with agents, banks and principles. They even play “bad cop” at times with uncooperative tenants, buyers and sellers when needed. Agents have watered my lawn when I’m out of town and negotiated with contractors to take care of final repairs before a sale. I think agents who solve problems and have great customer service will ALWAYS be in demand!

  7. HomeHippo Real Estate Chatbot

    Real estate agents will always be around as the real estate industry is based on service. Technology will always improve the way agents can communicate and work with clients. Agents are always the best negotiators and that will not go away with technology. Using agents to sift through the massive amounts of data in the real estate industry will always give agents an advantage.

    • Agents are terrible negotiators. Half of the time they are terrible at finding out what the other side of the transaction really wants or explaining the benefit of terms in exchange for reduction in price. and if the home inspection finds a serious problem, they are terrible at negotiating a new price. Mostof the time, I find they made very little effort to negotiate.

  8. I understand Zillow and such websites exist for finding listings but from your sentence “In a couple of seconds, buyers can see everything on the MLS, as well as online for sale by owners.” it seems like you are saying the average person can get on the MLS. If so, will you elaborate how a investor could do this themselves?

    • He means you can see all the MLS listings. He does not mean you can see every detail of those listings. There is still a good deal of secret information that the agents share with each other. Very often the buyer’s agent does not tell the buyer everything they know. Transparency is still a problem. I, for one, hope that agents can be rendered obsolete. Buyer’s agents represent themselves and trheir broker, not the buyer. And honestly most of the time, they expect a big commission (median house is $800,000 in my community) for doing little more than opening the door.

  9. David Hendrix

    It is all about adding value. If you are a middle man and you provide little to no value, then you will one day be eliminated. I don’t care what industry we are talking about – real estate agent, insurance agent, financial advisor, travel agent (remember that profession?).

  10. Robert Horton

    Sterling, I got into real estate in 2003 and realized this was the most antiquated business model I had ever come across that was still in use. Residential real estate sales are controlled by the big brokers. There have always been too many agents to service a given market, and they continue to hire more agents when the supply and demand is not there. In my market, we have about 3,000 agents when we could actually get by with 500. If we only had 500 agents, I can assure you that commissions would come down. (you can only split a pie so many ways if every wants to eat) Becoming a Realtor and actively engaging in the business in a professional manner should require more than a 2 week course….too many part-time agents and wanna be agents.

    I, too, thought the business would change because of the Internet and the way properties could be marketed without the use of an agent. I was wrong. The brokers are a greedy little bunch and will not easily let go of the golden goose. Change is going to have to come from within the real estate community…..ie, the agents need to police themselves and hold rogue agents and brokers accountable and truly make it a profession.

    Sterling, I bet you a nice steak dinner at your favorite steak house that real estate agents won’t be obsolete by 2025. You in?

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