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RISMEDIA, October 5, 2009—Despite the number of websites that now offer consumers never-ending information, traditionally only available through agents, most consumers still-and should-prefer to bring in a professional if they’re serious about transacting.

Buying and selling real estate are complicated processes, and most consumers prefer to have the wisdom and guidance of a professional. The advance of information online allows consumers to better understand the process and have more meaningful and productive conversations with their agents. Consumers have an incredible hunger for knowledge, and many of the real estate sites that have launched in recent years aim to satisfy that hunger.

It’s also important to point out that consumers who use the Internet as a significant portion of their home-buying experience tend to spend less time looking at homes with their agents when they’ve been able to gather research online first-perhaps because they have a better grasp on local market conditions and a more clear idea of what they want and can afford.

A study by the California Association of Realtors reported that home buyers who used the Internet as a significant portion of their home-buying experience spent an average of two weeks with a Realtor looking at homes, compared to those who did not use the Internet, who spent an average of seven weeks looking for their home. The wealth of tools and information available online takes away a lot of the “hand holding” traditionally expected of real estate agents, which allows them to take on a higher volume of clients, and ultimately, make more money.

In addition, many online real estate sites-such as ways for real estate professionals to market themselves to their consumers, many of whom are a ripe audience for real estate agents., for example, attracts approximately 4 million users per month, 90% of whom own a home and two-thirds of whom are actively buying or selling-or plan to soon.

What’s more, Zillow allows agents to post their listings for free, complete with contact information and links to their website. Because Zillow includes information on all homes-not just those currently on the market-agents and brokers can also sign up for a unique “Virtual Sold Sign” program, which allows the broker’s logo and the agent’s contact information to become a permanent part of that home’s history. This provides free marketing exposure to the agent and brokerage long after the home has sold.

Lloyd Frink is the president of

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