Real estate agents continue to get the job done even in the softer housing market, according to buyers and sellers who work with them.
More than eight out of 10 sellers and nine out of 10 buyers would definitely or probably use the same agent again or recommend him or her to others, according to the National Association of Realtors' (NAR) 2007 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
The survey, comprised of some 10,000 responses, revealed that 79 percent of home buyers and sellers used a real estate professional, up from 77 percent over the past three years.
Forty-one percent of sellers found their agent as a result of a referral, while 23 percent used the agent in a previous home purchase. Similarly, 43 percent of buyers relied on referrals to find an agent, while 17 percent of repeat buyers used an agent from a previous transaction.
Finding an agent through a referral from a family member, friend, co-worker, other professional or trusted individual is recommended as a good way to find trustworthy help.
"Real estate is very much a face-to-face people business," said NAR's 2007 President Pat V. Combs.
The most important factors in choosing an agent for buyers are honesty, integrity, and reputation. Buyers also seek agents with a sound knowledge of the purchase process and responsiveness. For sellers, the most important factor in choosing an agent is reputation, followed by honesty and trustworthiness.
Most sellers favor full-service or one-stop brokerages, where real estate agents provide a range of services that generally entail managing the entire process of selling a home.
However, the National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents (NAEBA) recently reported that while bundled services is marketed as a convenience to housing consumers, consumers won't know if they are getting the best deal if they don't also shop around for the services they need. Shopping around and comparison shopping are the hallmarks of savvy consumerism.
The NAR survey concedes limited services, including discount brokerages and minimal services are important business models for sellers who want to take a more active role in the process, such as holding open houses, contacting potential buyers, negotiating terms or preparing contracts.
However, 81 percent of sellers use a full-service brokerage, while only 9 percent choose limited services and 9 percent use minimal service, such as simply listing a property on a multiple listing service. The findings are relatively unchanged from a year ago.
How do consumers benefit from using an agent?
Fifty-seven percent of those who responded in the survey said they helped them understand the process, 47 percent said their agent spotted unnoticed features or property faults, 40 percent reported the agent improved their knowledge of search areas, 38 percent negotiated better contract terms, 37 percent offered a better list of service providers, 35 percent shortened the search process, and 32 percent negotiated a better price.
The Internet remains a useful tool for buyers who often start their search online, and then contact a real estate agent.
The survey said, 84 percent of buyers use the Internet (up from 80 percent in 2006), 84 percent use a real estate agent, 59 percent used yard signs, 50 percent used print or newspaper ads and 48 percent attend open houses.
Less often used were a home book or magazine, home builders, television, billboards and relocation companies.
However, real estate agents are still king when it comes to finding property for buyers. Thirty-four percent of buyers said a real estate agent found their property; 29 percent the Internet; 14 percent, yard signs; 8 percent, a friend, neighbor or relative; 8 percent home builders; 3 percent a print or newspaper ad; 3 percent directly from the seller; and 1 percent a home book or magazine.
Indicating the local nature of housing, local online public multiple listing services were the most popular online browsing for housing choice, used by 54 percent of buyers, followed by Realtor.com, 49 percent; real estate company sites, 44 percent; real estate agent Web sites, 40 percent; for-sale-by-owner sites, 20 percent; and local newspaper sites, 12 percent; other categories were smaller.
On the seller side, sellers typically sold their home for 97 percent of the list price.
Fifty-five percent reported they had remodeled or made improvements within three months before placing it on the market, spending nearly $3,000 on the project.
Most sellers expect an agent to market the home, with 90 percent of them reporting their home was placed on a MLS and 88 percent said their home was listed on the Internet, indicating dual-media marketing efforts. Eight in 10 also use the ubiquitous yard sign for marketing.
Eight in 10 sellers, using all kinds of brokerage services, said their agent reviewed sales contracts and purchase offers, managed paperwork and contracts, negotiated with buyers and scheduled showings.
Also, 75 percent of those responding said they worked with their agent setting the asking price. The same percentage also said their agent coordinated home inspections and appraisals.