Slate: Why do you still need a realtor to buy a home? Why hasn’t the web done for real estate transactions what eBay has done for other exchanges? The 3-5% realtors get on both the buying and selling sides adds up to a huge chunk of change, given that the percentage hasn’t changed even as property values have shot up over the years. Agents – both buying and selling – earn tens of thousands of dollars in commission for a home sale, after putting in what generally amounts to a few days worth of work. And it’s not like realtors are magical specialists – it takes only 60 hours of training to get your realtor’s license, while it takes nearly 1,000 hours to become a hair stylist.
After all, escrow companies and home inspectors already do much of the heavy lifting in a real-estate transaction and add more value than most realtors while working for a flat fee.
In an industry with actual, healthy competition, realtor percentages would be a fraction of what they are, and would be commensurate with the amount of effort and skill put into the deal. But every effort to deflate the exaggerated traditional role of the realtor in the digital age is fought tooth and nail by the National Association of Realtors. Now the NAR is up against the DOJ for antitrust.
I’m not saying that realtors are crooks, or that there aren’t a million hidden landmines that realtors help innocent homebuyers to avoid. It’s a complex business and realtors provide an important service. But realty commissions need to enter the realm of fair competition. It’s time for the NAR to be taken down a peg.