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By Stefan Swanepoel

RISMEDIA, July 13, 2007–Most of us feel that we definitely are, but many times, especially when watching the TV program with the same title, I am shocked at the participants’ and my own apparent lack of knowledge or inability to remember the smallest of facts.

So dear Realtor®, may I pose the question to you, “Are you smarter than your home buying consumers?”

Looking back in time, we were. However, many agents today might not be.  Previously the controlled access to MLS information placed Realtors in a unique position of controlling knowledge – and knowledge is power. But times … they are a changing.

Today there are literally hundreds of data aggregation Web sites, tens of thousands of broker and agent Web sites that have IDX and countless service provider Web sites that offer up an astonishing array of information: from what’s for sale, to “what the price could be,” to what the real appraised value is. You can even take a look at what’s next door and find multiple ways of viewing it from a satellite afar, to the streets below, integrated with maps, valuation information, school locations and a virtual tour down the road.

Buying a house has never been this easy – or this complicated.

Consumers, hungry for a bargain and a good price, are expanding their desires and thirst for information and at the same time many of them are rapidly expanding their knowledge of real estate. Granted, in many cases this knowledge it is limited to their area of interest, which in turn can be limited by the quality of the information they find. The old saying can still hold true – garbage in, garbage out.

That said, in today’s real estate environment, access to listing information is merely a commodity that is displayed on numerous Web sites, nestled in pages of home-related information.  The only difference is the manner in which it is used to fish for the customer.  The “poles” may differ and the “bait” used may not be the same but the goal is the same – “hook-the-customer.”  Since data has become a readily available, public commodity, the need for a Realtor to provide that information is decreasing in importance.

No longer can the real estate agent participate in meaningful discussion with the consumer if he or she is merely “on par” with the consumer. Today you have to be way ahead of the game.  You have to know more about the property and the community as well as the related demographic, financial and economic information that may influence the buyer. They are going to find it difficult to deal with the growing downward pressure on commissions.  Today there is a battle to justify the value-added service the Realtor brings to the table – just showing up with the information is no longer an option.

The real estate professional of today and tomorrow must have not only a solid handle on the listings and the sales statistics available, but also understand how to maximize all available resources. Real estate professionals need to cement their role in the transaction by focusing on the information that is not already aggregated or help interpret the information the consumer already has – neighborhood information, home-owner association regulations, future developments, etc.

Providing significant information and insight to a transaction, as consumers are expecting a true real estate professional to do, requires the current population of real estate agents to have shift in their approach to knowledge, learning and education. Failing to do so may place one in the uncomfortable position of saying, “I am NOT smarter than a 5th grader?”

PS: Please don’t let that ever happen with you.

Start by learning about the changes and top 10 trends shaping the real estate industry today by getting a copy of the 159-page 2007 Swanepoel TRENDS Report. Visit and use the promo code RIS2007 for a 10% discount and free shipping.