The Unfortunate Downside of Automated Searches

By Michael Repka, Esq.

There’s no doubt that technology has made a significant impact on the search for homes. Nowadays, many buyers do the bulk of their searching online and, often, with little assistance from buyer’s agents. That is one of the reasons why DeLeon Realty does not take any commission when the buyer finds one of our listings on their own, without the help
of a real estate agent. In those situations, our sellers only pay a total of 3% in commission.

However, there is also a significant downside to the widespread use of technology — both by home buyers and real estate agents. Specifically, many qualified home buyers never see properties that might be perfect for them because these properties fall slightly outside of the buyer’s inputted search criteria.

The majority of buyers use the internet significantly in their search for a home. They often log on to websites and enter the criteria for a home they desire. For example, someone looking for a 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath home in Midtown Palo Alto may enter that into an automated search engine, which would then send them updates whenever such a home comes on
the market.

Unfortunately, the tools available to real estate agents are very similar. When a real estate agent meets a potential client, they offer to set them up for automated “drip campaigns” in order to announce homes that fit into their criteria. Because technology is so helpful, many real estate agents have significantly reduced their marketing efforts. Listing agents often forgo the expense of newspaper ads, radio ads, TV commercials, direct mail, and professional produced brochures, arguing that mere reliance upon automated searches is sufficient.

I often take over listings that other agents cannot sell. One of the common reasons that leads to our success when others have failed is that we market our listings very broadly and aggressively, which drives more traffic to the website we establish for each particular property.

That way, someone looking for a home in Midtown Palo Alto may gain exposure to some great alternatives in Menlo Park or Los Altos. Once a potential buyer sees the property from
one of our TV commercials or a full-page ad in an out-of town newspaper, they are directed to our website where they can watch a comprehensive video, which also includes information about the neighborhood and town.

This expansion of the buyer pool is, perhaps, the number one reason why we achieve such outstanding results for our sellers and why our price per square foot is higher than other
top brokerages (per MLS for 2018 in Santa Clara County).

Make no mistake, having a home listed on the Multiple Listing Service, as well as syndicated websites such as Zillow, Redfin, and is very important. However, all homes that are listed on the MLS are automatically syndicated out to all of these other websites.

Therefore, the real distinguishing factor, is the quality of the online marketing once a potential buyer finds the website, and the agents’ ability to bring in potential buyers that would not otherwise see the property.

In other words, new technology gives us important tools to market real estate. However, over-reliance on these tools is almost as bad as under-reliance. Selling real estate truly
requires a balanced approach.