Online real estate brokers, like REDFIN, promise you savings, but at what cost?
1) Consistency - These online and discount real estate brokerages are divided into smaller teams that have specialized jobs. The same agent that showed you the house isn't going to write your offer. By the time you find a house you like you probably would have had talked to a handful of different agents. This makes the buying process much slower as you are describing what your needs are every time you see a different agent. On the seller side, the same agent that listed your home isn't going to market it. This creates a conflict between you, the listing agent, and the marketing team. A traditional broker will handle the whole process and address all of your concerns personally.
2) Quality - Discount and online real estate brokers often have their agents spread too thin. They deal on quantity not quality. Showing agents are going from appointment to appointments quickly without being invested in the clients at hand. Marketing agents use cookie cutter packages to market your property. The agent writing your offer has 8 other offers to write before the day is done. A traditional broker has the time to dedicate to you and all of your needs.
3) Incentives -Salaried agents aren't as vested as commission based agents. Traditional agents also mostly rely on referrals, and this means they need to go above and beyond. Their livelihood depends on it. On the seller side the more money you make, the more the agent makes as well. On the buyer's side, if you don't find a home, the traditional agent doesn't get a paycheck. The traditional agent also wants to find you the perfect home and provide excellent service because they want you to refer them to your friends. Online brokerages have a steady stream of clients and don't rely on referrals.
4) The Search - Using an online brokerage you are the one that is looking for a home. Using the their broker website and the MLS you see many homes, however you don't see all of them. Traditional brokerages have a big off market presence. Some sellers don't want to list their home because they don't want the foot traffic or the neighborhood attention. Either through word of mouth or private broker announcements, traditional brokers have access to properties that aren't listen on the internet. They are also experts at pointing out properties that might fit your needs that you may have missed. More often than not, buyers go with houses their real estate agents pointed out, not houses they found on the internet.
5) Full Service - The traditional agent is a full service broker. They can refer you to inspectors, contractors, lawyers, set appointments, and they are your personal negotiator. These agents have established relationships with inspectors, contractors, and lenders. It's not some brokerage calling to schedule an appointment. It's Kelvin, and he needs help with a client. Some offers go back and forth. Having a relationships with other brokers and others in the industry helps immensely when trying to get things done. Your personal real estate agent will protect you and fight for you because his or her reputation is on the line. You can't get this level of service through a DIY brokerage.
In the end, it's your decision. Many people like the freedom and DIY nature of an online brokerage. Sure, the savings on the front end might be appealing, however this is no substitute for the service you will receive from a traditional real estate agent. If you are already familiar with the process, an online brokerage with limited services might be for you. If this is your first home purchase, or you're still not completely comfortable with the process, you need a traditional agent. This will be one of the largest investments of your life, and you should have someone that has your back through the entire process.