Agents Finally Feeling Squeezed By Web

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Real estate agents, who needs 'em?

The answer, it seems, is fewer and fewer home buyers and sellers. Some studies suggest that as many as 80 percent of potential buyers who reach out to agents these days already have pursued the available listings online and targeted the properties they want to tour. Others simply bypass agents altogether.

Now some intrepid real estate pros are responding to the needs of such over-educated consumers by lowering their commissions and catering to buyers and sellers who already have done most of their research online.


Charles Lemaitre, a Realtor in the Cape Cod town of Orleans, Mass., recently started a firm called Your Real Estate Office Inc. to tap into this growing niche. Lemaitre's company charges buyers a 2.5 percent commission instead of the typical 6 percent. The company's agents also kick back 20 percent of the commission to the buyers to acknowledge the information they brought to the negotiating table. "I know what it takes to get a property sold," LeMaitre told The Cape Codder. "It doesn't take a fee of 5 or 6 percent."

For sellers, Lemaitre offers a streamlined package for a prepaid flat fee of $995. Included in that fee is a posting on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), the gold-standard database where full-service listings appear. He also provides professional photos of the property, placement on 30 Web sites, and makes an agent available for showings. All that's really lacking is the traditional print ads and word-of-mouth marketing that many younger, savvier buyers have no need for anyway. Sellers who might have tried to sell their house on their own may be drawn to the new service to prevent their listing from lingering.

Another Cape Cod real estate professional, Alan Chace, is offering a service to sellers for $799 to help them sell their own house. (What is it about Cape Cod?) Chace gets the listing on MLS, gives them a handbook detailing local regulations, and provides the signs to stand up on their lawns. If sellers need any extra help from him, he will charge them by the hour.

In the era of detailed real estate listing Web sites, mobile phone apps, and public-access Multiple Listing Service portals such as Realtor.com, agents simply don't control key real estate information like they used to. Armed with more info, buyers and sellers are more confident they can get the job on their own. For a relatively small fee, cutting-edge brokers are willing to convert that confidence either into a new house or cold, hard cash.
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