When most people think about real estate, the first thing that comes to their minds is dollar signs. And usually not just one. Several. And it’s just not the actual land or structures that cause the dollar signs to start flashing, it’s the usual 6 percent real estate commission that goes along with hiring a legitimate real estate agent. But does it have to be that way? Are there cheaper ways to buy and sell real estate that can be trusted?
Well, it really depends on how much you know about the real estate game. There are hundreds of companies out there, many of them based on the Internet, that offer discounted real estate services, but they only do part of the job. But can they save you money? Without a doubt. Most of the online real estate companies only charge a few hundred dollars for their services, while the usual six percent charged by a full service real estate broker can stretch into the thousands of dollars.
In Texas recently, major real estate companies have begun to play hardball. The Federal Trade Commission charged a local realtors board with not playing fair with their competition, so clearly, major real estate companies see these cheaper alternatives as a threat. Not to be outdone, there are similar realtor boards in other states, such as Utah, Michigan and Colorado that have done the same thing. They are expecting a review by the FTC sooner rather than later.
The big difference between the way that things have always been done (through a realtor) and the way things are done now is all about availability of information. Many online sites that offer discount house or property listings don’t assist you outright in trying to figure out what points are or try to figure how much your closing costs are going to be, but they do provide the groundwork for how to figure all that out for yourself. They have primers detailing dirty tricks the bank might pull. They have FAQs about the basics of dealing in real estate. Essentially, they have all the information that a real estate agent is going to tell you on their sites so they don’t have to charge you extra.
The ongoing battle between online and “legitimate” full-service realtors is something that is going to be around for a long time. As long as there are self-motivated people who believe that they can do it themselves, online realtors will continue to thrive. The big question to ask yourself is how much do you know about the real estate business and how much responsibility are you willing to take on.