In countless ways, the internet has disrupted business models and transformed consumer expectations – particularly in real estate, where new options and processes are giving buyers and sellers more digital choices. One of the hottest trends is the emergence of the iBuyer (also known as an “Internet Buyer” or “Instant Buyer”), an investor-grade firm that leverages algorithms and other technology to immediately assess your property and make an instant purchase offer, but without marketing, open houses, or showings.
Given the stakes of the transaction, the choice between iBuyer and real estate agent is the first critical decision you’ll have to make when selling your house. Here are some of the key considerations to think about as you make your choice.
With an iBuyer, the home-seller is seeking speed and convenience – but that comes at a price. Price offers from iBuyers are typically well below the prevailing market rate because these remote buyers are assuming considerable risks regarding the condition of a home and its re-salability. To counter this, they do offer an accelerated closing schedule with fewer delays and uncertainties. However, iBuyers typically rely on algorithms (automated valuation methods) that tend to treat all similar properties in the same way. Your 2,500 sf center-entrance colonial can get lumped in with other houses in your area, regardless of its beautiful water views or distinctive features.
By contrast, a real estate agent likely lives and works in your area and has deep local expertise because their neighborhood is your neighborhood. They can recommend the right improvements and repairs to your property that improve curb appeal and maximize your selling price. And, because they know the right comparable’s, set the ideal price.
Marketing the Property
One key factor in helping you get the most dollars for your home is marketing. Your real estate agent should be the lead contributor in staging your home, arranging photos and videos, listing the property, making yard signs and fliers, and even creating property-specific websites. That marketing expertise extends to open houses, showings, and walk-throughs, too. The best real estate agents are also experts in prospecting to identify appropriate buyers – and weeding out unqualified buyers.
By contrast, there’s no meaningful marketing process in an iBuyer purchase. The seller simply contacts the faceless iBuyer (typically through a website), completes a detailed questionnaire, and receives a non-negotiable offer to purchase – at a price that’s typically 20% less than the seller can obtain through a real estate agent-brokered transaction.
Without question, the sale of a home can be stressful with many ups and downs throughout the process. After all, the seller is surrendering their residence, which is an inherently disruptive event. When you work with an experienced, licensed real estate agent, you have someone who keeps things calm when the pressure’s on and emotions run high. They keep the lines of communication open so you’re never in the dark on where the process stands.
With an iBuyer, you’re typically dealing with a large, faceless corporation that could be hundreds or thousands of miles away. It can be tougher to get answers to the many questions that inevitably crop up during a sale.
Negotiating the Best Terms
An iBuyer’s offer is typically non-negotiable – take it or leave it. It’s important to remember that, unlike an iBuyer, a real estate agent’s pricing and profitability goals align directly with the seller. It’s not an adversarial relationship – they want to get the maximum price, just like the seller does. When an offer comes in from a buyer, the real estate agent advises you whether it’s a good idea to accept a discounted offer and when to hold firm. They’ll write up offers and counteroffers – and shield you from the sometimes-difficult negotiations. They can read the signs of a nervous buyer and understand the pulse of the market – all with the singular goal of maximizing your pricing and profit.
When you’re dealing with an iBuyer, you’re largely on your own (although some sellers may wisely engage the services of a real estate attorney, for an additional cost). You are left without expert representation throughout the sale of your most valuable asset.
By contrast, a real estate agent acts as your fiduciary and advocate. They represent you throughout a crucial transaction. They identify appropriate title and escrow agents who can streamline the transaction. And they’re with you at the closing to advise you on last-minute issues that can emerge in any sale.
Handling Countless Details
As anyone who has sold a home knows, the road to completion is filled with countless bumps and turns. There are the inspections – and unanticipated requests for repairs. You need to get radon testing and remediation. You have to present carbon monoxide detector certificates. You need to obtain final water/sewer readings, notarizations, and more. The real estate agent provides the experience and expertise you need to smooth the bumps in the road.
To be clear, in certain situations, an iBuyer can be an appropriate option. For instance, if you are taking a new job in a new city and need to sell your home quickly, an iBuyer can give you an instantaneous all-cash offer and close within a few days – without any open houses, showings, or inspections. But the price you pay for that speed and convenience can be considerable.
Conversely, if you’re seeking maximum profit and personalized service, and don’t need sales proceeds within days, a traditional real estate agent may be your better choice to help you derive the greatest profit from your greatest asset – your home.
Real Estate Agents vs. iBuyer
For many sellers, an iBuyer can make sense if they need to sell quickly or without much oversight. In many other instances, however, the traditional real estate agent may be a better option. Below we’ve summarized the key considerations you should make when choosing.