Are real estate land brokerages going the way of the dinosaur?
With the advent of drone videos, Google Earth, digitized County GIS records, and property advertising websites, are the traditional services of rural land brokers still needed? This article is my attempt to address that question.
If you are a part-time or mediocre land agent who only does an occasional land deal, you should be worried about how necessary you are going to be to consumers going forward. Your services will probably not continue to be as relevant in the near future. Brokers that continue to get better at their jobs and excel in professionalism have a bright future ahead.
My conclusion comes from observing craftsmen in their trades. A mediocre cabinet maker with access to fine tools, will continue to make substandard cabinets. A master with ordinary tools can accomplish surpassing quality because they pour their heart and mind into their work. It isn’t the tools that do the work, it is the expertise and discipline of the craftsman.
Websites, videos, mapping systems, UTV’s, and internet access to information are all tools of the land brokerage trade. There have been immense advancements in technology in my short 8 years in this business. Mapping technology is infinitely easier to use than when I entered the field. Now every buyer has access to Google tools that allow them to zoom in and out, draw boundaries, measure distances and area, and determine distances to their home. This is no longer proprietary information that consumers rely on brokers to obtain. There have been similar developments in finding property listings and also about obtaining county tax assessor information on parcels.
A conversation like this begs the question, “What do land brokers really do?” If you are a broker and your answer to that is that you put properties online and in the newspaper, then your days in this business are likely numbered. I answer it this way, “I help people buy and sell land.” The emphasis in that sentence is on, “I help people.”
Consumers like to work with people they trust.
Our job as brokers is to give people all the information they need to make the best decision possible. For our clients, we also provide advice as to the proper course of action for their situation. In order for a broker to be able to provide expert advice, one must continue to learn and develop professionally. It takes a deep level of commitment to follow current trends, join professional organizations, network with others in the business, and constantly reflect on issues and trends that affect our industry.
My feeling is that brokers that are in this career for the long haul should join an organization like the REALTORS® Land Institute (RLI), and work toward earning their Accredited Land Consultant (ALC) designation. The Institute was founded by and for land brokers to promote the level of professionalism and increase the level of service to our customers and clients. Our members take an oath to conduct business in the most ethical manner, and agree to be held to a higher standard in their daily practices. The ALC designation is earned by those who demonstrate a commitment to obtaining the education and exercising proficiency in serving people who buy or sell land.
A consumer may be thinking, “But brokers are not necessary because I can use the internet to do what you do.” A portion of that statement is true, the internet is helping to educate consumers. There is an ample amount of good information from Toyota on how to change the timing belt on my truck. Is that something that I would personally try? Probably not. My feeling is to leave that to the experts, because messing up such an important task could cost me more than it would save me. WebMD is filled with information on diagnosing many important health conditions. Is it a good idea to diagnose and treat yourself based merely on the range of symptoms contained in the two paragraphs you read? No. You should seek out the person with the training and knowledge to help you diagnose and treat the actual condition.
We should work hard to offer our clients the best possible service that leads to the best possible outcomes for them. Those brokers who take the time to get the proper instruction, master the tools of the trade, and do their work with expert skill will have a successful career. There will be changes in our industry, and some among our ranks will be weeded out. Make a commitment to do the things necessary to help you excel in our profession and elevate the reputation of our industry. There will never be a replacement for a passionate person, driven to excellence who excels in serving people. Those are the brokers consumers will line up to work with.
About the Author: Jonathan Goode, ALC, is an active member of the REALTORS® Land Institute. He is a Co-owner of Southeastern Land Group, LLC (SELG) and is the Responsible Broker for the company in Mississippi. He is passionate about helping people buy and sell land.