Local Realtors vs. Home Search Sites
Why The Big Real Estate Search Engines You’re Used To Won’t Help You Find Your Forever Home in Ohio
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It’s no secret that we do things very differently today than we did 20 years ago. The internet era has changed the way we buy groceries, connect with our friends, and even the way we look for homes. A quick online search for buying or selling homes in Ohio will bring up thousands of results, many of them from national or international real estate listing aggregators. There are certainly benefits to using services from this type of big corporation, but is it truly a replacement for local brokerages?
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about national real estate search engines and local favorites (like HER, REALTORS® ):
- Trends and troubles in real estate today
- Pros and cons of using listing aggregators
- Local alternatives that can help you find your forever home
- Tips for having a successful home buying or selling experience
Everything You Need to Know About What’s Going in Real Estate Today
Real estate has always been a complex game, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Whether you’re preparing for your first foray into home-buying, you haven’t bought or sold a home in a while, or you’re simply interested in staying informed, it’s important to keep track of the trends and issues that impact the housing market in Ohio and all over the country. Don’t worry- we already did the legwork. Here’s a quick summary of the real estate trends and issues you should know about:
- “Gen Z” Effect
- Housing shortage
- Multi-family homes
- Senior housing
- Emerging housing tech
Millennials Prefer Open, Instagrammable Spaces
With all of the talk about how millennials are affecting the markets-- every market from real estate to diamonds to motorcycles-- it can be easy to forget that many of them are, at this point, pretty well-established adults. Attention is slowly turning to Generation Z, the group of individuals born in the mid-to-late-1990s and beyond. The oldest Gen Z-ers are just reaching their mid-twenties, which means many of them are starting to think about home-buying and consequently their preferences are starting to sneak into the market.
People in the Millenial and Z Generations were raised on the internet, which means the way they approach living and working is very different than the way previous generations approached those same issues. They are more likely to prefer open, collaborative spaces, and we’re seeing an increase of open-concept spaces as a result. Millenials and Gen Z-ers also have a thing for beautiful spaces-- ones with creative or quirky design touches that make them perfectly postable for social media.
More New Homebuyers = Big Time Housing Shortages
Speaking of Millennials and Generation Z, did you have any idea just how many people they’re bringing to the real estate party? Between the two cohorts, experts are expecting more than 150 million new home-buyers hitting the markets in the coming decade.
This dramatic increase combined with the fact that older generations (like the Baby Boomers) are living longer and staying in their homes longer means that younger generations face an unprecedented housing shortage. This has led to some creative problem solving on the part of Millenials and Gen Z-- but we’ll talk about some of the affordable tech that’s trending in real estate in its own section.
Another way this has affected the real estate game is that it is making access to complete, reliable information about home listings absolutely essential to anyone in the buying or selling game.
Multi-family Homes are An Affordable Way to Buy Property
Difficulty finding single-family homes has led many members of younger generations to prefer multi-family homes and homes in secondary markets like Columbus, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, and Fort Lauderdale. These decisions allow first time buyers to get their feet wet in real estate, so to speak, without taking on the full risk or financial burden of investing in a single-family property.
An Aging Population Means Increased Need for Senior Housing
As we mentioned earlier, people are living longer and staying in their homes longer than they have ever before. However, that unfortunately doesn’t mean that they can stay in their homes forever. The demand for affordable and high-quality senior care facilities and senior housing tops the list of all residential segments. Why is that? Experts suggest that we can expect 25 million more individuals to fall into this category of need within the next 15 years, and present inventory does not even come close to meeting this need.
3D Printing, Prefab Houses, and Tiny Homes, Oh My!
Millenials and Gen Z are both criticized and applauded for their use of technology-- it only makes sense that the smartphone generations would turn to tech to find solutions in the face of a housing shortage. In the last decade, we’ve seen increasing interest in creative technologies and living solutions such as:
- Use of 3D printing to produce components of homes at a more affordable price point
- Prefab houses that can be purchased-- as can everything else-- online
- Tiny, eco-friendly homes that offer a mobile, apartment-sized solution to the question of home ownership
Consider Local Real Estate Experts like HER, REALTORS® for Your Ohio Real Estate Needs
There are some pretty big problems with using listing aggregator sites for your home buying and selling needs, but what’s your alternative? If you need fast, reliable information, local brokerages are the way to go.
Pros of Local Real Estate Brokerages
Local real estate agencies and local realtors can offer a wide variety of advantages that real estate search engines simply can’t match. Choosing to search or list with a local real estate agency offers several advantages, including:
- A personalized, human touch
- Knowledgeable agents who can help meet your needs and offer expertise of local communities
- You aren’t giving your information to large companies to sell as they please
Real Estate is Local, Not a Machine
When you search for a home using online real estate search engines, you are relying on an algorithm to make a very human decision for you. The search box in your browser is simply using math to make guesses and match keywords. Is that really how you want to find the house or apartment you’ll call your home? Local real estate agencies offer a much more human touch from start to finish.
