We often hear it in various conversations, maybe we even talk about it ourselves, but the question that often arises is “Do I need a real estate agent”? We all have heard this, many times before. Especially if you are in the real estate business. There is just no way to get around this question. Everybody asks it, buyers, sellers, even real estate agents. We sometimes hear sellers saying that they can sell it themselves, without the help of the agent. Buyers sometimes insist on properties where there is no agent involved. Like it or not, real estate agents have to be aware of this ongoing discussion and it is happening as you are reading this.

To me, though, this is the wrong way to look at it. Think about that question “Do I need a real estate agent?”, but think about it in the following terms. Real estate is one of the most important investments most of us will make in our lifetime, if not the most important investment. This is true for both the buyer and the seller. Isn’t that enough to be able to answer the question? To me it is, but it may not be to everyone, so for those of you who still have to ask the question, please read on. And even if it is enough to answer the question, read on anyway.

When we go to the mall or a boutique and want to buy a shirt or dress, we often bring someone along, to ask for their opinion. If nothing else, we ask the salesperson what he or she thinks about it. And we are only talking about a piece of wardrobe that costs a whole lot less than a house. Is this enough to answer the question if we need a real estate agent or not? No matter who you are, buyer or seller, it is a lot better if the agent is somewhere in the equation.

Now, that we have answered the question if we need an agent or not, at least I hope that we have answered it, another question arises and one that we have to give a lot of thought to before we can answer it. Why is it that the question “Do I need a real estate agent?” even arises? Why do we even have to answer this question, let alone even think about it? Why should this even cross our minds? Since it does, then this tells us that something may be wrong out there, in the world of real estate. Think about it, you are making one of the most important financial decisions of your life and you ask yourself do I need an agent or can I do this on my own. Really, can you do it on your own?

But why is the question even asked?

Does the buyer trust the agent? It’s a fair question. There are many examples out there, where agents haven’t held up their end of the deal, but they do want the all so important commission. Maybe the buyer trusts the agent, but she/he has their doubts about the knowledge of the agent. This also is an honest question. Many agents out there have other jobs, usually their main jobs, and only work as agents on the side for a little extra cash. They may or may not have a license. Maybe they haven’t even taken any classes regarding real estate. Maybe they just went to a few classes, to find out something about the basics of real estate. Many agents out there do not have a formal education regarding real estate, some don’t even have an informal education. They just pick it up as they go along. This also is a just assumption by the buyer, one that has been proven right so many times in practice.

What about the seller? What are her/his complaints? Why do they think they can sell a property better than with an agent? This usually comes down to a matter of questioning what the agent does, other than show the property. An open house, maybe, and that is it. Sometimes, the agent doesn’t even show up for that and then asks the seller to show the property to the buyer. There have been instances like this, in all countries in the world. It’s not often, but it does happen. But in the end, the agent always shows up for his commission.

This is an honest, straightforward look at what the perception of the real estate agent is. Right or wrong, many people think about the agent in this light. I too am a real estate agent, so it may seem like it is time for all of us agents to take a long and honest look into the mirror. It’s time that we prove, to all those out there that doubt us, the integrity and the role of the real estate agent.

The commission, paid to the real estate agent, is not small, so from that perspective, it’s more than OK for everybody to ask questions about if we need them or not. More importantly though, we should be asking why do we need the real estate agent. It’s a legitimate question.

From an agent’s point of view, it is very important that nobody ever questions the idea of paying a commission. No matter who is paying it, buyer or seller, it can’t ever cross their mind as to why they pay. It has to be more than obvious. The service that the agent provides has to be such, so that nobody doubts the role of the agent, thus nobody doubts the commission that they are paying.

While taking my brokers exam, the president of the committee talked about the service that the agent provides and how little is spoken about that service. That has stuck with me ever since. What is the service, how good is the service that the agent is offering? Can it be better? This is something that all of us agents have to give serious thought to. The service has to be such so that the buyer or seller never even think about working without a real estate agent.

A bit of advice to the buyer and seller: It is your money that is in play. One is spending it, the other is taking it. One of you will be living in that property, the other leaving with the money; that gives you the right to demand more from your agent. Ask them to provide an excellent service, for that they will be paid, but make sure that they earn the commission. There is nothing wrong with that. It is your money; you can do anything you want with it.

Make sure that your agent knows what they are doing. They are not a salesperson; they are a real estate professional. Make sure that they have the knowledge, the tools and, most importantly, the integrity to provide that service.

And a piece of advice to all agents, me included: Provide that service. It’s our job and we are getting a nice chunk of money for that, so let’s make sure that we deserve it. It’s not that hard.

Back to the question. Do I need a real estate agent? Isn’t it obvious by now? Yes, you need one, no matter who you are, but just ask for and make sure that an excellent service is provided.