First time buyer - I have the Zillow (or Trulia) app on my smartphone, what do I need a buyer agent for?

Written by Posted On Wednesday, 16 April 2014 07:27


Answer – First, at least get an app n your phone that has accurate information about the listings. There are local real estate apps, perhaps even an app created and supported by the Multi-list Service in your area that are more accurate. My company has an app available for both Apple and Android-based smartphones (search for Real Estate One at the store that you use) that accesses data which is updated every day. I also recommend the app. Its data is also updated every day and is supported by feeds from the various Multi-list Services (MLS) around the country. The big real estate portal sites tend to have less direct ways of obtaining listing information and many times are sadly out of date. You can waste a lot of time trying o find out more about a listing that was sold weeks ago and lot updated on those sites. They do have other handy features, so you may want to keep them for those things; but for your daily searches I recommend that you use the site. All of these smartphone apps are location aware, so you should “see” the active listings in the surrounding area, no matter where you are. They also feature access to other important information about local schools and local shopping and services – great things to have while driving around searching.

Now, let’s move on to your real question. Why would you need a Realtor® if you have those great apps? Because finding listing information is just part of the process, even in the search mode. You will probably find that you have questions almost as soon as you start reading the listing information. It’s not that the information is written in code to keep you guessing; but the listings do make use of real estate terminology and acronyms. You may read it and still not understand what it says. A Realtor can act as a translator for those listings and tell you what you want or need to know from them. Some listing apps may also provide a link to the Public Record Database (PRD) for the properties, which is good information to know but which is written in its own “code”. Your Realtor can help with that, too.

If you pull up a listing and read through it you will not see any information about the area or neighborhood – is it up and coming or in transition or decline, how are the schools in that area and where would your children likely go (a few apps offer some help and info on the area schools), What about the shopping in the area. These are things for which apps might point you to other apps or web site for research; but they seldom provide an answer and certainly not an opinion. Your local Realtor will be familiar with the area and can answer questions and offer his/her opinion on things that are important to you.

If you like a place well enough to be considering making an offer the apps may be able to help with a little bit of historic sales data, but they don’t really have the pulse of the current market, nor do they have enough local knowledge to pick out some “Comps” to look at for value and pricing comparison. Your Realtor does that every day and can give you needed advice to make comparisons and aid in your decision. Your agent can also check with the local governmental agencies to see if there are things that might impact your decision – restrictive ordinances, for instance; or costly infrastructure projects on the horizon for water, sewer or roads. They can also contact the homeowners association and get copies of the By-Laws that you might have to live with. Smartphone apps aren’t going to do that for you.

Your Realtor is also able to advise you about special mortgage programs that might be available for specific properties, like a 203-K Rehab loan for a fixer-upper or a down payment assistance program for buyers without enough down payment money. Realtors can usually point you to several mortgage reps that can help. You smartphone can only help you call them. Realtors can also help you find out if the condo or site condo that you might be looking at is FHA or VA approved for a mortgage. Your app won’t tell you that.

So, there is a place for your smart phone apps; but, you still need the help of a Realtor if you don’t want to waste a lot of your time trying to interpret the information that it can get you to or bouncing around various Web sites trying to accumulate the information from here and there that your Realtor could tell you in one conversation. These are great apps and I use them myself. There is nothing handier that having that interactive map on my iPhone or iPad as I drive through and area to show me where th4e active listings are. With just a tap or two I can get to most of the information that I need as a Realtor. I combine what I can see there with what I know about the area to tell if a property might be a fit for a client or to answer questions for a client who might be with me. Ask Siri what she knows about the neighborhood and her answer is, “I’ve never really thought about it.” Ask your Realtor to get the real answer.


Rate this item
(0 votes)
Norm Werner

Norm Werner is a Realtor at the Milford office of Real Estate One serving the southeastern Michigan area of Oakland and Livingston Counties. Norm specializes in residential real estate. Norm lives and works in Milford Michigan and is married to Carolyn Werner. Norm and Carolyn live in a historic home just three blocks from downtown Milford, with their two dogs - Sadie and Skippy. Norm specializes in the historic homes of Milford and the surrounding area and is on the Board of Directors of the Milford Historical Society. Norm especially enjoys working with first time buyers and those at the other end of the real estate spectrum who are downsizing into their retirement home. 

In addition to his web site, Norm also owns and m,aintains web site, the web site. He is also the webmaster for and the web site and the MilfordCar web site, as well as his church web site - In addition to blogging about real eastate, Norm has a personal blog - - on which he shares inspirational messages and the occasions personal observation about life.

Agent Resource

Limited time offer - 50% off - click here

Realty Times

From buying and selling advice for consumers to money-making tips for Agents, our content, updated daily, has made Realty Times® a must-read, and see, for anyone involved in Real Estate.