The Only Thing More Expensive Than Professional Advice? Amateur Advice
As you may have seen in some of our recent blog posts we have been addressing a small trend in our industry to forego the expertise of a realtor and try to buy or sell real estate on your own or by using a company that simply puts it on the MLS system for an upfront fee.
Initially I thought this trend impacted only our industry but over the years I have come to realize that this stretches all professions from contractors to accountants and lawyers to doctors. We live in the information age where an online query puts answers at our fingertips with the push of a button. Tech companies are always coming up with the latest piece of software that will solve all of our problems and remove the need for human interaction.
I can remember the first time I realized there is a major issue with so much information readily available. Almost 3 years ago my wife and I were expecting our second child. Upon visiting our OB we had our typical checkup to ensure everything was moving along as planned. During this visit our OB said something interesting to us“Remember stay off the internet!” We laughed, and he said “No seriously stay off the internet”.
He elaborated to say that he has many patients who are continually reading different things on the internet whether they are true or not and working themselves into a frenzy of stress and fear. They often call him with “self-diagnosed issues” and question his advice at every opportunity they get.
We left the appointment heeding his advice. I couldn’t help but draw comparisons to our own experiences in the real estate industry. It amazes me that people will listen to the internet before listening to a doctor who has 8-10 years of post-secondary education and 20+ years’ experience in his field. If a doctor is struggling with this what hope do we have as realtors? Answer: there is no substitute for experience.
Now that’s not to say you shouldn’t work with an inexperienced realtor, the “good ones” work at brokerages that have a wealth of highly trained brokers that they can lean on and draw from the experiences of the group as a whole provided the brokers encourage this type of culture and environment. It takes time to develop the critical thinking and noise canceling mindset required to succeed in our industry. Information is so readily available (right or wrong) that we no longer consult experts, we think Google is the expert. But a true expert analyzes the source when looking at information on the internet. What is the author’s education, training and experience? What is author’s motive for writing the article/post? For investment advice, is it someone who is really trying to sell you a mutual fund or stock? Even this article I am writing now is bias as I am in the real estate industry. In an online world we can’t see the countless degrees hanging on the wall behind the person masquerading as a professional.
No matter what your position is on a particular topic you can find sources on the internet that support your opinion or refute it.
Information is readily available with the internet age- but is this a good thing? My fear is that we are watering down the expertise pool. We have so many people out there sharing advice, or giving “how to” Youtube tutorials but are they really qualified to do so? Don’t get me wrong some of these are great for simple tasks. I even used a youtube video tutorial the other day. I was trying to figure out how to remove the tail gate on my Toyota pickup truck. I simply typed it into Youtube and voila, a 2 min video showed me the steps and I turned a 30 min task of trial and error and likely a few choice words, into a 5 minute job.
These “how to” videos are great for low risk applications and time savings but I think we need to draw the line when it comes to things like health, pregnancy advice, major home renovations, accounting, legal, investment advice and buying and selling real estate the largest asset of our lives. Unless these tasks are in your core competencies they are much better left to the professionals.
We see this time and time again in our industry with the “do it yourself” home renovator who has very little construction knowledge. They decide to take on a project to save money but the finished product is so poorly done that no buyer is willing to compensate them for the work they did. In the end they wind up losing all the money and time they committed to the project because the buyer sees no value in it and in some cases more, as the potential buyer now needs to remove the shoty work. Had they hired a reputable contractor the project would have been completed in a timely and professional manner netting them more money from a potential buyer.
Now, there will always be those horror stories to share of doctors, lawyers, accountants, contractors, realtors, etc that they have used or someone they know used and had a poor experience. We certainly are not suggesting that you don’t do your due diligence in selecting a professional. Ask around, speak to those you know and trust, and go with a good recommendation. If you don’t have a recommendation to draw on, do some research yourself, and interview a few. Sometimes it just comes down to a gut feeling and a strong professional rapport. The internet has actually helped immensely in this regard. Google Reviews, Facebook reviews or other similar peer reviewed sites can be a huge resource for assisting in finding that true industry professional. People can pump their own tires all they want but what’s really important is what other people are saying about them in the online world. Unbiased, un-manipulated reviews from a 3rd party not your uncle and Mom saying how amazing you are. This is really where your research should be completed, finding the right professional not trying to replace a professional by reading a couple blog articles for a few hours each night. You simply cannot replace the experience and value of a true professional.
A fair approach to health, wellness, finance, real estate is to find a happy medium; a balance between doing your own research and seeking out professional advice. At the end of the day, professionals in various categories, have spent years studying and practicing their trade. Leaning on and leveraging their experience, in addition to what you've been able to learn on your own can make some of these more daunting life tasks seem a bit more manageable and in many cases you will actually end up netting more money in your pocket.