Information access has transformed the property market

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The explosion of access to online information has transformed the property market and the role of the real estate agent.

When I began in the business a couple of decades ago, agents tended to be the main sources of information.

That’s no longer the case and hasn’t been for a few years, but the pace of digital change is really making itself felt now.

Potential buyers find it’s now much easier to compare and assess properties. They may passively view a property in the paper or online, but that will be just the start of a much more rigorous research process.

Photos, and increasingly video walkthroughs, are undoubtedly a key part of the initial assessment process.

That’s why there is much more emphasis by sellers on home staging and professional photography these days.

Buyers are out in the car on the weekend with their laptop of earmarked possibilities and agents won’t get them to call in to an open home unless it’s already on their shortlist.

What has changed – especially in the past couple of years – is the degree of information that potential buyers now bring to a potential transaction. And that affects how an agent approaches reaching an agreement between buyer and seller. For us, the key takeaway is to be very well prepared.

When I began in real estate (in what might as well have been the 15th century in comparison with today’s access to information), both buyers – and in many case – sellers found it difficult to keep up with the play.

That is no longer so. We find buyers ask much more specific and informed questions about a property. They can go online and look at all the sales around the area before they even check out a potential purchase.

But despite the dramatic increase of often algorithm-driven data, those of us who are constantly out in the market on both sides of transactions are generally better informed on a more up-to-the-minute basis.

The difference agents bring is that we have real-time information, as opposed to stats that may have been updated over a process of four to six weeks.

Potential buyers sometimes take the information they can access online as gospel, when it often isn’t. No amount of data or attractively staged and shot photos prepares them for their personal response to a property.

The same space, number of rooms and outdoor area and estimated value, invariably translates into very different personal living experiences.

My experience – especially in the wake of the weather-tightness issues – is that it’s our responsibility as agents to identify any potential issues at the front end of the process, not at the 11th hour. It is sometimes the case that a seller is genuinely unaware of a potential problem.

We need to make sure there are no surprises, either for buyer or seller. We can’t be expected to pre-empt the outcome of a builder’s report. But the world has long changed from the days when there were relatively few constraints on home DIY projects. There is much more concern around consenting processes having been signed off, insurability and long-term re-salability.

We’re required to know a lot more about a property than we used to. Because of that we encourage sellers to make sure key information, such as an updated LIM report, is available for potential buyers, and we build providing that into our recommended package for house sellers.

Fortunately, these days it’s much easier to provide the information that buyers are now deeming vital for decision-making.

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