Agent vs Portal: Strengths and Weaknesses

Browsing property portals is now a popular past-time for serious buyers and window-shoppers alike, but how do portals measure up against the agent-led approach?

Becky Poynton
August 13, 2021
Agent vs Portal: Strengths and Weaknesses

By now, many homebuyers are aware of the existence of real estate portals, the online sites where properties can be listed for sale by anyone. Users can buy or rent or lease properties through these portals, and while some see them as an effective way of cutting out the middleman, can they really replace the agent in all aspects of the homebuying journey and all its convoluted processes? Let’s compare the two. 

Agents - PROS 

  • Saves time - hiring an agent or a broker will save a lot of time and energy searching for the most relevant properties. It’s an agent’s job to take in a client’s needs and requirements, taking their budget and other restrictions into consideration and filtering the process for them. 
  • Legally sound - Agents are hired because they are well-versed in all the legal processes associated with property sales, an area that is not feasible for the average customer to Google at one go. Clients can rest easy knowing that though homebuying can be a long, tedious journey, their paperwork and all legalities will be in sound condition. 
  • Seasoned negotiators - Agents are able to take in the many factors that can influence a property’s value and translate that accordingly for the customer. Because the homebuying process is a very human process, a client’s inexperience or emotion may get in the way at the negotiating table. 
  • Knowledge keepers - Agents are not only equipped and expert in dealing with the necessary paperwork, but they are on the pulse with market trends and fluctuations, helping clients make better informed decisions. 

Agents - CONS

  • Can be pricey - What clients save in time and energy and stress, they may pay in dollars, as agents or brokers can serve up a hefty commission fee. 
  • (Small but real) chance of fraud - There have been incidences where customers have had issues buying property, all because the agents they had hitched their wagon to were frauds. 
  • Every agent is different - It may take a while to get to know each other and to feel if it’s the right fit, and agents vary in their level of expertise, knowledge, and even personality -all important factors for a conducive client-agent relationship. 

Portals - PROS

  • Removes the middleman - the back and forth and relaying of messages is significantly decreased, as is the number of callbacks. 
  • Instant filters - Depending on the features the portal carries, users can filter their searches as much as they want, similar to the way they might search for an item on Amazon. 
  • Saves money - We all like to cut costs as much as we can, and because agents can often bill 5-6% of the sale price, many homebuyers choose to start with portals to try and go it alone as far as possible. 
  • Geographic advantage - Because portals are online, users can explore thousands of properties all around the world in a matter of minutes. 
  • ‘COVID-safe’ - A remote and safe way of property window shopping, especially in the comfort of one’s one home. 
  • Huge databases to explore - Portals offer huge selections of properties for users to check out and filter according to what they’re looking for, and it’s a great way to quickly get a feel of whether certain locations are better off than others, narrowing down the prospect’s wishlist.
  • Negotiation is possible - Negotiation in real estate is by no means easy, but it is possible, with homeowners and interested parties communicating entirely online, through chat, email or even video, without the need to meet in person. 

Portals - CONS

  • Specific needs hard to meet - Because of the democratization of the process, users may have a hard time getting their specific needs and requirements heard or addressed by sellers. 
  • Less expertise - Possibly the most compelling reason against portals: portals simply don’t match the knowledge and experience of an agent. Agents in the game are fluid with the language and are able to ‘translate’ and educate prospects when it comes to many different problem area terminologies and processes, a feat that most portals are not yet fully capable of doing. 
  • Limited access - Even though MLS listings online are more prevalent and up-to-date than ever before, portal users actually do not have unlimited access nor are they privy to all property sales in areas that agents are familiar with. Agents are aware of hidden listings and receive advance notice from sellers they have close relationships with. 
  • Less knowledge on home infrastructure - Portals can inform users of a property and its basic information, but they can’t discuss the physical aspects of it to the levels that homebuyers may require, and most homebuyers will still have to hire professional home inspectors to assess the condition of the house. Part of an agent’s job is to help clients on that account, with much more transparency and handholding than portals might be able to provide. 
  • No assistance on negotiation - Negotiation is part of the homebuying/selling process, but it is an area that portal users might find themselves struggling with, without the skill of an agent. 
  • Not everything might be authenticated - Having every single listing be authentic and verified is the goal, but it’s not always the reality, with so many players on the same field. In fact, users must take extra precaution making sure the portal they’re on is in fact, a real real estate portal in the first place. As with everything on the internet, it’s easy for fraudulent people to buy a domain or a server and have realistic looking features that imitate genuine sites. 
  • Slower communication - Sellers who post properties on portals might be slow to check back in on incoming messages, leaving interested viewers frustrated.

For more on adding the personal touch to customer relationships, see our recent blog:

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