Who Needs a Real Estate Agent, Anyway?
by Roy E. Grimm, PhD

In a recent article appearing on MSN.com entitled, “Why do you still need an agent to buy a home?”, Seattle freelance writer, Doug Gantenbein raised something of a national controversy by attempting to make the case that both listing and buyers’ agents ought to be left out of real estate transactions. His ideal is, “…a strictly FSBO (For Sale By Owner) world.” Failing that, he’d settle for relying entirely on the Internet or a discount brokerage that, “attempts to completely unwind buyers from their agents.”

What’s the basis of his argument? First that real estate agents are ill-educated, lazy, “clueless,” give terrible service, too expensive, violate their fiduciary responsibilities, and work against their clients. Unfortunately, he’s right. Some of the time. It’s the sort of half-truth that can give apparent credibility to idiotic conclusions. As in any profession, there are some incompetent, “ethically challenged” agents out there who can give a bad name to the vast majority who are worthy of trust. All the more reason to do your homework in selecting someone to work with you before calling your brother-in-law’s cousin.

In upcoming columns we will explore how agents, both listing and buyer’s, get paid. Given our space limits in this column, however, we want to make two emphatic points now:

1. Were either of us to sell our homes, there is absolutely no question that we would list them with a first-rate listing agent. No, despite being licensed real estate agents ourselves, there’s no way we would do it For Sale By Owner. We’d want to use the whole MLS system to our advantage. Furthermore, we ascribe to the old adage among attorneys that, “He who represents himself, has a fool for a client.”

2. That old advice is even more pertinent and imperative for buyers of real estate, especially if they are moving to a new area. Those buyers need both the skill and market knowledge of an expert buyer’s agent and they need an Buyer’s Agent who unequivocally represents only their interests. It is highly significant that a number of our clients at Russ Lyon/Sotheby’s Buyer Brokers Group are Realtors from out-of-town.