Published on Medium.com
A 2017 book by Tom Nichols, "The Death of Expertise," explains how the digital revolution has helped foster a culture of skepticism. Today, everyone has their own truths, and thanks to the Internet, we can find sources to back up those "truths," no matter what they are.
I've been thinking about our culture's hostility to established knowledge as I fight to defend my own career and the careers of my 1.5 million Realtor® colleagues. I spent months studying to become a real estate agent. In the years since, I've been able to apply that knowledge and the extensive, real-life experience gained along the way to help people navigate a significant variety of complex and technical aspects associated with buying a home.
And yet frivolous lawsuits and ludicrous accusations swirl around the media from people trying to make a buck off blatantly misleading claims that real estate agents are no longer valuable in the Internet age. Of course, most people who have bought or sold a house remember having a real estate agent by their side every step of the process. Most likely, they had a REALTOR® — a member of the National Association of REALTORS® — guiding them through everything from price negotiations and lender applications to open houses and final inspection walk throughs. Most people would prefer to not figure all of that out on their own in the midst of the most complex and consequential financial transaction of their lives.
Of course, it's undeniable that the volumes of information made available by the Internet have changed the home buying and selling process. What's also undeniable, although less intuitive, is that these transformations have made real estate professionals even more critical. Research shows 88% of those who start their home buying search online ultimately use a real estate agent as the process moves forward. Just because I have a wealth of medical knowledge at my fingertips doesn't mean I can diagnose and treat my medical condition. Just because I can buy and sell GameStop stock commission-free on Robinhood doesn't mean it's a good idea to lay down my retirement fund without any expert advice.
Anyone can stake a "for sale by owner" sign in their yard, but it takes more than a quick online search to determine a competitive asking price for your home. And if you don't want it to sit idly on the market for months, how will you advertise it to buyers?
Or, if you're a buyer in today's hot market with houses selling in a matter of days, do you really expect your offer to stand out compared to those prepared by professionals with local market knowledge? Would you know how to write an offer? Or ensure all state and local property transfer laws are being followed? By buying a home, you're essentially entering a contract on one of the most complicated purchases you'll ever make. Compare that to what is likely your second most expensive purchase, a car, and you'll recognize that there's a lot more to it than kicking the tires, a bit of haggling, and a simple loan application.
Fact is, like millions of Americans, I own a small business. I'm a Realtor®. Along with being licensed to do my job and guided by a professional code of ethics, I'm actively involved in my community. I'm always in touch with the needs of my community. A lot of the money I work so hard for is reinvested back into my own community, just as many of my peers do. I'm investing heavily in food security through our local Covenant Cupboard food security program. I sponsor youth sports financially and through in-kind donations. I know every neighborhood and every local school district in town. I know local property tax rates, typical utility costs in every neighborhood, the best appraisers, and the contractors to avoid. I'm invested in my community and my career for the long term.
I didn't acquire my skills and expertise from watching HGTV. I earned that knowledge by helping hundreds of my friends, neighbors and community members buy and sell homes over 16 years. I am an expert, just as a teacher is to his students or a doctor is to her patients.
If you love real estate and want to start your own small business, I encourage you to join me as a licensed real estate professional. It takes time, training and on-the-job experience, but, as you'll learn, your expertise will change the way you think about home buying and selling, and that will make a lasting impact on the neighbors you serve. And you can't achieve all that online.
Brian Copeland, founder and owner of Doorbell Real Estate