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Don’t try to go it alone — apps don’t replace Realtor

August 12, 2018

With so much information at the fingertips of home buyers today, some might wonder whether it is even necessary to engage the services of a Realtor. The short answer is absolutely yes!

Sure, there’s an app for pretty much everything these days, but when it comes to buying a home in Houston, the value that a Realtor brings to the equation goes far beyond what can be found in an app.

When that home buyer is also new to Houston, having the assistance of a Realtor who truly knows the local market can be an invaluable asset. So, although it might be very tempting for home buyers to try and sort through the real estate process and transaction on their own, doing so is ill-advised.

Paul Silverman, a Realtor with Martha Turner Sotheby’s International Realty, said that one of the first things that he does with his relocation clients is to thoroughly explain the home-buying process to them.

“Depending on the market, there can be a lot of differences between the roles of Realtors, and between contracts and the offer process, so the first thing I do is to try and erase all of their preconceived notions about the way the market works here,” said Silverman.

When it comes to apps and information, he added that many people come to Houston and do their research on Zillow, because that might be what they were accustomed to in their previous market. So, he introduces them to the HAR.com app, which he said provides the most accurate data for the Houston market.

“When people look on Zillow and some of the other apps, a lot of times the information is outdated and incorrect,” said Silverman. “So, that’s why I start by getting them acclimated to our market in terms of the process and the technology tools that are available.”

He added that there are other aspects to the home-buying process that his relocation clients might not be accustomed to, that he clarifies for them. For example, there are certain types of inspections, like radon and basement inspections, that might be important in other parts of the country, but are not typically performed in Houston.

Commute times are another topic that can be difficult for newcomers to grasp. Given the ever-changing landscape of road construction projects, Silverman said that drive times can change dramatically overnight. So, a local Realtor often has knowledge about future projects that could impact commute times.

“Technology and apps have a huge advantage, because they really help people narrow the results on home searches and areas, but the true success is in the marriage of that information with local knowledge on the ground,” Silverman said.

Barbara Krostag Moody, a Realtor with Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene, said that the human element that the Realtor brings to the process is something that cannot be replicated in an app.

“A seasoned agent who knows how to build rapport with clients and create that kind of personal touch is something that clients love and it’s what they are looking for,” Moody said. “They want an agent who will go the extra mile, and makes them feel less scared, especially if they’re first-time home buyers. It’s really important that they feel like they can trust you with this huge investment that they’re making.”

Whether working with buyers or sellers, Moody said that she sees herself as a one-stop shop for her relocation clients. That means that along with having the local market knowledge to help them navigate through the real estate process, that she also makes recommendations of other real estate related service providers, such as mortgage lenders, home inspectors and insurance agents.

“There is no app that can ever take the place of the Realtor’s expertise. The Realtor knows everything that is going on, and if they don’t, they can tell you who does,” said Moody.

For people who end up buying a home without a Realtor, Moody said that they often don’t realize until it comes time to sell the property that certain challenges might exist that could hinder the sale.

“A couple of years later when people might be transferring out, oftentimes they find that they’ve either overpaid significantly for the home, or that they bought a home that is close to an airport, or that is up against a highway, or a highway was constructed after they bought the home,” Moody said. “The homes that I find are the most difficult to sell are the ones where the owners purchased the home without an agent, because they just didn’t know what was going on in the neighborhood.”

Michelle Sandlin is an award-winning writer, journalist and global mobility industry expert. Follow her on Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheMichelleSandlin and on Twitter: @MichelleSandlin. Also visit “On the Move” at blog.chron.com/onthemove.

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