Like any good consumer, I tried to take advantage of the post-Christmas sales, but one look at the long lines and I quickly decided that there's no sweater on earth I want badly enough to fight the crowds. Some bargains just aren't worth the savings, nor are some discounts the deal you imagined . . .
This is never more true than in the complicated world of Real Estate. While discount brokerages and their Agents are proliferating in other parts of the country, it's important to understand what these discount houses offer - and more importantly - what they don't.
They don't oversee the transformation of a home from ho-hum to spellbinding. They don't know the players, nor have relationships with other local Agents (meaning they may be missing the all-important inside track). They don't provide area-specific knowledge (too often, they're completely unfamiliar with the territory), and worst of all, they DON'T bring the same results. Gee, not such a "bargain" after all.
Instead, these companies rely on "rebates" to lure potential Buyers and Sellers to their in-house Agents, promising cash back at the close of escrow or deep discounts come time to sell. But here's the thing, if you don't have success purchasing a property in competition, 1% of nothing, is still nothing - and more to the point, you still have no house. On the flip side, if your house sells for significantly less than it should have, you didn't "save" anything; in fact, you LOST!
While I'll freely admit that IF every house offered the same identical value proposition (as most airline seats do), Realtors would be interchangeable - and so would their Brokerages - and sadly, our profession would likely have gone the way of the travel agent by now (although I personally wish travel agents would return). And IF the requirements around selling a house, and its orchestration could be easily accomplished via the Internet, I'm certain there'd be far fewer Realtors, and more online Brokerages to churn out the paperwork. AND IF buying or selling a home weren't an emotional undertaking, fraught with land mines no one saw coming, people might handle the transaction with one another directly, bypassing agency altogether, AND if our home purchases didn't typically represent our single-largest investment, Buyers and Sellers could throw caution to the wind . . . BUT that's not the case - not by a long shot!
Homes, especially here in the Bay Area, are unique value propositions, both in style and in location - and here's where things get tricky: AS our communities are not composed of cookie-cutter houses, OR neighborhoods, OR homeowners, deciding the value of each individual property is where an experienced Agent earns their keep and why it's of value to the consumer to work with someone who knows the territory, the hurdles and the players involved.
In short, the difference in commission on either the buy or sell side isn't worth the risk you'll take to save a few dollars at the close of escrow. That's just penny wise and pound foolish!
Late last year, I made a mistake in reassuring a distraught Seller who was second guessing his choice of Realtor, that as much as it pained me to say so, his outcome would likely be much the same, given the desirability of the property and its location. What I should have said (and wish I had) was that the journey would be entirely different had he worked with me EVEN if the outcome proved identical. As it turned out, the sale was complicated and even though the house ultimately went into contract, the Seller did, in fact, question both the process and the end result. (That's not the outcome you're hoping for when you sign a listing agreement.)
So with full understanding that hindsight is always 20/20, and that regrets are part of human nature (I'm still wondering if I should have bought that sweater), it's also important to remember that the all Realtors are NOT created equal and therein lies the value. Discount Brokerages can make all kinds of promises, but in the end, you're not looking for discounted services or discounted results (nor should you).
Which is to say that if you're thinking of buying or selling a home in 2019, I'd love to show you the difference I bring to the process.
How can I help you?
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 500 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.