I am no longer considered "human"
My carefully curated wish list of wants and needs for finding perfect home for my family have been reduced to nothing more than a SEARCH QUERY sent to a website. This website then spits back whatever home it thinks applies to me.
When I search for a house on all these online home search sites, does anyone really know or care what kind of home I’m looking for?? Or, are they more concerned with showing me ads and up-sells.
Ughhhh…..for the last time: I don’t want to pre-qualify for a mortgage!!!”
Does anyone know that my mind cannot process looking at fifty houses that are all “Mediterranean” but look nothing like the one I want? I thought real estate was a people business?? What happened?!.
What is good for big corporations isn’t always good for you
The other day I was shopping in the market. It was early on New Year’s Eve so the store was pretty frantic. The computer systems which handle the payments were running slow from the heavier-than-normal load.
Now I usually pay for my food by simply swiping my credit card, getting my receipt and I’m on my way. But that day, there was no swiping allowed. You see, my credit card now has this fancy computer chip inside so I must now insert the card into the cashiers payment device.
Why am I telling you this? Because my normal swiping takes about 15 secs to process - even in heavy traffic - but now this “insert” nonsense takes about triple the amount of time and on New Year’s Eve it took well over 5 minutes.
So why can’t I swipe anymore?? Because the corporations I buy from can retrieve and store much more information about me and my spending habits through the chip in my card. Good for the corporations, not so good for me and my schedule.
Buying a home is one of the biggest purchases in your life, so why can’t I talk to a human being during the online search process?
Here are 5 things, online home search sites do to irritate me
#1 - Computer generated results are way too vague.
Using just keywords to find my dream home just isn’t a good enough system. i.e, how many homes can be described as “traditional” or “contemporary”??!
If I have a question about the specifics of the neighborhood, do I have to contact the realtor on each property I receive?? Do I have time to make 50 phone calls to realtors a day?? NOPE.
Why can’t I just tell someone in the beginning all the specifics, IN PLAIN ENGLISH and have them do the searching for me?
What about a service which I could send in a few pictures of particular homes I like and they would match the style and send me back similar ones for sale?
What if I could work with dozens of realtors in my area, yet only explain what I am looking for once? That would be pretty sweet.
#2 - It seems like I am always competing with other buyers for the realtor’s attention, callbacks, etc.
So what happens when you are interested in a home and contact the corresponding real estate agent. Am I already fighting a sea of buyers interested in the property? Will the realtor call me back?
Answers are “Yes” and “Maybe”. Many homebuyers are unaware of the difference between the listing agent on a property and a buyer’s agent.
If you call the listing agent on the property, the first question they will ask is: “Are you currently working with an agent?” - translation: do I have to split my commission with someone else?
Now, if you call about a certain property and get a buyer’s agent, they will be more than happy to speak to you - however, this buyer’s agent now has to get through to the listing agent (the listing agent, remember, is the one who wants to bring their OWN buyer to property to secure 100% of the commission), so you are at a disadvantage.
If you are lucky enough to get through to the listing agent (many of them are extremely busy managing other sellers with their other listings in the neighborhood) AND you have beaten the other buyers to the punch, then you have a good chance of moving forward.
Ok Ok OK, so…..if this is the current system, how do we put the home buyer back in charge??
One way would be to create a new system where agents and buyers interact differently. Could this really happen in real life?.
#3 - I have feedback on the home results I’m getting, but there’s no one I can talk to about it.
Confession: I am not an ultra tech-savvy person who LOVES to interact with the internet every single second of the day to get what I want. This is the “new age” and I should adapt, right? I mean, who really needs human conversation and interaction anymore anyway.
Call me old-fashioned, but I want to speak to a human sometimes. Especially when it involves the largest purchase in one’s life; i.e., a home.
If I’m getting results for properties that aren’t a good match, can’t I just call someone and explain what I’m looking for to another human being?
#4 - Are the “Top Agents” which are shown in the search results just realtors who paid the most money to be there?
Short answer, “Yes”. The preferred agents or top agents in many online home search sites are simply local realtors who are part of the site’s paid advertising program. They pay a monthly premium to show up on search results in the area of their choosing.
SPOILER ALERT: Seeing realtor profiles next to properties which they have nothing to do with is a bit deceiving. Often, you will call them about a specific property (which features their headshot next to it) and they will have no idea what property you are referring to.
Don’t believe me? - Pick a property and call the top or preferred agent and ask them specifics about it; then listen to them fumble while they try to look up its details on their device - or steer you into another direction like “what is it you are looking for exactly”? “I have another property which would be a better fit for you” - i.e., steering you to their own listing, so they would get the full commission rather than splitting with another agent, etc.
#5 - Why am I constantly being “upsold” with ads?
Could you PLEASE stop asking me if I want to apply for a mortgage/pre-approval/etc. I mean, if I really wanted to get pre-approved, I would do so with my bank or another institution I trust.
Do people really click on these things? Ummmmmm, yeah....they do.
I guess the real question is: Have all these home search sites really researched these mortgage lenders? Or is it the same deal as whichever-lender-pays-more-gets-featured type of thing.
Yeah, yeah, I understand “that’s how the internet works dummy - you have to see ads all day”, but it’s getting a little out of control. However if I ever search for “a building erected after 1970” and I get Viagra ads; well, then I will have to say something.
Would you consider a new way of searching for a new home?
What if, let’s say, we shifted the focus away from the property and put the focus on the people actually buying the properties; i.e., the home buyers.
What if, their needs were featured and given importance FIRST, before we start clogging the internet with more sites featuring pictures of infinity pools, tennis courts, marble bath tubs/spas, etc - Which is now better known as “Real Estate Porn”.
What if someone got all the information from the home buyer first, on a phone call and took very detailed notes. Then packaged this information up and sent it out to the top real estate professionals in each market.
These professionals would then send back details on all the homes for sale which meet these criteria. That would be revolutionary.
What are your thoughts on this? How would you like to improve the whole online home search process?
I am often amazed at how many home buyers I meet and speak with who have not ever questioned the current process of finding a new home. To many, this process is simply THE ONLY WAY.