Sometimes I wonder if there is more free labor in the economy than paid labor.
While our beach towns still do lots of work promoting the area, there is a whole other world of blogs and free sites that will often sing the praises of an area for free.
I know that there are still photographers out there, but much of the photography that we see these days is done by amateurs like myself.
Not long ago I was writing for a free magazine. The theory was that my articles would bring recognition to me and that would be my pay. That works great but it helps if the magazine lasts more that six months.
We live in a world of free services like Gmail and Flickr. Sometimes folks think more of the free services than they do of the ones which come with a fee. A good example of that would be .Mac the $100 per services that many people believe are inferior to Gmail and other free services.
We even have people who want to sell their homes themselves. They can use Zillow and Trulia for sites like "For Sale by Owner."
All this is probably a healthy trend unless it get out of hand. I am a Realtor® which I consider to be one of the transitional professions. We work as independent contractors.
We get paid on what we sell. If we don't sell anything, we don't get paid. Actually it is worse than that since we have to pay fees every month to work. From those fees you might get a desk and some access to office equipment and some advertising support. You also end up sharing your commission with your company. In good times in works fairly well. These days it is a challenge.
Still I don't see the current real estate sales system changing massively I do see consumers making similar changes to what they did in the early days of computers. That could herald some real estate changes.
I doubt the changes will be the same as in the computer industry, but there are going to be some changes.
In the early days of computers, few people understood them so a local computer store was a source of not only computers but also knowledge. People came to the stores to get an education so that they could be informed consumers.
Stores paid sales people to answer questions and hopefully sell computers. As computers began to be available online and through mail order, people would come and learn all they could from a computer salesman in a store and then go order online.
This is one of the reasons that there are almost no computer salesmen left.
As a real estate agent, your knowledge of your local area is your greatest resource. When you have people who want to talk about an area, and the same people are unwilling to commit to work with you, you are likely be set up for hard fall.
People do the same thing with cars. They learn about them online, then visit the actual dealership to see the product and then order the product from an Internet dealer.
While a manufacturer might be providing much of the information about an automobile or a computer, the information on houses that are listed in MLS systems is there as a direct result of the effort of agents who list the house and are paid when the house is sold.
However, potential home buyers have figured out how to work the system. Buyer's agents only get paid when a client signs up with them and then buys a house.
Some clever real estate consumers are gaming the system and using buyer's agent as a free source of information about the area and about homes that are for sale.
If you drive around a potential client without getting a commitment from them, then you are likely providing information for free with little hope of getting paid.
People are getting their feet wet in an area by wading the shallows with the aid of buyers' agents.
I recently heard of a buyer's agent who would drive people around unless sign an agreement with him. On top of that he charges than a $300 fee.
There is no free lunch for most of us. Wasting the time of a professional without the intention of working with that professional isn't very fair.