This year, one of the main topics of conversation has been about iBuyers and whether or not the trend is another step on the path toward real estate agents becoming obsolete.
As we look ahead to 2020, iBuying is going to become even more prevalent, but since the trend only makes up a small segment of the market, I don’t see it as a strong threat to agents. However, I’m starting to see several examples of the ripple effect that could positively impact our industry in ways this buying model never intended.
Even though iBuyers only impact a handful of transactions in any given market, the concept has already helped shift the expectations for moving more of the home-buying and -selling process into a digital-based arena. Most consumers are comfortable with searching for a home online, but when it comes to some of the paperwork and negotiations involved, there’s still some hesitation with having all of that take place online. Of course, I find this more with older clients who have less of a comfort factor with technology. But as friends in their social circle take the iBuyer route, those friends will continue to share their experience, and that’s what will allay any fears about what it’s like to have most of the buying or selling happen virtually. The best salesperson is a trusted friend, and successful iBuyer clients could be just what we need to work with retirees and downsizers who have been reluctant to embrace the online marketplace.
This also indirectly relates to first-time buyers. Since many of the first-time buyers I work with receive financial assistance from their parents, there can be challenges when it comes to getting the parents onboard with some parts of the transaction that have become routinely digitized for those of us who work in the business, but not for someone who hasn’t bought a house in decades. I’ve already seen a shift in my interactions with parents of my clients who are suddenly much more comfortable with different pieces taking place online simply because friends of theirs have successfully gone through an iBuyer transaction. It has freed up more of my time so that I don’t have to reassure them that this is normal—that this is how we do things every day.
But most of all, the iBuyer trend has brought real estate closer to the center of the national conversation. Our industry usually only stays in the headlines when things are taking a negative turn, but the more iBuyer announcements I hear in outlets beyond the trade press, the more encouraged I am that we’re establishing an awareness about our industry within the general public’s consciousness. This is the generation that follows news about apps or software developments to the same degree that prior generations would get excited about a rock star’s new album. By having a new approach become part of the industry, we keep ourselves relevant to a generation that’s hungry for technological advancements.
I should state that I’m not making a commercial for the iBuyer model. While my organization’s software can incorporate that approach, it isn’t our main focus. The market will be the greatest determinant of whether or not the model is what today’s sellers want.
However, instead of seeing it as a potential threat, it’s worth broadening our look at the trend and exploring the ways in which it will benefit our industry in the long run.