When you enter your contact information on a real estate search engine site, your information is sent to several agents until someone picks up your ticket. When you enter your information on a local brokerage site, you are immediately matched to an agent who is an expert in the area where you’d like to buy or sell your home.
The human component of real estate is essential to making a match that doesn’t just work on paper but works in real life, too.
Real People On the Ground and In the Know
Local realtors quickly become experts on the areas they service. They don’t just have data about the area-- they truly know the area because it’s where they live and work. Local realtors are also aware of properties that are coming to the market soon, which is a huge asset to you in your home search.
Similar to the way finding out about a property a few days late because massive real estate search engines are slow to update can cause you to lose out on a great deal, finding out about a property as soon as it’s listed or even a few days in advance from your local agent can give you an edge and help you land the home of your dreams.
Keeps Your Information Safe
If you’ve been paying any attention at all to the news recently, you’ve likely been following the unfolding saga of consumer concerns and criticism of Facebook’s information usage. Unfortunately, social media sites aren’t the only companies who are less than responsible with your information. Choosing a local brokerage helps you keep your information secure by:
- Taking down your information once your home is sold rather than leaving it up for everyone to see
- Refusing to auction your information to the highest bidder
- Respecting your privacy in a way that larger corporations may not
Case Study: HER, REALTORS® in Ohio
The country’s largest full-service agent-owned real estate agency HER, REALTORS® exemplifies virtually all of the reasons why local brokerages have an edge over real estate search engines. HER, REALTORS® was founded more than half a century ago on the dream that people who live and work (or want to live and work!) in the communities they grew up in should be able to find homes that fit their needs and budgets.
From its humble beginnings, HER, REALTORS® has grown to include over 83 locations across the state of Ohio and has 1,250 associates. The agency believes that good real estate transactions begin with strong relationships, and they strive to foster a connection with every customer who walks through their doors by delivering personal attention and responsive service. Their dedication has earned them the Columbus CEO Best in Business awards in Commercial and Residential Real Estate 10 years in a row.
HER, REALTORS® and other local brokerages are unique because they offer a search experience that is as broad as it is in-depth. In addition to connecting home-buyers to agents who are experts in the brokerages they serve, the HER, REALTORS® website covers every MLS IDX feed in Ohio. What does that mean for you? When you search for a home on a local brokerage site like the HER, REALTORS® website, you can rest assured you're getting accurate information about every property available in the state of Ohio.
Here are just a few examples of how local brokerages like HER, REALTORS® provide excellent service to home buyers and sellers:
- 100% coverage in key markets
- More data than competitors
- All MLS IDX feeds in Ohio in one place
- Access to the most up-to-date information about local HER listings
- No misleading “pending” sales on their website
- Removes homes that have sold from their online listings
- Offers a variety of properties to fit all budgets-- commercial and residential
- Provides high quality access to market with their user-friendly HER, REALTORS® app
Cons of Local Real Estate Brokerages
While local real estate agencies offer plenty of advantages, there are also some concerns you should take into consideration when finding the right agency to meet your real estate needs. For example, when you’re working with local brokerages, it’s important to consider:
- Scope of your home search
- Your brokerage’s access to data on larger trends
Scope Limited to Relatively Local Listings
Some local real estate agencies are extremely local. If you already know precisely the neighborhood you want to live in, this can be an asset, but as a general rule it’s helpful to find a local brokerage with several locations to ensure you don’t narrow the scope of your home search too drastically.
Less Access to Macroeconomic Trends
Depending on its size and service area, some local brokerages may have more or less access to information about larger real estate trends. Keeping tabs on national real estate trends is essential to making informed home buying and selling decisions, so be sure to select a brokerage that can make data-based recommendations for your home search.
When It Comes to Real Estate, Bigger Companies Aren’t Necessarily Better
When you need to gather information in the internet age-- information about real estate listings in your area included-- you probably start with a quick online search. Whether you start looking on your laptop or the tiny computer in your pocket, you’ll be sure to notice that many of the top results for any real estate search are from online real estate listing aggregator sites.
But despite their high search engine ranking, are real estate sites like this really the best way to find your next home? Check out our list of pros and cons and decide for yourself.
Pros of Real Estate Search Engine Sites
It’s hard to deny that real estate search engine sites are popular. Real estate search engines like these receive millions of visits every day, which clearly indicates their popularity amongst buyers, sellers, and browsers. Why do people use these sites? For 3 simple reasons-- they offer:
- Access to a lot of information in a very short amount of time
- Technically reliable websites
- Plenty of support from brokers, agents, and IT
Lots of information
Whereas many local real estate agencies tend to focus on a smaller, more contained service area, listing aggregator sites make it easy to search housing markets across the country. This can be very helpful, especially towards the beginning of the home search or if you have the flexibility to consider areas around the country that you may not know intimately enough to have a local real estate agency in mind.
