Much like Uber has altered the taxi industry and Airbnb changed the travel bookings, internet services, too, have challenged many real estate traditions. A Leesburg broker is among those seeking to push the envelope—and put more cash in buyer’s hands.
Don Devine has operated a brokerage company for 27 years and has seen plenty of changes. A key one is that fewer prospective homebuyers are spending time riding in the back seat of a Realtor’s SUV touring numerous homes on their wish list. More common today, he said, is for house seekers to scan the internet and pick the houses they want to see. Once they’ve made their selection, they’re likely to find an agent to help them through closing. Traditionally, that agent collects a 3 percent commission for the service.
Devine says that in many cases, there’s no need for a buyer’s agent, particularly in sales involving experienced buyers. He said the details of the transaction and the buyer’s legal protections are mainly handled by a settlement company and its attorneys, not the agent. However, if a buyer goes to the table without an agent, that 3 percent commission typically doesn’t come off the settlement sheet; it just reverts to the seller’s agent.
A new web platform Devine launched this year, belowcontract.com, offers to ensure buyers get a piece of that commission—money that even could qualify as down payments at the settlement table. It’s not a small amount. On the sale of a $600,000 home, 3 percent is $18,000. If buyers enlist belowcontract.com as their agent, Devine said the company would rebate 80 percent of the commission back to the buyer. That’s $14,400 in this example.
While a departure from the traditional real estate model, rebates are permitted in all but 10 states. And services like Devine’s have gained traction elsewhere.
“If you find the house yourself, why do you need an agent,” Devine said. He does caution that the DYI approach is best for experienced real estate buyers; newbies may get value from the hand-holding and advice an experienced agent can provide. And the company does offer to provide referrals to qualified title companies, settlement lawyers, home inspectors, and other professionals who may be needed to help with the transaction.
Devine will be marketing the service statewide.
For details, go to belowcontract.com.