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Internet Battleground for Future of Residential Real Estate

Real estate agents are gearing up to face the biggest shift in their industry since it's beginning. No longer the first in the path of homebuyers and sellers, agents have gone from top feeders to the bottom feeders with real estate consumers in just a few years.

I started in the real estate business when agents were top feeders and the keepers of the information. Multiple Listing Services® began migrating to the Internet at the millennium. Most agents in my first realty office said the Internet wasn't going to change anything, because we still had the telephone like books with available homes for sale. Consumers had to call us to start their search to purchase a home.

Buyers started calling from out of town on a property and they hadn't driven by it, they saw it on the Internet. This started the shift of the consumer having access to the same information as the agent. Proactive agents and virtual brokerages saw the writing on the wall and began Internet marketing efforts and captured new market share by being early adopters and listening to their new web-based consumer.

Today traditional brokerages and their agents are scrambling to get in the path of Internet real estate consumers, who number seventy-four percent of all buyers in 2004 according to the National Association of Realtors® Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers. Many of these late adopters have to compete with thousands of real estate websites and e-marketers who have been honing their position for the last five years to be the first in the consumers path when they start their home search. Large newspapers hold brokerage licenses and own real estate websites to capture real estate consumers and sell these leads back to agents, now the bottom feeders.

Real estate trade associations are fighting back against the Internet real estate pioneers with changes to state real estate license laws to restrict and define their roles in lead generation and interactions with consumers. Large Internet powerhouses with non-traditional real estate brokerage business models will give a whole new face to residential real estate by the year 2010.

Mark Nash is a residential real estate author, broker and commentator. He has been featured on CBS The Early Show, Bloomberg TV, CBS Dow Jones Market Watch, and Smart Moves by Ellen James Martin. His latest book 1001 Tips for Buying and Selling a Home is available online and in bookstores nationwide.

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