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We have our own interestsReal estate agents have expressed concerns over third-party real estate portals, particularly in the wake of Zillow’s acquisition of Trulia. It’s understandable that some are questioning how this move will impact agents and consumers.

As an industry, however, we simply can’t turn a blind eye to the fact that many consumers are starting their home searches on these portals—and they’re doing so by the tens of millions each month. Those numbers are too big to ignore. Consumers want unfettered, user-friendly access to property listing data, and these media companies deliver it.

But what the Zillows and Trulias of the world can’t offer is the expertise and guidance an experienced real estate agent brings to the table. These platforms offer a first step in a process that has many twists and turns. Real estate agents add a human touch that no website can match, and their value to the transaction is evident in the results they deliver to their clients.

Trulia and Zillow are dedicated media companies primarily focused on delivering online data. But brokerage networks have thousands of real estate agents who have established personal relationships with buyers and sellers in their local communities.

Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff went on the record at the RE/MAX Broker Owner Conference this summer, saying Zillow’s acquisition of Trulia doesn’t include plans to enter the brokerage business. He also says there would be no referral fees charged to agents.

Everyone would benefit if the merger results in increased accuracy of listing data, more lead generation for all real estate agents, and more efficient MLS integration so that consumers who use these portals have access to the most current, up-to-date data possible.

Remember, most of your leads still come from your sphere of influence. Whether or not you advertise on one of these portals, it’s always smart to diversify your ad spending in multiple avenues, including your website, social media pages, print advertising and direct mail marketing, among others.

Real estate is no longer a one-dimensional industry. Consumers have unprecedented access to online information like never before, and that’s a good thing for everyone. Technology is continuing to evolve, and consumers expect us to keep up with their demand to have instant access to information.

It’s natural to be uneasy about this shift, but the industry may be better served by viewing the online portals as business partners who are helping to provide consumers with more accessibility to and greater visibility for real estate listings. Your value will never be obsolete in the purchase or sale of a home, and no search portal in the world can replace the professional guidance and market knowledge you’ve acquired over the course of your career.

So keep doing what you’re doing. Stay sharp. After all, the best advertising you have is the kind that money can’t buy: repeat business and referrals from past clients after a job well done.

Margaret Kelly (CRB) is chief executive officer of RE/MAX, LLC. For more information, visit www.remax.com.

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