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Published 27 June 2012 06:12, Updated 28 June 2012 04:16
Virtual estate agents ... Consumers can buy and sell their homes online at a fraction of the cost of using a traditional agent. Photo: Rob Homer
Sweeping changes in the real estate sector have empowered sellers, buyers and landlords like never before.
Consumers can buy and sell their homes online at a fraction of the cost of using a traditional agent by utilising websites like PropertyNow and BuyMyPlace, which act like a virtual real estate agent.
Landlords, too, are being offered alternatives. New websites cut out the agent as the middleman and instead allow landlords to manage their property. The entire process – from the lease application to rental payments and maintenance issues – is done online and for a much lower fee.
“The veil of secrecy has been lifted. It’s not hard to sell a house, it’s ridiculously easy,” says the owner and director of Property Now, Andrew Blachut.
Buyer’s advocate David Morrell says the internet will become “more and more the medium through which people buy and sell”, and that “you don’t necessarily need the agent in the middle”.
Real estate agents are losing their appeal because the information over which they once had a monopoly is now widely available. Investors can do their own research and get a reasonably accurate home valuation from a variety of sources. Some of it’s freely available on the web, including suburb and street profiles and median house prices, and various sources offer home valuations at a small cost.
Marketing your home isn’t really that hard. Hundreds of thousands of properties are listed for sale or lease through portals www.realestate.com.au and domain.com.au, and some consumers are turning to Twitter and Facebook.
In February, social media expert Kurt Opray used a blog and Twitter and Facebook to market his Northcote home in Melbourne. He sold it for $1.05 million – $135,000 above its reserve price of $920,000 – because he was able to give the buyer something the agent couldn’t: a vivid account of what it’s like to live in the property and neighbourhood. Although he used an agent to give him leads, he says also doing his own marketing helped boost the sale price.
“Who better to sell my house than me?” Opray says. “I was able to sell the emotional attachment to the house; the agents don’t have one.”