Do You Want the Techno-Agent or a Real Estate Grunt?

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As the Internet and technology have been reforming so many businesses and industries, we as consumers and even investors are presented with decisions about how we will use what's available to us. Sure, most of us love our smart phones and tablet computers, and we are as a group less patient than we used to be when it comes to getting information.

The real estate profession has definitely been impacted by technology, though not as much as the disappearing travel agent. Here are a few highlights from the 2015 National Association of Realtors member profile:

• Fifty-eight percent of REALTORS® were licensed as sales agents, and 80 percent of members specialize in residential brokerage.
• The typical REALTOR® has 12 years of experience.
• Sixty-five percent of REALTORS® reported having a website for at least five years, 12 percent reported having a real estate blog and 65 percent of members are using social media.

Many of the most successful real estate agents have adopted technology and are using it to better connect with and serve their customers. So, where is the balance between using an agent who is online most of the time and one walking neighborhoods and checking out properties first hand? I'm not saying that there isn't a middle ground, but there is a tendency to cut field time and work more prospects electronically. It is a business, and the more prospect leads worked, the higher the income.

There is plenty of commentary out there about not needing a real estate agent to either buy or sell.

Some people do quite well using the Do-It-Yourself thing. Most however do at some point end up working with an agent. The Internet has made it easy to do thorough research and view photos and movies of homes of interest. They only end up approaching an agent when they reach a point where they need them to gain access to a property.

For the consumer, a tech-savvy real estate agent is of value, especially if they are good at communicating via email and text messaging. This is how their customers communicate, and they like the ability to get their real estate information fast and in the device they like to carry. Because they have done much of the research prior to contacting an agent with questions they can't get answered or for home access, the tech-savvy agent should get the business if they've been in contact.

When it comes to real estate investors, there are some different requirements and concerns. Both agent types are of value depending on the investment strategy and activity of the investor. The tech-savvy agent can set up automated market reports of sold and new listings that keep an investor fed with up-to-date data. This is valuable in market research and valuation of properties.

On the other side, the less techie agent who is out pounding the pavement is more likely to find a gem of a deal that isn't yet listed or isn't properly priced on the MLS, Multiple Listing Service. Some of them visit new listings of other agents in their market areas to see if they are as represented or if they may be a value that is underpriced. They also see homes that aren't listed at all, and they are trained to recognize signs of abandonment or condition issues that may mean a home could be a bargain basement deal for an investor.

The reality is that an active real estate investor should be working with multiple agents of both types. As foreclosure numbers dwindle, having a group of active agents locating opportunities digitally and on foot should deliver more deals.