Sometimes big companies are more reliable
Real estate search engines are powered by big companies, and their sites receive a lot of traffic. That means they have the resources (and the motivation) to keep their sites running smoothly. Overall, this can result in increased consumer trust, which is a big factor in any kind of online business.
Lots of people on hand to offer support
Take a few minutes to browse a listing agg, and you’ll stumble across plenty of opportunities to reach out for support without necessarily having to look for them. Between customer service chats, buttons that lead to realtor directories, and contact us buttons, opportunities to talk to a real person are abundant. Much the way the size of these real estate companies allows them to provide technically reliable sites, their size also gives them the resources to offer more continuous support to consumers than a smaller agency might be able to.
Cons of Real Estate Search Engine Sites
So, does that mean that massive online real estate companies should be the beginning and end of your home-buying success? Maybe not. While there are some advantages to using real estate search engine sites, there are many problems hidden just below the surface. Before you make any final decisions about who you would like to buy or sell your next Ohio home with, be sure to consider that:
- Big sites have lots of listings, but not all of them
- They can have wrong or misleading information
- Companies like these have a negative impact on realtors
Listing Aggregator Sites Don’t Have All Brokerages
When it comes to searching online, many people mistakenly assume that because their search on a listing aggregator site returns lots of results, they have received all of the information. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t true. Their results are often inflated to make it seem as though they have more listings than they truly do, and even worse, their data can be days or even weeks behind local real estate listings. Obviously, that is a major downside when housing shortages make access to fast, reliable information essential.
Real estate is a fast-paced market, and if you don’t have the most up-to-date information you certainly aren’t going to win the game. The more time a home is on the market before you even see it, the more likely it is that other investors have submitted competitive bids. In order to keep yourself from missing out on great deals, you need information much faster than big companies can provide it.
Real Estate Search Engine Companies Have Incorrect Information
Okay, so even if big real estate search engines are missing some information, they’re still good for getting a broad sense of what your local market is like, right? Well, not necessarily. The information that these sites do have online may not be accurate enough to be truly helpful in your search.
Recent studies have revealed that large real estate search engines are extremely inaccurate-- in fact, one study showed that a whopping 36% of active listings on these sites were no longer truly available for sale. When local brokerages-- like HER, REALTORS®-- were similarly put to the test, they returned almost 0% inaccuracy.
If you’re going to spend the time scrolling through search results, would you rather waste your time one a site where more than ⅓ of the listings aren’t actually available? Up the efficiency of your house hunting and stick with local agencies.
Big Real Estate Search Engine Companies Aren’t Good for the Realtors Themselves
Long before listing aggregator companies came along, real estate agents and brokers have been building their reputations based on experience, integrity, and service. Unfortunately, pressure placed on smaller brokerages by these giant companies threatens that legacy.
According to some real estate agents, big real estate search engines “make a mockery” of the real estate profession. They may try to force local realtors into expensive advertising contracts and misrepresent listing information on their sites. For example, if a realtor decides to pay the astronomical fees to get the leads to place one of their listings on a listing aggregator site, that site may promote their own agents-- not the agent who is actually listing the property-- alongside the listing to mislead buyers and improve their own bottom line.
This sort of behavior generates fear and greed, and it creates a toxic marketplace for buyers, sellers, and real estate professionals alike.
Summary of the Reasons Why Large Real Estate Search Engines Just Aren’t Worth It
We’ve covered a lot of information in this section, so here’s a quick recap of the points you should take away from this. Listing aggregators may not be the best choice to support your home buying or selling because:
- They don’t have all of the properties available on the market
- Up to ⅓ of the houses that do appear on their site have already been sold
- Searching through their listings is an inefficient way to gather market information
- Their practices create a toxic environment for agents who have spent decades building a reputation of integrity and excellence
Quick Tips for a Successful Real Estate Experience
When you decide to take on buying or selling a home, there are plenty of things you can do to ensure that your real estate experience goes as smoothly as possible. Here’s a quick checklist of how home buyers and sellers in Ohio can set themselves up for success.
- Get in touch with an agent ASAP
- Do some research ahead of time to get an idea of what neighborhoods interest you
- Find agents who are experts in the neighborhoods you think you may want
- Spend some time thinking about your needs to truly understand what you want
- Look online at listing aggregator sites out of curiosity or to identify home features you like or dislike
- Text, email, call-- keep lines of communication open with your agent!
- Contact a local agent-- don’t rely on listing aggregator sites when pricing your property
- Clean up your home to make it seem more spacious
- Remove personal items like family pictures, trophies, etc. so that potential buyers can see themselves in the space
- Consider hiring a staging company to help you find the right way to present your property
- Always be ready show your house
The internet age may have changed the way we gather information, but some things are the same way they’ve always been. If you want to get a great deal on a great home, local real estate agencies have the expertise to help you do just that. Do you have experience buying or selling your home with a local brokerage? We’d love to hear your story in the comments section below!